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Your 2008-2009 Roundball Gamecocks: Previewing the Front Line

This should be enough to get any Gamecocks hoops fan pumped up.

This post initiates the first installment in a series of previews of the coming basketball season. I'm not going to devote too much time to this right now--I'm sure all of us are most concerned with the football team at this time. However, I do plan to take a look at our returning team and at our chances in the non-con schedule before the season starts. I'll probably wait until December, after football slows down temporarily before the bowls, to take a look at the SEC schedule.

This post looks at our big guys. We sport Mitchell Carter at center and Dominique Archie, Evalda Baniulus, Mike Holmes, Sam Muldrow, and Austin Steed at the forward spots. Dave Odom typically went without a center and instead played some combination of Archie, Baniulus, Holmes, and Muldrow, with Archie (10.6 ppg and 5.7 rpg) and Holmes (8.5 ppg and 5.7 rpg) being especially productive.

Offensively, our group of talented forwards fits well with Darrin Horn's style and should help us to field an exciting, high-scoring offense. Horn likes to run the floor and he likes the three-ball, and most of the lineups you'll see this year will likely be able to do those things. All of these big guys can run, and Holmes is the only player who will likely see a lot of time who's not a legitimate three-point threat.

However, as with last year, defense will likely be an issue for this group of Gamecocks, and a lot of the problems will be due to the lack of size on the front line. Last year, we lost a number of games against opposing teams with talented post players because we had no defensive answer. Kentucky's Patrick Patterson was an especially tough guy for us to guard, and Patterson will be back from his injury to cause us fits again this year.

Unfortunately, we don't have many answers for this problem. When your front line is shorter and smaller than the opposing team's bigs, you're going to have trouble shutting down the other team in the half court game. One option is to use lots of full-court presses, and that's undoubtedly one strategy you'll probably see a lot of this year. But it's a strategy that only goes so far against smart, talented teams.

Final judgment? Compared to elite SEC teams like Florida and Kentucky, our front line is likely inferior. They'll help us score lots of points, but we'll also probably give up a lot of points against top teams. Hopefully, we'll be able to score more.

Stay tuned for a discussion of our back-court, soon to be followed by looks at some of our non-con opponents.