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Preliminary South Carolina Gamecocks Basketball Preview

I apologize for not having much to say about the basketball team yet. In my defense I can only say that it's been difficult to find time to write about basketball during football season. You can rest assured that when hoops rolls around in earnest, we'll be here talking about it. That starts now. So, without further adieu, let's take a look at how we stack up by position.

Point Guard

Devan Downey returns to man the point guard slot for us again this year. Downey needs no introduction here. He comes into his senior season with an outside shot at the national All-American team and would be a unanimous pick for first-team All-SEC if not for the love Kentucky freshman John Wall is currently getting.

Downey is the team's star and will be on the floor most of the time. When he's not on the floor, Brandis Raley-Ross or Ramon Galloway will take his place, but those two players will see more time flanking Downey at the two slot. Robert Wilder will also see some time at the point.

Grade: A+

Shooting Guard

As said, Raley-Ross and freshman Galloway will see time here. Freshman guard Stephen Spinella may also see time, as will freshman Lakeem Jackson, who will play both this position and small forward, depending on the lineup. Getting good production from this position will go a long way towards seeing how this team does this year, as the team will have to figure out how to replace departed Zam Fredrick's production. Raley-Ross is a good scorer when he gets the hot hand and is a capable distributor, but he's a little undersized and can thus be picked on by taller guards. The same goes for Galloway, although we'll probably see Galloway bulk up a little over the next year or two and eventually be a very solid player for us. Spinella and Jackson, on the other hand, are sized a bit better but lack the shooting touch of Raley-Ross and Galloway. I expect that, eventually, you'll see Jackson as the featured player in this spot, with the other players playing significant minutes as role players. Jackson has the greatest upside of the group and is the kind of game-changing defender that Darrin Horn wants out of this position. However, he's also a freshman, and we can expect growing pains from him as well as his cohorts.

Grade: B-

Small Forward

Dominique Archie is the big name here, although you'll also see Jackson and Evka Baniulus playing this position in certain lineups. Archie is the team's second star, and a breakout year from him could make a major difference this year. Defense and hustle are Archie's trademarks, but he needs to get more involved in the offense. He appears to have a decent shot but doesn't always get as many looks as I would like to see. He also needs to work on his free throw shooting. Baniulus provides an excellent scoring option here when he's hot and is thus a useful role player, but he doesn't really do anything but shoot threes and is a huge defensive liability against athletic forwards.

Grade: B+

Continue reading after the jump.

Power Forward

Mike Holmes will play most of the minutes here, with Austin Steed and JUCO transfer Jhondre Jefferson providing backup. Holmes has a lot of upside and I expect we'll see improved play from him this year. His main two deficiencies are that he's often in foul trouble and that he's an awful free-throw shooter. If he can improve a bit in those areas, he could be one of the conference's better big men. Steed was a bit of a mixed bag last year; he played well at times but was a liability at other times. He's a hustler but doesn't seem to be very capable against the conference's better big men. I don't know too much about Jefferson yet. He's a JUCO, so he should be ready to contribute, and I hear he's a good defender in the mold that Coach Horn wants. Both Steed and Jefferson will need to have good years, as Holmes's tendency to get in foul trouble will likely mean that they'll play plenty of minutes.

Grade: B

Center

Sam Muldrow will take most of the minutes here. Muldrow showed some potential last year. He certainly has the size to be a low-post force. However, he at times seemed to gamble a lot on blocks and the like, and his offensive game could use a bit of work. Word is, though, that he's one of the team's most improved players this year, so we'll see what we get. You'll also probably see Jefferson in this spot at times.

Grade: B-

Bench

This might be the biggest difference from a year ago. Depth was a big problem for us last year, but with some key additions, we should be better this year. As the above suggests, we have solid rotations at every position, even if some of our rotations will require some players to play multiple positions.

Grade: B-

All in all, this should be a good year for Gamecocks hoops. However, the SEC as a whole will also be better, so the wins won't be easy to come by. I wouldn't be surprised to see this team play better this year but still come up just short on the NCAAs after enduring a tough schedule. As long as we continue to see progress, though, I'll be happy. Coach Horn is bringing in some good players, and we should continue to improve each year from here on out.