Last Season: 17 - 16 (7 - 11 SEC) No. 80 KenPom
My Prediction: 13 - 17 (6 - 12, 10th in SEC)
The Masses Prediction: 6.7 - 11.3 (10th in SEC) No. 42 KenPom
HEAD COACH: Frank Martin | Sixth season, 96 - 74
We don’t hesitate to pay dues for the Frank Martin Fan Club. He grew into a good coach at Kansas State before South Carolina — a program with just nine NCAA tournament bids — lured him away. Four seasons later, he led the Gamecocks to the program first Final Four. It’s truly remarkable, but since that run, and even to some degree before that, the Gamecocks have struggled to find consistency.
Early on, Martin found a compatriot in Sindarius Thornwell, an in-state star he could use as a cornerstone for his rebuild. With Thornwell now in the NBA, Martin has been searching in earnest for the next leader of his program. The talent level in Columbia has been adequate, and Carolina certainly benefited from some timing of the SEC’s overall dip in basketball up until last year. However, looking at this year’s roster and comparing it to the rest of the SEC makes you wonder whether Martin can sustain success at what has traditionally been a mediocre program.
Seat Temp: COOL
If the Gamecocks disappoint, Martin could feel the heat turned up on his seat. But I tend to think his administration will give him a break if the Gamecocks endure another mediocre season. Remember, Martin led the program to one of just four tournament appearances since joining the SEC. Perhaps he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
SO, WHO’S GONE?
|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%|
The amount of turnover in the South Carolina roster the last few years, whether it was graduation or transfers, borders on alarming. Frank Booker transferred in after a rocky few years at Florida International, and his production exceeded what Martin and his staff expected. Booker turned a pretty pedestrian college career into a revival project in his last year. Wes Myers transitioned well into his graduate year, providing consistent minutes and solid shooting. David Beatty transferred in to be closer to home and was declared eligible immediately. Kory Holden looked like a possible solution for scoring punch on the perimeter but ended up leaving after struggling to stay healthy. Watching Ibrahim Doumbia and Khadim Gueye, neither of whom saw much floor time, seek new homes were two of the least surprising transfers in the SEC this past offseason.
AND, WHO’S BACK?
Chris Silva | SENIOR | POST
In searching for the most accurate picture of Chris Silva, I decided it would be an image of him getting fouled. Last season, Silva ranked second nationally in fouls drawn per 40 minutes and led the nation in free-throw rate, according to KenPom. Silva is a limited offensive player, but he’s as good at drawing fouls and generating offense from the line as any post player I’ve ever seen. However, Silva also had a fouls-committed rate over 5.0, meaning he’s still forced to the bench far too often. And last season South Carolina was a completely different team with him watching from the sideline.
If Silva takes another step offensively and stays on the floor, the Gamecocks will be a much tougher team and should exceed expectations.
Maik Kotsar isn’t a guy who is going to wow you with a lot of stats, but he’s very useful at the job Martin asks him to do. The big man is a ball mover and solid screener, and he also has a reliable mid-range jumper. He defends and rebounds, too. So Kotsar is a vital role guy on a team trying to put the pieces back together after its peak two years ago. On the perimeter, Hassani Gravett is a smaller version of Kotsar. He could be a lot more efficient offensively, but his assist rate is high and, like any Martin player, he defends well. Felipe Haase is one of the few players on the roster capable of making shots regularly, but he’s limited athletically and struggles to defend on the interior. Evan Hinson is a reliable energy guy who arrives post-football since he’s on scholarship to play for Will Muschamp. Jason Cudd didn’t earn a lot of time last year and looked like a developmental player — if he opts to sticks around.
Justin Minaya | SOPHOMORE | WING
One of the bigger bright spots last season was the play from freshman wing Justin Minaya. While he wasn’t always efficient, Minaya shot the ball well and, you guessed it, played plus defense. Minaya could be the Gamecocks answer at wing if he’s able to take another step forward this season. Minaya doesn’t wholly fit the 3-and-D profile, but he’s close, as he’s a little more inclined to attack off the bounce and closeouts. Out of all the members of last year’s freshmen class, Minaya is the most likely to make the jump from role player to a key cog. At worst, he’s capable of serving as a secondary option on a team in need of offensive options.
THEN, WHO’S NEW?
