Sunday, November 22, 2009

Prediction from LOHD on Gamecocks Basketball in 2009-2010

I know the season has started and the Gamecocks Men’s Basketball team sits at 4-0 right now with a chance to win the Charleston Classic with a win over Miami (4-0) tonight. But I have wanted to get out my early season prediction/forecast for about a week now but believe it or not…work got in the way. Enough with the excuses and let’s roll this thing out…

The Gamecocks have much to build from after sharing the SEC East Championship last season and going 21-10. Coach Darrin Horn has seven players returning who started multiple games last season; the biggest upside for the Gamecocks is having quality depth this season. Led by first team all-conference guard Devan Downey and solid frontcourt contributor Dominique Archie, the Gamecocks should improve on their NIT appearance from last season. I go on the record that the 2009-2010 squad will make the NCAA dance this year.

Why you may ask…The reasons I see this happening is because of three reasons.

a. depth

b. tougher schedule

c. leadership

Depth –
Along with Devan and Archie, the Gamecocks have strong additions due to a good first year recruiting effort by Coach Horn that landed Lakeem Jackson, Ramon Galloway, Stephen Spinella, and Johndre Jefferson. These additions will blend nicely to Horn’s crew that has solid proven players in Sam Muldrow, Evka Baniulis, Mike Holmes, and Brandis-Raley Ross. The gamecocks only lost 2 players to graduation. So this team has a good balance of energized newcomers and proven players.

What's Returning?
Points : 77.61 percent (5th—SEC Avg: 73.81 percent)
Rebounds : 87.94 percent (3rd—SEC Avg: 75.80 percent)

Schedule –
What some cried about last year seems to have been corrected this season with the schedule being littered with quality opponents for the 2009-10 season. Games with the likes of Clemson, Boston College, Baylor, Western Kentucky and the Charleston Classic will prepare the Gamecocks to enter the SEC Schedule this season.

Then enter the SEC Schedule which will be much tougher in 2010 due to a improved UK, UF and Vandy just to name a few. Not to mention games v SEC West opponents – Auburn (A), LSU (H), Ole Miss (A), Arkansas (A), Mississippi State (H), Alabama (H).

So the strength of schedule rating will be very high this year.

Leadership –
I already noted that the Gamecocks are returning seven players with quality playing time from last season. Guard Devan Downey is the do it all senior for the Gamecocks, who averaged 19.8 points per game and two steals per game last season. He may be a little slow out the gate thus far in 2009 but the bottom line is the Gamecocks are winning and this is due to his (and Archie’s) leadership.

Evidenced through improved toughness, a “will to win” and heck - improved free throws. I say that the improved FTs are due to experience and eldership (knowing what it takes to win). The South Carolina Gamecocks shot a lowly 64 percent from the charity stripe last season. This number totaled to be the worst in the SEC and it is good to see USC improving in this stat as it is crucial to winning games.

I predict another 20+ win season and a good showing in the SEC East race.  I see the gamecocks losing no more than 9 or 10 games this season. Not going to say they will win it like last year but they will not roll-over to teams. The SEC East will prove by season’s end to be one of the toughest divisions (just like in football) and the gamecocks will finish between second and fourth.  Archie and Devan will finish with All-SEC honors.  May even see a Muldrow or Holmes on 3rd team.  I would love to see one of the new guys on the SEC freshman team but not sure if they will take enought shots this season. 

One thing is for certain...Unlike last year, the gamecocks will be invited to dance and the season will be looked upon as nice progression upon a promising program with a great young coach, both of which are making traction in the SEC.


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