clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A Final Four hangover may be in store for Frank Martin and South Carolina

New, 1 comment

Previewing the #13 team in the SEC, the South Carolina Gamecocks

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-South Carolina vs Gonzaga Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
USC Preview

#13 South Carolina Gamecocks

Last Season: 26 - 11 (12 - 6 in conference) #24 kenpom

My Prediction: 13 - 17 (5 - 13, 13th in conference)

The Masses Prediction: 7.2 - 10.8 (10th in conference)

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-South Carolina vs Gonzaga Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

HEAD COACH: Frank Martin | fifth season 96 - 74

Frank Martin can probably write his own check these days. South Carolina has never been the beacon of winning basketball, yet after slowly building the Gamecocks up over the first four seasons Martin finally broke through in year five with a trip to the NCAA tournament and the school’s first Final Four appearance. Martin is known for bringing tough physical defensive teams to the court. Five top 40 defenses at Kansas State and each of the past three seasons at South Carolina prove that out. You could say the rebuild was complete but Martin is going to have a tough season in front of him after losing so many instrumental pieces from their final four run. But after what he did so far in Columbia, SC, the Gamecock fanbase should be pretty patient with him.

Seat Temp: COOL

south carolina 10 year look 2017

When you’ve made four NCAA tournaments since 1974, getting to the Final Four is kind of a big deal. Especially since the program hadn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 1973. I don’t think a return trip is going to happen for the Gamecocks in 2018. There are an awful lot of obstacles for them to overcome this year. But I also don’t think it will take another decade plus before they make it back to the NCAA’s.

SO, WHO’S GONE?

name reason GP %min %pts %ov %poss
name reason GP %min %pts %ov %poss
Frank Booker graduation 33 67.07% 18.07% 13.36% 14.99%
Wesley Myers graduation 33 54.51% 11.15% 11.90% 12.04%
Kory Holden transfer 14 11.43% 2.03% 3.02% 3.16%
David Beatty transfer 29 25.71% 3.72% 4.21% 6.08%
Ibrahim Doumbia transfer 12 3.23% 0.35% 0.16% 0.54%
Khadim Gueye transfer 17 6.62% 0.00% 0.00% 0.12%
Tommy Corchiani* left team 2 0.23% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Christian Schmitt* left team 3 0.45% 0.00% 0.00% 0.08%
33.85% 35.32% 32.65% 37.01%

I often called Sindarius Thornwell my spirit animal. I loved the way he played, like his life depended on winning. He was the perfect fit for Frank Martin, skilled but rough around the edges. When you combine toughness with 47% FG, 39% 3FG, 83% FT, a high assist rate, a low turnover rate you get a hell of a player and one who finished in the top ten for POY in KenPom. P.J. Dozier was a bit of a surprise jump to the NBA but he when he was on Dozier was one of the best players in the league. His inconsistency down the stretch caused the Gamecocks to flounder a bit, but he was the perfect Robin to Thornwells Batman.

Duane Notice’s production dipped after his sophomore year, but he wasn’t expected to do as much as the Gamecocks started winning. Justin McKee played a near perfect role over the years, simply doing what was asked of him. Sedee Keita transferred after struggling to find playing time behind other young bigs and TeMarcus Blanton called it a career after multiple knee injuries. And Raykim Felder got arrested for the second time and was suspended indefinitely.

AND, WHO’S BACK?

player year pos gp %min %pts ts% %ov
player year pos gp %min %pts ts% %ov
Chris Silva SR POST 33 63.98% 20.41% 84.51% 12.30%
Maik Kotsar JR POST 33 65.79% 11.37% 50.92% 10.37%
Justin Minaya SO WING 32 64.66% 10.98% 53.35% 10.81%
Hassani Gravett R-SR CG 30 58.50% 9.60% 57.04% 18.31%
Felipe Haase SO POST 33 48.65% 8.30% 49.67% 7.29%
Evan Hinson JR CF 23 17.44% 2.72% 50.76% 1.46%
Jason Cudd SO POST 23 11.73% 1.30% 53.46% 0.80%
66.15% 64.68% 59.67% 60.54%
NCAA Basketball: Final Four-South Carolina vs Gonzaga Chris Steppig-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Silva | JUNIOR | POST

A perfect example of the type of player Frank Martin succeeds with lives in the body of Chris Silva. Fast, strong, high energy, max effort, and fouls once every five minutes he plays. That’s who Silva is though, he fouls a lot and because he plays with that level of energy all the time his production is high. He’s one of the best rebounders in the SEC and he shoots a high percentage, but he’s got to find a way to bring down his foul rate. From his freshman to his sophomore year he went from 9.4 to 7.2, so maybe there’s hope to get it under five as a junior.

