Sindarius Thornwell and the Gamecocks have waited 8 months to follow-up on their impressive run to end the season in the 2014 tournament. Tyrone Johnson's waited 10 months to return to the basketball court after his junior season ended with an injury in College Station. Marcus Stroman's waited 18 years to finally step on the court as a college athlete.
Tonight, the wait ends. South Carolina tips off its 2014-15 campaign this evening against the North Florida Ospreys from Jacksonville. It tips at 7pm and can be seen on the internet on the SEC Network+.
Carolina comes into the season slight short-staffed, fighting off season-ending injuries to incoming freshmen TeMarcus Blanton and Shamiek Sheppard. That leaves 10 scholarship players to face the season, two of whom rarely played last season (Justin McKie and Reggie Theus, Jr.) and one who's never played a minute of college action (the aforementioned Stroman).
They open with North Florida, a team that's in its sixth season under head coach Matt Driscoll. The Ospreys have struggled under Driscoll, failing to earn a winning record in any of his first five years. His teams have primarily struggled with turnovers on the offensive end. More distressingly for Driscoll as he heads into the Colonial Life Arena, most of his teams have not been able to rebound well on the defensive end, which does not bode well for a team facing off with the Frank Martin-led Gamecocks and their ravenous rebounding of their own missed shots.
One area where the Ospreys do commit is to avoid permitting three-pointers to the opposition, as they've never allowed their opponents to take over 30% of their field goals from outside the arc under Driscoll. Given how much Carolina struggled last season to get three-pointers for itself, coupled with the loss of sharshooter Brenton Williams, the Gamecocks will need to fill it up from the inside if they want to win tonight. They struggled considerably making 2s last season, but the return of nearly all their players (including Johnson) should permit some growth in that area this season.
With Baylor coming up next Tuesday and the Charleston Classic beginning next Thursday, the Gamecocks have one chance to get their issues sorted out before they begin playing stiff competition in their non-conference schedule. They hope to get those issues sorted out, and get a win, tonight in Columbia.