This class isn’t one where you think the newcomers will overwhelm veterans. What it does have are developmental pieces that, with a few years of experience, could be the foundation of an NCAA tournament team. A.J. Lawson is a poor man’s version of P.J. Dozier: a big guard with solid athleticism who desperately needs a college weight room. Lawson handles the ball well enough to act as a lead guard and could challenge for starters minutes on the perimeter. Both Lawson and T.J. Moss fit the profile as big-bodied guards Martin likes, and Moss might be the more underrated prospects on the recruiting board. He had a host of high-majors chasing and has a prime opportunity to play a lot of minutes.
Jermaine Couisnard is a little more developed physically, giving him a chance to play more minutes early on. On the wing, Keyshawn Bryant is loaded with athleticism, but his overall game is still raw. Alanzo Frink is a big, physical body who can compete early, but his ceiling is limited and projects him as a role player instead of a key piece of the rotation. Finally, Tre Campbell is a graduate transfer who’ll help bolster depth after seeing his playing time erode at Georgetown.
Jair Bolden is sitting out this season after transferring from George Washington and is the exact guard Frank Martin loves: tough, outspoken and a native New Yorker.
|(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 depth here is interesting. I tend to think Martin gives an early nod to his veterans before letting the youth take hold a little. You can’t dislodge Silva from his spot, but it’s possible to move pieces like Campbell and Gravett to a support roles off the bench since both have done that already.
My Projected Record: 13 - 17 | KenPom Projected Record: 17 - 13
|Nov 11||Home||Appalacian State||178||W|
|Nov 16||Neutral||Ball State/Va Tech||109/22||L|
|Nov 26||Home||Murray State||130||W|
|Dec 4||Home||Georgia State||89||W|
|Dec 21||Home||Penn State||32||W|
|Dec 30||Away||Stephen F Austin||134||W|
The Gamecocks ease into their schedule, but the slate gets brutal in a hurry. South Carolina could net an upset against Providence and generate some momentum, but then comes a brutal stretch: Michigan, Virginia and Clemson — all of whom made the NCAA tournament last season. The schedule is challenging, but it’s also going to season the Gamecocks for the SEC season. You tend to trust Frank Martin on these matters because the one thing his team won’t do is go into the tank. Even with a few losses in the non-conference slate, they’re likely to rebound and be a tough out the rest of the way.
|Jan 8||Home||Mississippi St||23||L|
|Feb 16||Home||Texas A&M||48||W|
|Feb 19||Home||Ole Miss||94||W|
|Feb 23||Away||Mississippi St||23||L|
|Mar 5||Away||Texas A&M||48||W|
Reason No. 1 why I expect Martin and his boys to exceed projections: the likelihood they start 1-8 in the SEC is small. Only one game in that stretch, a visit to Kentucky, looks likes a certain loss. (Maybe Florida, too. But the Gators lack the depth they’ve had in the past.) If the Gamecocks find a way to start 4-5 or 3-6, they should be fine. And if they see success in their non-conference schedule, they might challenge for a postseason bid.
Coming off a Final Four season, expectations might have been warped in what always going to be a bridge year. That’s par for the course at a program like South Carolina, where a tradition of consistency is virtually absent. I expected a dropoff, but Martin and his style were enough to keep the Gamecocks within shouting distance of .500 in SEC action.
Outperforming expectations is one reason why it’s hard to forecast what the Gamecocks might do. This season, it’s hard to predict how the middle of the league could shake out, because there are five to 10 teams who could easily finish 10-8. The margin between success for one team and failure for another is really slim.
Truth be told, I like this Carolina roster more than last year’s — and by a fair amount. There’s some decent depth, and while the top line talent might be missing, Martin has a host of guys who he can throw at a problem if it crops up.
At this point, we know what to expect from Kotsar, Silva, and Gravett. What’s changed is the youth behind them is made up of more talented freshman. Sure, some of them are developmental guys. But if Moss, Bryant, Couisnard or another newcomer find their footing? If that happens, Martin and his program will already one step ahead of a group that found a way to finish with a 7-11 record in the league last year.
If you’re a Gamecocks fan, a large chunk of your hope rests on Minaya taking the next step.
His numbers versus tier-one and tier-two opponents could be better after he posted a KenPom offensive rating below 100 against those teams. It’s crucial South Carolina fined an efficient offensive threat. Last season, Silva and Booker were the only members of the rotation to clear 100, which is average in KenPom’s index. An improved Minaya likely means easily replacing Booker’s lost production.
You have to expect there’ll be a fight in this team all season long. The schedule lays out well enough for them to exceed last season, but there are too many question marks in the shot-making department to see Carolina being a whole lot more than what they were a year ago.
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.
* - 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.