South Carolina Gamecocks
Good Wins: at Baylor
Bad Losses: at College of Charleston
1. Devan Downey. Coach Darrin Horn knew one thing for sure when he took the job at South Carolina: that he had a really good floor general in junior Devan Downey, a 5-9 point guard. Downey is in his second season at Carolina after transferring from Cincinnati and leads the Gamecocks in scoring. Against Clemson on December 30, he finished with a career-high 37. He later followed his game-winner at Kentucky by posting 33 and connecting on seven threes in a loss at Florida.
Downey has led the Gamecocks in scoring 23 times this season and ranks third in the SEC in scoring. He isn’t just a scorer; the little guy also leads the team and is fourth in the league with 4.3 assists per game. He is terrific at finding a piece of the paint and kicking to open shooters. His ability to shoot from long range prevents defenders from playing up on him and makes it nearly impossible to keep him out of the middle. Downey has knocked down 47 threes on the year and is shooting 38-percent. He is also a beast defensively as he averages 3.1 steals per outing, which is good for fourth in the country. Downey has all of the tools that a point guard needs: scoring, passing, and defense.
Senior Zam Fredrick, a 6-0 guard, adds 15.3 points and 2.8 rebounds for the Gamecocks and ranks second on the team in scoring. Frederick has connected on 46 three-pointers this season and is shooting 36-percent from distance.
2. Scoring. It all starts with Downey, but as a whole the Gamecocks are one of the best scoring teams in the SEC. They lead the league in scoring with 79.9 points per game and shoot 37-percent from deep as a whole. Their ability to knock down open threes gives Downey plenty of options to kick to when he penetrates defenses.
1. Rebounding. Although sophomores Mike Holmes and Sam Muldrow have improved throughout the season, the Gamecocks still really struggle on the glass. They rank 11th in both offensive and defensive rebounding in the SEC and are one of only two teams in the league who have been outrebounded on the year.
2. Free Throw Shooting. If you are having problems keeping South Carolina off of the scoreboard, put them on the line. The Gamecocks are shooting only 63-percent on the year and Downey is the only team mever with more than 12 attempts who is shooting over 70-percent.
Bench: South Carolina will throw a lot of guys at you. The Gamecocks have nine guys who are averaging more than 15 minutes. They can get scoring off of the bench with guys like Brandis Raley-Ross and the three-point specialist Evaldas Baniulis. However, they do not have much depth in the frontcourt, so if you can get Holmes are Muldrow into foul trouble, they could have problems.
Departing: Horn’s squad consists of nearly all sophomores and juniors. The Gamecocks do not have a freshman and their lone senior is Frederick, an athletic wingman who has the ability to knock down the three and get to the hole. He plays off of Downey’s penetration to perfection and together they create one of the best backcourt duos in the SEC, if not the country.
Every coach dreams of having a point guard the caliber of Devan Downey running their offense. In close games, there is no one in the country I would rather have with the ball. The Gamecocks rely too heavily on the outside shot and I believe their rebounding and defensive weaknesses will be quickly exposed in the NCAA Tournament. Downey will get his points, but don’t expect Horn and co. to make back-to-back trips to the Sweet Sixteen. Remember, last year Horn led the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers to the second weekend of the Big Dance.