Commentary: Basketball Team Unpredictable

"Unpredictable" - That's the word that best describes the South Carolina basketball team four games into the 2006-07 season.



With a young team still searching for an identity, no one can predict which Gamecock will step up and lead the team on any given night. Each game thus far has featured a different USC player that steps up and wins the game. In the season opener against South Carolina State, it was Tre Kelley that led the Gamecocks to victory with a masterful 15 point, 5 assist performance. The next game against UC-Irvine showcased surprise freshman Brandis Raley-Ross, who led the Gamecocks with 14 points in a losing effort. The third game of the year against Southern Cal, which was the Gamecocks most impressive showing to date, featured a long distance outburst by Bryce Sheldon in the first half and clutch, savvy play by Tre Kelley in the second half and overtime to lead the Gamecocks to a memorable 80-74 road victory. Finally, in the most recent contest against Lipscomb, it was highly touted redshirt freshman Dominique Archie and steady senior Brandon Wallace who paced the Gamecocks with 20 points apiece in the come-from-behind 75-68 win.

The Gamecocks, who currently claim a 3-1 record, have shown little consistency throughout the first week of the season, with the outcome of the game often being decided by Carolina's three point shooting ability. When the Gamecocks are making their shots from beyond the arc, they appear comfortable throughout the game. However, when the shots are not falling from the outside, the Gamecocks are in trouble, as we saw against S.C. State and UC-Irvine. As the old cliche goes, "If you live by the three, you die by the three."

The backcourt trio of Kelley, Sheldon, and Raley Ross have been the most consistent players on the squad with the long ball, but the big disappointment thus far has been the play of junior swingman Dwayne Day. He has been inconsistent and looks out of place on the floor at times. His minutes have taken a hit as a result, but the season is still young.

The Gamecocks post game does not exist at the moment, as Wallace and big-bodied Ousmane Konate have not provided the punch inside Dave Odom was hoping for this basketball season. They are being out-rebounded and out-played in the paint thus far, but they are going to have to show improvement for the Gamecocks to be successful against the physical SEC schedule that lies ahead.

On a positive note, the biggest surprise of the young basketball season has been the play of Raley-Ross. The freshman guard from Gastonia, NC, who is averaging nearly 14 points per game, has shown that he can be an SEC caliber guard and a big contributor to this youthful Carolina Squad.

Overall, the first week of the hardwood season has provided as many questions about this young team as it has answers, but these Gamecocks have shown flashes of why Odom believes they can contend for an NCAA tournament berth this year. With a few more games under their belts, this young basketball team can be as good as they want to be. Stay tuned, it should be an entertaining ride.

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