One Gamecock enjoying himself in the NBA.
In my last hoops preview, I took a look at our frontline, which I believe will be a liability for us this year much like it was last year. The our undersized big guys will likely be effective scorers in Darrin Horn's up-tempo system, but their lack of size will cost us defensively against team's with top-notch post-players.
Although they may have some defensive issues as well, our backcourt will not be anywhere near the overall problem area that our frontline could be. The main reason for that? Number 2, Devan Downey. The emergence of Downey, our PG, as one of the SEC's best players last year was one of the few bright sides to an overall disappointing season. Downey is a PG who scores and dishes: he averaged 18.1 ppg and 5.06 asg, making him our team's leader in both categories. He's also an opportunistic defender who averaged 3.06 spg, although his small stature--he's 5'9 and weighs 175 lbs--makes him something of a defensive liability against the occasional team that has a big PG. If Downey has another big year, he may very well head off to the NBA a year early--he's that good.
Devan won't steal the entire show, though, as we have some other guards who can score. The rest of the roster includes Branden Conrad, Zam Frederick, Brandis Raley-Ross, and Robert Wilder. Frederick looks to be Devan's main running mate. Last year, he was second on the team in scoring at 14.8 ppg. Raley-Ross should be a solid backup, having scored 6 ppg last year.
Overall, this should be a high-scoring group of guards. There are some concerns, though, about the group's propensity to throw up a lot of threes and shoot for a low percentage in general. Downey shot .423 from the field last year, Frederick a somewhat poor .402. Those percentages aren't always going to win you ball games, especially when you don't have a big rebounder under the goal to put the miss back in.
Despite these legitimate concerns, I expect to see a more efficient offense this year. One reason for the poor percentage was that we were often trying to from behind last year and were thus hoisting up threes every time we came down the court. Hopefully, that won't be the case quite as often this year. The other problem was that Dave Odom over-relied on the guards in general, and I think we'll see Horn make better use of our big guys. All in all, I expect a solid season from Downey, Frederick, Raley-Ross, and whichever other guys Coach Horn manages to work in.
Stay tuned for a tentative overall season outlook as well as a look at some of our biggest OOC games.