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Gamecocks host Baylor in ESPN Tip-Off Marathon

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South Carolina tries to pay back Baylor for a rough early-season loss last year.

Demetrius Henry and the Gamecocks look to pay back Baylor.
Demetrius Henry and the Gamecocks look to pay back Baylor.
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

It won't take long.  In the second game of the year, we're about to find out how good the Gamecocks might be this season.

South Carolina welcomes the Baylor Bears to the Colonial Life Arena today for a noon tip-off as part of ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon.  The Bears beat the Gamecocks in this event last season, a frustrating two-point loss that came down to the very last second, where the Gamecocks had a put-back waived off at the end to prevent overtime.

Carolina returns functionally the same team that played the Bears last year, although they swap out one #1 (Brenton Williams) for another (Marcus Stroman).  The Gamecocks opened this season with a very strong outing against North Florida, blitzing the Ospreys early on their way to a 25-point victory.

Meanwhile, Baylor opened their season with a similar blowout, a 41-point shellacking of McNeese State.  The Bears return just one starter from last year's group - losing big post presences Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson - but they matter.  Senior point guard Kenny Chery makes Baylor's offense go with his ball-handling - last season, he posted 4.7 assists per game against 1.9 turnovers per game.

Otherwise, Baylor looks to break in three new players, with two highly touted freshmen recruits in Johnathan Motley (a 6'9" center) and Allerik Freeman (a 6'3" shooting guard) join JUCO transfer guard Lester Medford as new faces on the court for Baylor.

It will be interesting to see how the new personnel changes Baylor's personality.  A team typically known for offense, not defense, they held McNeese State to a laughable 0.57 points per possession in their season opener on Friday night, while scoring a relatively low 1.16 points per possession themselves, a number that last year's team topped a whopping 17 times.  If the offense takes a step back from last season's unit, they'll need the defense to take a step forward, and it's hard to imagine they'll defend the rim better than last year's unit did.

It's a big chance for the Gamecocks in a week potentially chock full of them.  Carolina will likely meet Penn State and perhaps Miami this weekend in Charleston, which gives them a chance to put up as many as three major non-conference wins early in the season.  Before that trip, however, they want revenge for last year against Baylor.