Below is the OOC basketball schedule, per the USC athletics website.
F-Nov. 7 Kentucky Wesleyan (EX) Columbia, S.C. (Colonial Life Arena) 7 p.m.
F-Nov. 14 Jacksonville State (SS) Columbia, S.C. (Colonial Life Arena) 7 p.m.
Su-Nov 16 Winthrop (SS) Columbia, S.C. (Colonial Life Arena) 4 p.m.
Sa-Nov. 22 USC Upstate (SS) Columbia, S.C. (Colonial Life Arena) 1 p.m.
Tu-Nov. 25 Gardner Webb (SS) Columbia, S.C. (Colonial Life Arena) 7 p.m.
F-Nov. 28 College of Charleston Charleston, S.C. (Carolina First Arena) 7 p.m.
Tu-Dec. 2 Princeton Princeton, N.J. (Jadwin Gym) 7 p.m.
F-Dec. 5 Furman Columbia, S.C. (Colonial Life Arena) 6 p.m.
Tu-Dec. 16 NC Central (SS) Columbia, S.C. (Colonial Life Arena) 8 p.m.
Sa-Dec. 20 The Citadel (SS) Columbia, S.C. (Colonial Life Arena) 5 p.m.
Tu-Dec. 23 Presbyterian College (SS) Columbia, S.C. (Colonial Life Arena) 7 p.m.
Tu-Dec. 30 Clemson (FSN) Columbia, S.C. (Colonial Life Arena) 7 p.m.
F-Jan. 2 Baylor (FSNSW) Waco, Texas (Ferell Center) 5:30 p.m.
M-Jan. 5 Wofford College (SS) Columbia, S.C. (Colonial Life Arena) 7 p.m.
Four games stand out here as important tests for our team: Winthrop, College of Charleston, Clemson, and Baylor. The other games should be easy wins. Of course, Gardner-Webb did beat Kentucky last year, but hopefully we'll escape that fate. Princeton's career as a giant killer is well known, but the Tigers have fallen on hard times. As far as Jacksonville State is concerned, we'll just have to hope that record keepers don't get confused when we play them and credit the wrong team with the win.
Let's take a closer look at the better OOC opponents we face.
Winthrop has had a lot of success in the Big South conference in recent years. Last year, they went 22-12 and, as usual, represented their conference in the NCAA tournament. Despite their Big South success, though, wins over major conference foes have not come often for the Eagles, so they'll be looking for blood when they come to Columbia.
Luckily for us, however, the Eagles should be in a rebuilding phase this year. They lose four of their top five scorers from a year ago, and while Randy Peele has proven that he's a good enough coach to get his young team ready for the Big South, he'll likely have trouble with a more experienced, athletic Gamecocks team.
Verdict for Winthrop: Likely Win
College of Charleston
The COC had a tough year last year, going 16-17 and 9-11 in the Southern Conference, otherwise lately known as Davidson's Whipping Boys. However, Bobby Cremins's team returns every significant player this year. Cremins is a good, proven coach, and if things come together for his group of players, his team should challenge Davidson in the SoCon.
COC may be a tough out for the Gamecocks. The Cougars present minor matchup problems for Carolina. Carolina's Achilles Heel last year was talented big men, and COC sports two in Jermaine Johnson and Dustin Scott. Johnson and Scott don't sport quite the size of the SEC big men that plagued the Gamecocks last year, but they should be able to score some points in the paint against us. Also playing in COC's favor is that this game will take place in Charleston and lots of COC fans will undoubtedly be on hand to see the Cougars try to take out one of the big boys.
Verdict for COC: Somewhat Probable Win
See previews for Clemson and Baylor after the jump.
Our friends from Pickens County have developed a nice little basketball program over the last few years under Coach Oliver Purnell, who is undoubtedly one of college hoops bright young coaching stars. The Tigers made the NCAA tournament last year and anything less than that this time around will be a disappointment, as they return senior guard and team leader K. C. Rivers along with other talented players. Many media outlets rate Clemson in their pre-season top 25s.
This will definitely be a difficult game for the Gamecocks. The Tigers have a number of talented shooters and are capable of scoring lots of points, and Darrin Horn's up-tempo offense plays into Clemson's hand to a certain degree because the Tigers have strong full-court and perimeter defenders. Clemson also brings in 7-2 center Catalin Baciu from Romania. Baciu is raw player and will need development before he really blossoms into a top player, but he's capable of scoring under the basket and Clemson will undoubtedly try to get him the ball so he can take advantage of the fact that he's a good several inches taller than our big men.
To make a long story short, we'll need to play a great game to beat the Tigers. We can do it, but it's not very likely. The game takes place in Columbia, so hopefully we'll get a little help from a pumped up crowd.
Verdict for Clemson: Likely Loss
After enduring well-publicized scandal and tragedy in 2003, the Bears surged to a 21-11 record last year and ended up being one of the season's feel-good stories. A repeat performance may be likely this year, as Baylor returns its best players. The Bears sport one of the nation's best backcourts in Curtis Jerrells and Henry Dugat, and their frontline is also good. They won't sneak up on anybody again this year, but they're good enough to play with most teams.
Baylor doesn't have a player like Clemson's Baciu that will give Carolina fits. They also aren't as good defensively as the Tigers, so we should be able to score points against them. However, they'll get their points as well, and since they have a little more momentum coming into the season than we do, they'll likely be favored in this game.
Verdict for Baylor: Somewhat Probable Loss
Our OOC schedule this year is a good bit easier than what we faced last year. Gone are the Southern Cals, NC States, and George Masons, most of them replaced by teams that we should handle easily. That being the case, we should have no more than three losses headed into conference play. That's a good thing for this team, as the wins will build confidence and gives us a better chance of finishing with a respectable record even if we don't play great in SEC play. Playing tough OOC opponents is great for good teams that need the quality wins to help their NCAA seeding, but we're probably not at that point this year. And if we are, we need to beat Clemson and Baylor.