Feb 22, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks guard Bruce Ellington (23) controls the ball against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at Memorial Gym. Vanderbilt defeated South Carolina, 59-48. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

South Carolina Gamecocks Basketball Season Preview

There was a “Hoops Takeover” going on in Columbia, SC yesterday, and with basketball season starting a week from Sunday against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I think it’s finally time for a South Carolina Gamecocks basketball season preview.

Despite a near loss in exhibition play to Kentucky Wesleyan, Carolina fans are still giddy about what Frank Martin could do in his first year with the Gamecocks.

Will those smiles turn to frowns by the end of the year?

Well their first real competition of the year will be against:

Nov 11: Milwaukee
Nov 16: Morgan State
Nov 19: Rider
Nov 21 Elon

Elon’s day of reckoning is draws nigh.

Martin said on the radio yesterday that he wanted the Gamecocks non-conference opponents to reflect the “style” Carolina’s SEC foes would present.

I’m not sure, and I don’t plan on researching this, but I doubt any of those teams will play like Kentucky, Tennessee or Alabama.

What these four games will actually do is show just how far ahead, or behind, schedule this group of players is. These four games should also build the team’s confidence ahead of a much tougher stretch of games:

Nov 24: Missouri State (Hoops for Hope Classic)
Nov 25: SMU/Arkansas Little Rock (Hoops for Hope Classic)
Nov 29: @ St. Johns (Big East, SEC Invitational)
Dec 2: Clemson

Martin got his team into an early season tournament they should win, but SMU and UALR, despite being not-that-great, are not pushovers.

Things get really tough after the Hoops for Hope Classic, and Carolina fans shouldn’t get down if their team goes 0-2 against St. Johns and that team from the Upstate. Said team is definitely beatable, though.

Dec 7: Jacksonville
Dec 19: Appalachian State
Dec 22: Manhattan
Dec 29: Presbyterian
Jan 5: SC State

The Gamecocks should win the final five games of their non-conference slate. Those in-state schools won’t roll over, though. The Gamecocks have lost to an in-state mid-major the past two years.

Also, I can’t get through this post without mentioning Manhattan and the fact that their nickname might be the best thing ever. The Jaspers. I can’t wait to write that recap.

Jan 9: at Mississippi State
Jan 12: Auburn
Jan 16: at LSU
Jan 19: Vanderbilt

The Gamecocks early SEC schedule couldn’t have been laid out any better, honestly. Auburn and LSU are beatable, and the Gamecocks should be able to hang with Mississippi State and Vandy for a while. 2-2 Through this stretch would be a great thing for this basketball team.

Jan 22: at No. 15 Missouri
Jan 26: Arkansas
Jan 30: at No. 10 Florida
Feb 2: Georgia

These four games could be a very rough stretch for the South Carolina. Missouri and Florida could be Sweet 16 teams (or better), Arkansas would’ve contended for the Western Division crown if it still existed this year, and Georgia is better than SC right now. If Carolina can win one of these games, they’ll be looking as good as the can hope heading into the second half of league play.

Feb 5: at No. 3 Kentucky
Feb 10: Tennessee
Feb 14: LSU
Feb 16: at Alabama
Feb 20: Ole Miss

This is the stretch of games where the Gamecocks need to steal a few games. Tennessee at home is more winnable than some would think, and Alabama is a beatable team, even though they could finish well above Carolina in the standings. Nothing is impossible, but I don’t see any way Carolina beats Kentucky this year. LSU and Ole Miss are very winnable games at home.

Feb 23: at Georgia
Feb 28: No. 15 Missouri
March 2: at Texas A&M
March 6: Mississippi State
March 9: at Vanderbilt

The final stretch of SEC games for the Gamecocks could determine whether SC is an NIT team or just a group of guys that has fans feeling good about the 2013/14 season. It’s hard to say which of these games are winnable, because I don’t know much about A&M, and Georgia could either be surprisingly good or below average this late in the year. If the Cocks could steal a win against Vandy in Nashville, though, that could be the win that pushes them into that other post season tournament.

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Tags: Basketball SEC South Carolina Gamecocks

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