A sure-fire sign that college basketball season is around the corner is the SEC Tip-Off, the conference’s basketball media days. The two-day event is at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena and kicked off with the media’s all-conference picks - and despite almost getting to the NCAA Tournament and spending some time in the top 25 in 2015-16, the South Carolina Gamecocks were picked to finish 8th out of 14 teams.
It’s a little puzzling to see the Gamecocks picked so low. Sure, they lost Michael Carrera, Laimonas Chatkevicius and Mindaugus Kacinas to graduation, with three others - Eric Cobb, Jamall Gregory and Marcus Stroman - kicked off the team, but are the Gamecocks really worse than seven other teams in the league right now? Don’t get me wrong. There are some unknown variables, like how the new guys will look, whether or not P.J. Dozier take the next step, and if the team’s new senior trio of Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice and Justin McKie can carry them. But does that really mean they’re no better than an average SEC team?
An Arkansas writer was one of the voters in the poll, and here’s his reasoning for picking the Gamecocks where he did:
Frank Martin is one of the better coaches in the SEC and will get the most out of his team. He’ll have one of the top backcourts in the conference to work with, a unit led by Sindarius Thornwell, P.J. Dozier and Duane Notice, who combined to average 30.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 8.2 assists last year. Thornwell provides toughness, versatility and defense. Dozier is a selfless table-setter who makes the rest of the team better. Notice is a skilled combo guard and a dangerous shooter.
That trio will win some ballgames for South Carolina, but the rest of the lineup may not be good enough to keep it near the top of the standings for a second straight year.
The team also failed to get anyone on the All-SEC team. By the way, Kentucky was picked to win the conference because, well, yeah.