SMcDowell93: I’m going to start this statement off by saying two things: 1) I don’t think this team will match last year’s in terms of wins and losses & 2) yes, I still think this program is headed in the right direction. Last year saw an enthusiasm for men’s basketball that Columbia hasn’t witnessed in a very, very long time. A 25-9 record will do that to a fanbase. Unfortunately, we lost to a very bad Missouri team and fell three times to an average UGA squad and ultimately missed out on the NCAA Tournament. As fate would have it, a bunch of our players would get into trouble for doing some really stupid stuff. Ultimately, only one of those players rejoined the team for this year (Chris Silva) and placed Frank Martin in between a rock and a hard place when it came to filling out this year’s roster. Our guards, led by Sindarius Thornwell, PJ Dozier, and Duane Notice will be very good. However, I do worry about our low-post game as Chris Silva is the only returning interior player. Khadim Gueye, Sedee Keita, Jarrell Holloman, and Maik Kotsar all bring a different skillset to the table and all have good upsides. Yet, they are still freshmen that are learning how to play for a very demanding (in a good way!) coach and learning a complicated man-to-man defensive system. Ultimately, this will be the most athletic team Frank Martin has had in his tenure at South Carolina, but it is also heavy on inexperience in some key areas. I’d expect this team to be very competitive and win some tight games and probably be on the NCAA Bubble come time for the Selection Show in March.
James - Has the bubble era started for South Carolina men’s basketball program? It’s the first time since Frank Martin took this program over that fans will feel legitimate disappointment should this team struggle to find W’s. So what will define success this season, you ask? A bid to the NCAA Tournament. There’s no doubt the Gamecocks were hosed by the selection committee last year, but what can they do this year to avoid similar let down? Well, there’s some meaningful non-conference contests out there with teams expected to compete for a bid in this year’s tournament with match-ups against Michigan, Syracuse, Clemson, Seton Hall and Memphis. Should South Carolina come out of those games with a winning record, it should build their non-conference resume up just enough to build a successful conference season with it. Looking at this roster, though, there is inexperience and uncertainty littered around the Gamecocks post players. While the guard play should be fine, expect a few bumps in the road for the Gamecocks bigs as Martin looks to find a rotation throughout his young post. The good thing though, is the post players won’t be relied upon to provide much scoring, but will have to excel at the little things like rebounding and spacing the floor for the guards to go to work. I don’t expect South Carolina to be able to match or pass its win total of 25 games, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be able to equate the success we saw last season.
Sydney - I’m on board with the guys that a) they won’t get to the number of wins they reached last year and b) they should be in the NCAA Tournament. A few things will have to fall into place, though: Sindarius Thornwell will need to take the leadership role Frank Martin and the fans are expecting him to take; P.J. Dozier needs to assert himself as this team’s point guard from Day 1; and they need to find production from their bigs. I’ll also be looking for some of the younger guys to step into the fray, specifically Sedee Keita, which will mean some growing pains early on and a need for fans to be patient for things to play out. From a scheduling standpoint, James mentioned the marquee teams that are on the list, which should allow them some fallback if they’re able to make, at worst, an appearance on the tournament bubble. (Let’s throw Kentucky in there, for good measure, even though I don’t think this team is good enough to beat them at this point). If those things fall into place, then there’s a very good chance this team is going dancing come March.