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South Carolina Basketball: Gauging Success for the Gamecocks

Coming off a disappointing season that ended with the attrition of some relatively high-profile players, Coach Darrin Horn comes into this season with a touch of urgency surrounding his program. More than a few people have called for Coach Horn's job. Regardless of how you felt on that note at the end of last season, you have to accept that Coach Horn is being given a chance to show improvement this season. If the product is at least marginally better this year, he'll be given a chance to return next season to lead a team that will finally have some experience to go along with its talent. I think that's fair.

What is marginal improvement, though? To get an idea, you first have to take a look at Carolina's schedule.

Western Kentucky
at Elon
Tennessee St
Mississippi Valley St
UNC (tourney)
USCw or UNLV (tourney)
at Clemson
Southeastern Louisiana
USC Upstate
SC State

at Kentucky
at Auburn
at Ole Miss
at Florida
at Tennessee
at Arkansas
at Vandy
Mississippi St
at Georgia

Keep reading after the jump.

Clearly, this is a fairly tough schedule. With the games against UNC, SoCal/UNLV, Providence, Clemson, and Ohio State, it features one of the tougher OOC slates we've had in a while. Then, you have the SEC East. It's hard to know what to expect there. On the one hand, UK, Vandy, and to a lesser extent Florida should be excellent. However, the division probably won't be as deep as it was last year, as Georgia and Tennessee are both in rebuilding mode after losing some key players and, in the case of Tennessee, the coach.

Even if Carolina is much better than it was last year, it's going to lose a number of games with this schedule. Anything more than 10 wins during the OOC slate would have to be considered an excellent beginning to the season. Considering there are lots of likely losses against the East's Big Three, breaking even in conference play would also have to be considered a success. Therefore, 18 wins or so, which would net an NIT berth and might put us on the NCAA bubble depending on our RPI, would be reason to be happy, particularly after what happened last year.

If we can't win that many games, and particularly if we finish around .500 again, I think you have to consider how we get there before judging Coach Horn. What made last year particularly excruciating is that we so often weren't even close to putting a quality product on the floor. Our offense was in complete shambles and we frequently lost by wide margins. If we play like that again en route to another sub-.500 season, Coach Horn will have failed with this season and we'll be back to where we were at the end of last season, with lots of questions about the future of this program. However, if we end with that record but are fielding a competitive club that has simply failed to win some close games against tough teams, that's a different story. That says that the team has improved and will show some promise heading into the next season. In that case, I think you will have to give Coach Horn credit and say that he's done some good things with the squad, despite having failed to break through with a postseason bid.