5. South Carolina Gamecocks
Last season: 17 - 16 (6 - 12 in conference)
My Prediction: 11 - 7 (in conference)
Garnet & Black Attack's Prediction: 11 - 7 (in conference)
The Masses Prediction: 6.7 - 11.3
Winning at South Carolina has never come easy, but if you know Frank Martin, he doesn’t tend to do anything easy. Martin has SC trending the right way after a more sluggish start than he would have hoped. Back to back 14 win seasons followed by an improved 17 win campaign last year, plus some offseason recruiting wins, have the Gamecocks faithful buzzing that perhaps Martin has turned the corner. They were close a season ago, when the Gamecoks held high in the 30’s and 40’s according to KenPom’s rankings, and even blew out Oklahoma State and Clemson, and edged Iowa State in the non-conference before tumbling late in the season when the wins became harder to get in league play. Martin’s fiery personality has been enough to keep people engaged in Columbia, and now he has the roster shaped into a position he wants it to make the jump we’ve all been waiting for to happen.
WHO THEY LOST
|Reggie Theus, Jr.||Transfer||13||.310||.097||.002|
Tyrone Johnson was an important player for the Gamecocks over the last few years. A transfer from Villanova, and a big physical guard, he was a perfect fit in the Frank Martin system. Perhaps the only problem was that Martin didn’t get the Gamecocks rolling fast enough to utilize Johnsons talents. He had a nice career, averaging about 28 minutes a game, and about 10 points and 3.5 assists. So he leaves a whole to be filled. Demetrius Henry was one of Martin’s early recruiting wins, but the talented forward never got things going as he struggled with off the court problems and putting things together on the court. Neither Theus, Jr or Shamiek Sheppard made much of an impact, with Sheppard being suspended during the last part of the season. So there won’t be much roster impact by losing those two players.
WHO IS COMING BACK?
|Temarcus Blanton||r-freshman||G||REDSHIRT - - INJURED|
Sindarius Thornwell | Junior | Guard
player to watch
Leading the charge is highly talented Sindarius Thornwell, a physical wing who can create his own shot and is one of the better rebounders on the team. Thornwell has slowly been putting things together since he arrived on campus two seasons ago. He needs to take the next step into being more efficient on offense, but he’s also been a plus defender for Frank Martin as well. He logged a lot of minutes last year, and dealt with a lot of minor injuries that limited him, but this is the season I think you see the player most expected him to be coming out of high school.
If there is reason for optimism, it’s that the Gamecocks have a lot coming back. They have nearly 80% of their points and minutes returning from a team that was close to getting over the hump a year ago. Obviously the presence of Thornwell with another year of experience will help, but Duane Notice had an underrated and solid season a year ago, and if he continues his upward trajectory from year one to year two into his third season, he could be one of the better combo guards in the league. He could have some help in the backcourt from Marcus Stroman, who as a freshman struggled with consistency, but has a very high upside and could be a solid backup, or even push Notice to start at the point position. Michael Carrera will resume his job of being a thorn in everyones side, and being the love of the SEC color men for all his hustle. And the two interchangeable bigs of Laimonas Chatkevicius and Mindaugas Kacinas should continue to do what they’ve done to this point. Which is rebound, defend and not screw up on offense. If Frank Martin can count on 14 points and 10 rebounds from those two a night, he’ll take it. The wildcard here might be Temarcus Blanton, who was a top 150 player as an incoming freshman, but tore his ACL before the season started.
WHO ARE THE NEWCOMERS?
Perry Dozier | Freshman | Guard
player to watch
Guys like Thornwell and Henry were nice recruiting wins, but Dozier is the first 5-star for Frank Martin to land and that should give the Gamecock fans reason to cheer, as that’s only allowed him to build up and recruit even better since. Dozier is a McDonalds All-American and native of South Carolina that Martin had to fight Louisville and North Carolina off for. He’s a playmaking wing who can do a little bit of everything, and will for the Gamecocks.
After Dozier, the guy to expect the most out of is Chris Silva. Silva his a high ceiling post who played high school ball with Isaiah Briscoe, and has been reportedly impressing in practice before the season. If Frank Martin can get production from the freshman post, there’s a lot to like about the depth inside, which is something the Gamecocks have struggled with in the past. Most of the other signees aren’t particularly highly rated. The guy I find the most intrigue with is Ray Doby (originally from St. Louis!), a combo forward who originally committed to play for DePaul but was released after Oliver Purnell was fired. Doby is a physical player with enough skill to see some minutes at the wing, but is probably a better fit in that swing forward spot. Jamall Gregory is an explosive athlete, but needs some seasoning. He likely won’t be needed much as a freshman but has enough potential to be pretty good. Cobb is a big and fairly mobile post player who also has a chance to grow without the pressure of playing early.
|Point Guard||Combo Guard||Wing|
|Duane Notice||Perry Dozier||Sindarius Thornwell|
|Marcus Stroman||Temarcus Blanton||Justin McKie|
|Michael Carrera||Laimonas Chatkevicius|
|Chris Silva||Mindaugas Kacinas|
South Carolina was close last season. For a while it looked like maybe they had gotten over the hump. A big win over a good Iowa State team was the culmination of a stretch that saw the Gamecocks beat Clemson, Oklahoma State and a couple cupcakes, all by more than 20 points. But the hump of conference play proved to be a struggle as they lost a close opener to Florida and proceeded to limp to a 2-8 start. Every game was a close game, minus their 15 point home loss to Kentucky. All this adds up to a season of almost for Carolina.
