2008-09 South Carolina Basketball Preview: #80
South Carolina Gamecocks
Overall Rank: #80
Conference Rank: #8 SEC
2007-08: 14-18, 5-11, 5th East
2007-08 postseason: none
After mixed results during the Dave Odom era, Coach Darrin Horn hopes to turn South Carolina into a consistent contender in the Southeastern Conference. And the future looks bright under the man who most recently led Western Kentucky to the Sweet Sixteen. However, it will take some time to transform this program into a winner, but having Devan Downey running the show is a good place to start. Downey, now a junior, averaged 18.4 points, 5.4 assists, 3.2 steals and 3.2 rebounds his first season with the Gamecocks after transferring from Cincinnati. The scary thing is that he still has room to improve.
The best news is that the top six scorers are back. Part-time starter Dwayne Day has run out of eligibility after averaging 5.1 points and 3.7 rebounds during his senior campaign. Chad Gray was dismissed from the team and Trevor Deloach transferred after seeing action in just two games.
There is a depth problem at USC and some talented newcomers would help. However, there are not any…at least not yet. But former walk-ons Branden Conrad and Robert Wilder were awarded scholarships.
Who to Watch:
Despite the depth problems, the Gamecocks do have seven players on the roster that started at least ten games last season. The most dynamic group is on the perimeter where Downey has Zam Fredrick and Dominique Archie on the wings. Fredrick is a solid shooter from long range and the 6-7 Archie is a match-up nightmare for most opposing small or power forwards. Brandis Raley-Ross will provide a majority of the depth in the backcourt. Downey and Fredrick played a ton of minutes last year, averaging 37.4 and 35.2 minutes per game respectively, and they, and the team, showed signs of wearing down at the end of the 2007-2008 campaign. Even with a pretty tough schedule down the stretch, losing five of your last six and seven of your last nine games of the regular season can be partially attributed to fatigue.
There is not enough depth for the Gamecocks to make a big run in the SEC. The lack of a quality big man will not help matters. Mike Holmes is the probable starter at the five spot and he is just 6-7. He is surprisingly effective around the basket against bigger defenders, but his size can create problems on the other side of the floor. Evaldas Baniulis can play either forward spot and has a nice looking stroke that extends out beyond the arc. Sam Muldrow III had a solid freshman campaign and is the defensive presence under the basket. He only averaged 13.9 minutes per game, but at 6-9, he could develop into the post threat that the Gamecocks need. There is work to be done for Muldrow as he needs to be more consistent on both ends of the floor before he will be given the opportunity to even be a full-time starter.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Devan Downey, Junior, Guard, 18.4 points per game
Zam Fredrick, Senior, Guard, 14.8 points per game
Dominique Archie, Junior, Forward, 10.6 points per game
Evaldas Baniulis, Junior, Forward, 5.4 points per game
Mike Holmes, Sophomore, Forward, 8.5 points per game