South Carolina Basketball Preview: #30
Overall Rank: #30
Conference Rank: #4 Southeastern Conference
2008-09: 21-10, 10-6
2008-09 postseason: NIT
Coach: Darrin Horn (21-10 at South Carolina, 132-58 overall)
Usually a 10-6 record in the Southeastern Conference is good enough for an NCAA Tournament bid, but that was not the case for South Carolina last season. Instead the team had to settle for the NIT. With an improved SEC, and what appears to be an improved Gamecocks squad, Coach Darrin Horn is looking towards an NCAA appearance during his second year leading the program.
Key Losses: G Branden Conrad, G Zam Fredrick
And because of Coach Horn, the Gamecocks have a solid recruiting class that will provide some much, much needed depth. The backcourt gets most of the talent with the addition of point guard Ramon Galloway, shooting guard Stephen Spinella and wing Lakeem Jackson. Galloway is a talented ball handler who can also play the shooting guard spot, Spinella will bring some size to the two guard position and can provide a quick scoring punch with his outside shooting ability and Jackson is a strong and versatile wing who could be starting from day one. The frontcourt only gets one player, but Johndre Jefferson, a junior college transfer, can hit the glass and block shots.
Devan Downey is the unquestioned leader of this team. While Zam Fredrick will certainly be missed, Downey is the reason South Carolina was so close to an NCAA berth. After averaging an impressive 19.8 points and 4.5 assists as a junior, Downey is ready to carry this team as far as he can. However, Downey will need some help from his fellow guards and the only other returning option is Brandis Raley-Ross. The 6-2 senior was a superb sixth man last year and will likely step into a starting spot, if he can hold off the newcomers, and he needs to remain productive no matter how many minutes he plays.
The frontcourt is full of options. Mike Holmes, Sam Muldrow and Austin Steed are all juniors who Coach Horn hopes can fill most of the minutes under the basket. Holmes, despite being only 6-7, is the bruiser of the bunch. He will mix it up with anybody under the basket. But he is not simply a player who will grab a ton of rebounds and play solid defense, he also averaged 10.8 points per game last year. Muldrow missed nearly half of last season, but the 6-9 Florence, South Carolina product is a proven rebounder and the team’s best shot blocker. Steed was a pretty productive reserve who was stuck down the depth chart a ways, but could be a surprisingly productive player if given the opportunity. Add senior Evaldas Baniulis and his tremendous outside shooting ability to the mix and the Gamecocks have plenty of talented forwards.
Who to Watch:
However, the most talented forward of them all is small forward Dominque Archie. The 6-7 senior is an amazing athlete who can play on the wing or under the basket. It will be interesting to see where Archie fits into coach Horn’s team this year. During the 2008-2009 campaign he spent most of his time on the wing due to a lack of guards. If the newcomers can fill that void on the wing, Archie will move to the four spot and that will give South Carolina the extremely quick team that they want.
No matter where Archie plays, he should improve on his 10.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks average of a season ago. With Downey and Archie leading the way, this will be a high powered offense that should rank in the top 25 in the nation in scoring. And all those points will lead to enough wins to reach the NCAA Tournament as long as the freshmen on the perimeter and Raley-Ross can replace Fredrick.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Devan Downey, Senior, Guard, 19.8 points per game
Brandis Raley-Ross, Senior, Guard, 7.0 points per game
Dominique Archie, Senior, Forward, 10.9 points per game
Mike Holmes, Junior, Center, 10.8 points per game
Sam Muldrow, Junior, Center, 5.6 points per game
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