College basketball gives schools thirteen scholarships to dole out among their players, and also permits walk-ons to help fill out the bench to the extent a school chooses to accept them. With two walk-ons, that means the Gamecocks expected fifteen players to dress for them this season when they concluded their SEC Tournament run last year. Now, they're down to eleven before the season even starts.
The Gamecocks announced season-ending injuries to TeMarcus Blanton and Austin Constable last week, before they routed Benedict in an exhibition contest. Blanton underwent hip surgery on Friday, and his prognosis went from indefinite to out for the year over the course of a couple of days. Meanwhile, Constable tore his ACL.
The losses, coupled with Shamiek Sheppard's injury and James Thompson's arrest (which resulted in him never enrolling at USC) leave the Gamecocks with just eleven players to take on the season, two of whom missed the exhibition game with injuries - Justin McKie stayed off the floor due to lingering issues from a possible concussion, and Brian Steele missed action due to issues with his knee.
Blanton came to Carolina as a highly-touted recruit from Georgia expected to help fill in minutes behind Duane Notice this season at the two guard position. Meanwhile, Constable doesn't represent a great loss when it comes to minutes on the court, but his value as a member of the team and a practice player will need to be replaced.
Given Frank Martin's strategy of relying on significant fouling by his big men, the lack of bodies on the bench could cause considerable issues for the Gamecocks, especially if foul trouble is coupled with additional injuries (or suspensions) as the season goes along. On the other hand, Martin normally uses a very large rotation early in the season, despite clear disparities in talent. Without as many players to rotate in, his rotation may shorten simply due to necessity, which could ultimately help Carolina put a better product on the floor.
Ultimately, the losses give Carolina less room for error, and present a team that already had depth issues with even more before the season even starts. That said, fortunately for the Gamecocks so far, their top contributors remain healthy, something that will remain all the more important as the season goes along due to their quickly thinning bench.