At last check, South Carolina’s small NCAA Tournament dreams were dashed with a loss to Auburn in the 2019 SEC Tournament. While the Tigers went on to make the Final Four, the Gamecocks were already on to the next season.
The 2019-20 campaign begins Wednesday when USC hosts North Alabama. Tip time is set for 7 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena. If you haven’t been paying attention to Frank Martin’s bunch since last March, we’re here to catch you up with a procrastinator’s guide to what’s ahead.
▪ Chris Silva is the most notable of South Carolina’s five departures. The three-year starter left the program 10th in scoring, sixth in rebounds and sixth in blocked shots. Now a rookie with the Miami Heat, Silva has appeared in the team’s first six games. He’s third on the Heat in blocks, despite averaging nine minutes a game.
▪ Tre Campbell is the other starter gone, but so is Hassani Gravett, the SEC’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year. That duo finished first and second on the team in 3-pointers made.
▪ Felipe Haase, who started eight games as a sophomore, transferred to Mercer.
▪ A day after being named to the coach-voted preseason All-SEC team, A.J. Lawson was named in a 2020 NBA mock draft. The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie projects USC’s star sophomore going in the second round (No. 42 overall) to the Oklahoma City Thunder. As a freshman last season, Lawson joined Sindarius Thornwell as the only Carolina players of the Martin era to average at least 13.4 points, four rebounds and 2.9 assists.
▪ Forward Maik Kotsar is the most experienced Gamecock on the roster. A start in every game this regular season would give the senior 121 for his career, second-most in school history.
▪ Like Lawson, Keyshawn Bryant is coming off a productive freshman year. The 6-foot-5 swingman averaged nine points a game in 2018-19, but his 2019-20 is on hold as he recovers from a knee injury. He’s expected back in four to six weeks.
▪ Bryant emerged last season after Justin Minaya was lost with a knee injury. Minaya is now back and expected to resume his role as South Carolina’s starting wing.
▪ Without playing a game, Jermaine Couisnard has developed quite a reputation. The redshirt freshman from outside Chicago went off in the SC Pro-Am over the summer, dropping 40 points in consecutive games. The 6-foot-4 guard is in line for big minutes.
▪ Jair Bolden, a fellow “Scout Team All-American” with Couisnard last season, is on the court after sitting out for transferring from George Washington. The 6-3 junior is expected to start at point guard.
▪ Micaiah Henry is Martin’s fourth grad transfer in three years. A 10-point, five-rebound per game big man for Tennessee Tech, Henry, early on, will compete for backup forward minutes.
▪ Among South Carolina’s four-man freshman class, bigs Wildens Leveque and Jalyn McCreary are expected to contribute most in the early going. That duo — average size: 6-9, 228 pounds — combined for 19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks in last week’s exhibition win over Columbia International.
▪ Seventh Woods, a Columbia high school legend from his mixtape days at Hammond, is sitting out this season after transferring from North Carolina.
▪ South Carolina was pegged by the league’s media to finish 10th in the SEC, though Martin’s teams have exceeded such preseason expectations four of the past five years.
▪ At least one national outlet — NCAA.com’s Andy Katz — has the Gamecocks making the NCAA Tournament.
▪ The Gamecocks have at least four big tests in the non-conference season. That increases to five should they knock off Wichita State on Nov. 26 and advance to play West Virginia the next day in the Cancun Challenge. A three-game stretch from Dec. 8 to Dec. 22 includes matchups with Houston (home), Clemson (road) and reigning national champion Virginia (road).
▪ South Carolina opens SEC play with Florida (home), Tennessee (road) and Kentucky (home), a trio of teams that made the 2019 NCAA Tournament. It closes the regular season at Vanderbilt on March 7.
NORTH ALABAMA AT SOUTH CAROLINA
Where: Colonial Life Arena
When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
TV: Streaming on SEC Network Plus via WatchESPN app
Radio: 107.5 The Game in Columbia area
Projected starting lineups
North Alabama (10-22, 7-9 Atlantic Sun)
G Tavon King 5.4 ppg, 0.9 apg
G Jamari Blackmon 14.6 ppg, 2.7 apg
G Christian Agnew 11.3 ppg, 1.1 apg
F Emanuel Lewis 4.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg
F Payton Youngblood 7.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg
South Carolina (16-16, 11-7 SEC)
G Jair Bolden 11.2 ppg, 3.1 apg*
G Jermaine Couisnard 0.0 ppg, 0.0 apg
G A.J. Lawson 13.4 ppg, 2.9 apg
F Justin Minaya 7.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg
F Maik Kotsar 6.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg
* at George Washington