Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series. Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days. This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days. We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
The South Carolina Gamecocks basketball tradition is as rich as a man selling air conditioners in Antarctica. (Sorry, I don’t consider back-to-back NIT Championships in 2005 and 2006 adding any tradition to their program.) SC is struggling to become a relevant SEC team and that figures to be the case again this season as Darrin Horn will have a very young team.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Season: 10th, 5-11 in SEC, 14-16 overall
Predicted SEC Finish: 12th place
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Damontre Harris (So)/Carlton Geathers (Fr)
F: Malik Cooke (Sr)/Anthony Gill (Fr)
SF: Lakeen Jackson (Jr)/R.J. Slawson (So)
SG: Brian Richardson (So)/Damien Leonard (Fr)
PG: Bruce Ellington (So)/Eric Smith (So)/Brenton Williams (So)
Gone: PF-Sam Muldrow, PF-Johndre Jefferson, F-Murphy Holloway (transfer-Ole Miss), SG-Ramon Galloway (transfer-La Salle), SG-Steve Spinella (transfer-Monmouth)
In his fourth season at South Carolina, head coach Darrin Horn is still trying to get the Gamecocks over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament; somewhere they haven’t been since 2004. However, the climb to move into the upper half of the SEC has not been easy and it’s unlikely to happen this season.
The biggest off-season development involved starting point guard Bruce Ellington who led the team in scoring a year ago. Ellington has decided to play football this fall for the Gamecocks, and while he still plans on re-joining the hoops team once football season ends, it is uncertain as to when that will be. Until Ellington returns to the hardwood, sophomore Eric Smith and JUCO transfer Benton Williams will handle the point guard responsibilities.
The Gamecocks also lose three players to transfer including starting shooting guard Ramon Galloway and Ole Miss transfer Murphy Holloway who sat out last season only to leave SC and re-enroll at Mississippi. Add in the graduation of their top inside player, Sam Muldrow, and Horn will have a roster in which nine of the eleven players are underclassmen.
Malik Cooke is the lone senior on the roster and played well in his first season at South Carolina after transferring in from Nevada. He and junior Lakeem Jackson bring experience to the forward spots but form an undersized duo as Cooke is 6-6 while Jackson is just 6-5. Seldom used sophomore R.J. Slawson and freshman Anthony Gill will hope to provide some depth. Damonte Harris and redshirt freshman Carlton Geathers will attempt to replace Muldrow’s effectiveness inside. Geathers is a big body at 6-10, 255 pounds but is not a very skilled big man.
Coming off a decent freshman season, Brian Richardson will likely replace Galloway as the Gamecocks’ starting shooting guard. Freshman Damien Leonard should factor into the equation as well.
South Carolina could be in for another long season especially if Ellington’s transition from the gridiron to the hardwood takes some time. Horn is learning why SC has not had a winning tradition in basketball and if his team does not show much improvement this season, he could find himself on the unemployment line next Spring.
Player to Watch: Lakeem Jackson
Jackson has started all but two games since arriving in Columbia. He battled a nagging foot injury last season during SEC play which limited his production. Until Ellington returns, Jackson will likely be the team’s go-to option on offense along with Cooke. Jackson has played with an edge his first two seasons at South Carolina, and if he can show more consistency with his jump shot, could really take the next step with his game.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/25, 26 vs. North Carolina, UNLV, USC (Las Vegas Invitational)
12/1 vs. Providence (SEC/Big East Challenge)
12/4 at Clemson
12/17 vs. Ohio State
OTHER 111 IN 111′S:
#88 Ball State Cardinals
#89 Utah State Aggies
#90 Arizona State Sun Devils
#91 Marshall Thundering Herd
#92 Oregon State Beavers
#93 Washington State Cougars
#94 Iowa Hawkeyes
#95 Ole Miss Rebels
#96 Nebraka Cornhuskers
#97 Oklahoma Sooners
#98 South Florida Bulls
#99 LSU Tigers
#100 Colorado Buffaloes
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a fomer contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.Follow paulmbanks