Frank Martin threw a bunch of young bigs at the wall and the one who stuck the most was Maik Kotsar. Kotsar’s skill and efficiency set him apart, and while he wasn’t going to outshine anyone in the scoring column, he did enough everywhere else to warrant the minutes advantage. Hassani Gravett came in unheralded but was exactly what the team needed last year, spot minutes at the combo guard position and a tough defender. Gravett shot poorly but was a very good on ball defender and secondary ball handler. After those two the contributors get thin in a hurry. Khadim Gueye played some spot minutes in the post, and could see more this year. And Evan Hinson played some following his football season.

NCAA Basketball: Delaware at Boston College Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Kory Holden | JUNIOR | COMBO GUARD

In the netherworld of returnee vs newcomer is the newly eligible transfer. Kory Holden was a high level scorer at Delaware before opting to try his luck at a higher level and picked South Carolina. But scoring 17 points per game for a 10-20 team in the CAA is a little different than being the primary scorer in the SEC, and it’s likely Holden will have to embrace the role of lead scorer this year if the Gamecocks are going to go anywhere. He’ll likely be the top guy on the perimeter with Silva being the first option down low. Holden does a good job of playing under control and has a high IQ that should fit in well as the Gamecocks are searching for perimeter help.

THEN, WHO’S NEW?

class player ht wt rating ranking pos
class player ht wt rating ranking pos
Fr A.J. Lawson 6'6 165 ★★★ 147 CG
Fr T.J. Moss 6'4 180 ★★★ 207 CG
Fr Jermaine Couisnard 6'4 185 ★★★ 218 CG
Fr Keyshawn Bryant 6'6 185 ★★★ 291 WING
Fr Alanzo Frink 6'8 285 ★★★ 433 POST
Jr Jair Bolden 6'3 210 - - CG
Sr Tre Campbell 6'2 170 - - CG

David Beatty is the highest ranked newcomer. The 6’3 combo guard will bring a toughness from Philadelphia, he’s a good athlete and has a quick release on his jumper. I’d imagine Beatty will challenge early for a starting spot. Justin Minaya is an exciting athlete with good range on the wing and one who could be a sleeper. My personal sleeper in the class is Felipe Haase, a soft shooting big man from Miami. He’s not a great athlete and his body needs some work but there are few with a better shooting touch, especially at his size. Jason Cudd is yet another post for Frank Martin to throw in the rotation if he needs, as is Ibrahim Doumbia. Doumbia is probably the most exciting athlete of the group, as he’s explosive off the floor but still very unpolished and his reported size has been all over the map. At 6’6 and 205 lbs he’s more likely going to project as a wing moving forward, but his skill set isn’t quite there. Maybe someone will get excited about the Gamecocks signing Frank Booker, but Booker has been little more than a role player for three seasons at Oklahoma and Florida Atlantic. There he was an average shooter who was barely relied upon on a possession by possession basis for a team that won 10 games last year. And Wesley Myers, the transfer from Maine can help out with scoring. He’s a nice player but he was kicked off the team at Maine after an altercation.

Depth Chart

position starter backup third
position starter backup third
(1) Point Guard Tre Campbell T.J. Moss Jair Bolden
(2) Combo Guard Hassani Gravett A.J. Lawson Jermaine Couisnard
(3) Wing Justin Minaya KeyShawn Bryant
(4) Combo Forward Chris Silva Felipe Haase
(5) Post Maik Kotsar Jason Cudd Alanzo Frink

The Gamecocks could use an extra set of guards, Holden is good at point or combo guard and will start, Beatty and Gravett will challenge to start along with Myers and Booker in the back court. Silva is likely locked in with Kotsar, but this team could struggle to get to eight deep on most nights. It will be interesting to see if the new Freshman bigs can unseat the veteran bigs, but really, Frank Martin needs another guard or two.

SCHEDULE

My Projected Record: 13 - 17 | KenPom Projected Record: 17 - 12

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Duke Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

NON-CONFERENCE

Date Location Opponent KenPom Proj W/L
Date Location Opponent KenPom Proj W/L
Nov 6 Home Southern 342 W
Nov 11 Home Appalacian State 178 W
Nov 15 Neutral Northeastern 78 W
Nov 16 Neutral Ball State/Va Tech 109/22 L
Nov 18 Neutral - - -
Nov 26 Home Murray State 130 W
Nov 29 Away UCF 70 W
Dec 4 Home Georgia State 89 W
Dec 9 Home Arizona 76 W
Dec 18 Home* Liberty 144 W
Dec 21 Home Penn State 32 W
Dec 30 Away Stephen F Austin 134 W
Jan 26 Away Baylor 40 L
avg 119.36

There isn’t anything too outlandish for the Gamecocks to take on, but with what Frank Martin is working with it might be a struggle to get through without a bad loss or two. A home game against a good Clemson team is probably the toughest game, along with a building Texas Tech team. But getting both at home could mean the Gamecocks find a way to split. The Illinois State game opens the “Puerto Rico Tip-off” and is played in South Carolina (the tournament was moved due to the destruction of the recent Hurricane season), is a tossup. If SC can win that game they likely win at least two games in the tournament which could be a big boon for the non-conference hopes.