Which is one reason why I’m a little surprised by the lack of respect around the league at this point. Most of the picks have come in and the consensus seems to see the Gamecocks as a bottom third kind of team. I can see them maybe being a .500 team if they don’t catch some breaks, and still continue to struggle to score, but with everyone coming back and getting some talent in the right places, I find it very easy to like the team. But, being a former Big 12 guy, I also appreciate all things Frank Martin.
SC is a preseason KenPom #48 team, which is even better than the team ahead of them on these rankings, Georgia. So KenPom has them at #5 in the SEC, and so do I. The non-conference slate isn’t terrible, with games against South Florida, Clemson, St. Johns and Memphis. They open with DePaul in the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, and could get any mix of Florida State, Indiana State or Tulsa after that. Mississippi State, Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee home and homes are another reason to think the Gamecocks should be much better (record-wise) this year. Their other home and home series is with Georgia, who they match up well against and beat twice last year. I don’t see any reason why SC shouldn’t be 7-3 in those games, then they just need to win two more games to get to .500 in the league, and another couple to reach my 11 win prediction.
When you have the amount of players coming back from a team that was so close to turning a corner, you either believe that they are never going to turn that corner or you believe that this is the year they do. With Thornwell, Stroman, Dozier and Notice all hanging around the perimeter, and Chatkevicius, Kacinas, Carrera and Silva on the interior, I see no reason why this team can’t take that next step. The one area where they need to improve upon is scoring. As evidenced by the shot chart above. Carolina isn’t a great shooting team, but they can improve. The health of Thornwell and the talent of Dozier should make those numbers go up, as some decent outside threats will help clear up the middle of the floor for the bigs. And as usual the Gamecocks should be expected to play a brutal, physical style of defense that prevents anyone from running away from them.
Frank Martin enters his fourth season at South Carolina, and there’s every sign the upward trajectory that he’s put the Gamecocks on will continue unabated. Carolina continued its frightening streak of only graduating one senior after the 2014-15 season, but it’s about to break two streaks dating back to the 2010-11 season: it’s going to have more than one scholarship senior show up at Senior Night, and one of those seniors (in this case, all three!) is going to have spent his entire college eligibility in Columbia. It’s been a trying few years for the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks experience comes in the post, where Kacinas, Chatkevicius, and Carrera should make up for some talent deficiencies by bossing around younger post players around the league. None of them is going to make a living in the NBA, but Carolina’s interior play should be slightly improved just by putting older guys on the floor. These guys have all seen major minutes for Carolina during their tenure, and all have been serviceable, so a slight step up should be all Carolina needs to contend.
The reason for that - the combination of the players they return and bring in to the backcourt. Thornwell is a high four-star player that can’t carry the load alone but is going to be a lot of trouble for teams when they have other defensive responsibilities. And this year, with the continued rise of Duane Notice and the addition of five-star recruit Perry Dozier, they should have enough talent spread amongst the positions to really frustrate their opponents, particularly on defense.
Carolina still needs one more scorer on the offensive end, or alternatively, needs to figure out floor spacing issues that persist when two post players clog the lane and prevent the rest of the guys from getting to the rim. But they can figure that out. With a very soft out-of-conference schedule and a favorable draw in the SEC, it won’t take much improvement for the Gamecocks to put up the kind of record that looks like an NCAA team. If they can take a step forward from last year’s team, they could be as good as the second-best team in the SEC.
It’s been a long time coming in Columbia, but Frank Martin has this team ready to break through and has the best chance the Gamecocks have had at the NCAA Tournament in almost a decade. They’ve got a great chance to seize it.
|Davis Williams||Garnet & Black Attack|
Well it's make it or break it time, put up or shut up time, full fondue dinner time, go full jump suit time, the time is now for Human Volcano, Frank Martin. Can the Gamecocks get it done in year 4 of the Martin era. 'Cause either this team is going to take the next step this year or, well I suppose it won't. What kind of leash does the Explosinator have since his success at K-State? Does the SC brass even know they have a basketball team? Could Steve Spurrier be waiting in the wings to try his hand at basketball coaching. Please let that be the outcome of this season. In any case, SC started out really well last year making a whole lot of big noise in the nonconference season and then things seemed to fall apart once they entered the SEC season. Perhaps the SEC is like the Darkside of the Force, it just sucks all the good out of you and makes you feel nothing but rage and anger. Which would make John Calipari the Emperor, and a whole host of guys trying and failing to be Darth Vader and Johnny Jones would be Jar Jar Binks. So, Frank it's go time, you fared well in the SEC tournament last year with some terrible uniforms, now go out there and muscle everyone to the ground and rise to the top...or just go out in a wild blaze of glory that involves you freaking out so hard that you end up naked running around Columbia East screaming incoherently before passing out in West Virginia at Bobby Huggins' door crying and covered in a velour blanket.
About the preview: Each SBNation site was asked for one representative to submit a Game-by-Game pick of the upcoming SEC season to get a different look than if we just asked them to submit a ranking by team, or a prediction for their record. It yielded some interesting results as you can see.
GP: Games Played
%min: Percentage of team minutes played that were available
%poss: Percentage of usage, when a player is the cause of the end of possession (turnover or shot)
%points: Percentage of points scored vs team points
%rbds: Percentage of rebounds vs team rebounds
eFG%: Field Goal percentage with added weight of 50% for three point shots made
%3pm: Percentage of 3-point makes to team 3-point makes
ORtg: Average points scored per 100 possessions (if the player was responsible for each possession)
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