Unlike last year, the USC men's basketball team is on firm ground to receive an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

Projections from the national experts have USC squarely in the field.

Jerry Palm from CBS Sports has a current bracket with the Gamecocks an eight seed traveling to Salt Lake City to face Southern Cal. USA Today also puts USC in the West Region with a trip to Salt Lake City on tap to face Wake Forest.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi puts USC as a seven seed facing Marquette in Sacramento.

There is plenty of Gamecock fans hoping the NCAA Committee will keep the Gamecocks within driving distance such as Orlando or better yet, Greenville at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

Head coach Frank Martin hopes his guys will not get caught looking ahead to Selection Sunday, especially with a Friday game at the SEC Tournament on tap.

"We don't have a single guy who has an idea what it's like to be in the (NCAA) field, let alone be a part of that," Martin said.

"We can't worry about those things. I tell them all the time, 'Listen, I don't say this in an arrogant way. I'm the only guy who understands what it's like to be in the NCAA Tournament. Don't worry about that. Worry about the only thing that matters which is today. When and if we're given that opportunity, which I would be very disappointed if we're not, then we'll deal with that when the time comes. Stay focused on the only thing that matters which is let's play the best on Friday'."

Carolina finished fourth in the SEC standings, which means the team has a double-bye in the conference tournament and won't hit the court until Friday.

"Those aren't handed out," Martin said of the double-bye.

"You have to earn those."