CONFERENCE

Date Location Opponent KenPom Proj W/L
Date Location Opponent KenPom Proj W/L
Jan 5 Away Florida 19 L
Jan 8 Home Mississippi St 23 L
Jan 12 Home Missouri 43 W
Jan 16 Away Vanderbilt 69 L
Jan 19 Away LSU 50 L
Jan 22 Home Auburn 17 L
Jan 29 Home Tennessee 11 L
Feb 2 Away Georgia 101 L
Feb 5 Away Kentucky 7 L
Feb 9 Home Arkansas 64 W
Feb 13 Away Tennessee 11 L
Feb 16 Home Texas A&M 48 W
Feb 19 Home Ole Miss 94 W
Feb 23 Away Mississippi St 23 L
Feb 26 Home Alabama 51 L
Mar 2 Away Missouri 43 L
Mar 5 Away Texas A&M 48 W
Mar 9 Home Georgia 101 W
avg 45.72

Home and homes with Florida, Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Georgia... honestly I think this is one of those things that could really benefit the Gamecocks. Auburn is a big question mark, Mississippi State is still a very young team, Georgia has Yante Maten and question marks elsewhere, and Tennessee should be tough but not unbeatable. If South Carolina can find a way to go 4-6 or 5-5 in those 10 games (or, possibly better), they could jump from my projected placement up into the middle of the SEC pack.

OVERVIEW

Fresh of the schools first Final Four the program is riding a big high. Frank Martin can sit back a bit and realize he accomplished the turnaround. But all is not over in the rebuild as year to year success could remain evasive.

On the back of their Final Four trip, the Gamecocks lost a significant amount of production and leadership when Sindarius Thornwell graduated, and then the talented P.J. Dozier followed him out the door by declaring early. Losing Thornwell was expected but Dozier is the one that hurt more because he was expected to be the key cog for Frank Martin going into 2017-18. Without Dozier the talent drop off at guard is a concern.

The front court wasn’t a focus for the Gamecocks a year ago and that appears to be the strength this go around. If Chris Silva is able to get his fouling under control and provide more than 15-20 minutes a contest it will go a long way. He’s clearly the best player in the front court at this stage. And if Maik Kotsar is able to take a step forward and be a more reliable offensive weapon it will make a big difference.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-South Carolina vs Gonzaga Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

My biggest concern for the roster is their back court. Martin went in search of grad transfers to fill out the roster and landed Frank Booker (who started just 10 games at Florida Atlantic last year, while averaging 16.7 minutes) and Wesley Myers (who was a scoring leader at Maine before getting kicked off the team after breaking a teammates jaw in a fight). Neither guys are necessarily inspiring. But the hope is Kory Holden is able to take a big step forward and be the kind of lead guard this team needs. But after holden I’m not sure you can rely on either David Beatty (a freshman) or Hassani Gravett, who is a determined defender but not a high percentage shooter.

Early on this is going to be one of Frank Martin’s more patchwork rosters. When he settled in Columbia he started recruiting younger players and they developed over their years, and that worked. It culminated with his second recruiting class leading the Gamecocks to the Final Four. This roster currently has five freshmen, five sophomores, and their only seniors are grad transfers. The last time Martin had a roster this young was in 2013-14, and South Carolina went 14-20 overall, and just 5-13 in conference play. If you’re looking at which programs might take a step back this year, that’s the reason why most have South Carolina at the top of their list.


About the preview: a number of respected basketball bloggers were asked to submit one pick the entire league schedule game by game. Because these are game by game picks, they often tend to be a bit of a rosier picture of each teams potential. Each rep’s picks are reflected in the record prediction for the site listed at the top of the page, and within “the Masses” picks as well. Included in “the Masses” are various SEC media members who made picks at my request also.

If you’d like to submit your picks, click here for the Google Form we used.


GLOSSARY

* - an asterisk denotes a walk-on player

GP - Games Played

%min - percentage of total available minutes played, does not account for time missed due to injury

%ov - offensive team value, simple formula of (%points + %rebounds) - %turnovers/*100, similar to Offensive Rating but places more value on performance to the team

%poss - percentage of team possessions the player is responsible for ending a possession, whether by making a shot, missing a shot not rebounded by the offense or committing a turnover.

%pts - percentage of teams points scored

ts% - true shooting percentage, basically points scored divided by 2x fga +0.44*fta.