Odom, Gamecocks ready for season opener

On Friday night, the Gamecocks will open the 2007-2008 basketball season, the 100th in school history. The opponent will be a familiar foe, the S.C. State Bulldogs. On the eve of the game, Dave Odom met with the media to talk about this game and the season in general.

Even though the Bulldogs are scheduled as a sacrificial lamb of sorts, there is some intrigue to this game. S.C. State has played the Gamecocks very close the past few years, and they are a mystery, having a brand new coaching staff this year

"The last two years we played South Carolina State, we easily could have lost," said Odom. "They were close games down to the wire. I'm aware [of them], particularly this year with a new coaching staff. They've got a lot of new players, too. We don't know what we're facing, so we'd better take care of ourselves."

Furthermore, this college basketball season, barely a week old, has already seen three tremendous upsets. Eighth ranked Michigan State and Ohio State, the runner up to National Champion Florida last year, both lost exhibition games to a Division II opponent. In a game that counted, Kentucky was routed 84-68 by the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs. While much of the country is buzzing that football's Year of the Upset has carried over to basketball, Odom does not think that is the case.

"I think basketball, year in and year out, is that way," he said. "I just think it's gotten an earlier start towards this direction this year. I think what has happened is the football season has followed the typical basketball trend."

If the Bulldogs from Orangeburg want to replicate what the Bulldogs of Boiling Springs did, they would likely have to take advantage of Carolina's long-time Achilles' heel: rebounding. The Gamecocks were outrebounded 46-43 by Division III Guilford in their exhibition game. However, both Odom and S.C. State coach Tim Carter downplayed the margin.

"I think rebounding is very overrated," Carter said. "If you're hitting shots, rebounding is not as important as if you're not hitting shots."

Similarly, Odom said that the trapping, pressure defense the Gamecocks play will cause them to miss some offensive rebounds. The only time he gets concerned is when the Gamecocks are in position and still do not get the rebound.

"I'm always concerned you'll get outrebounded," he said. "It's a little bit skewed in some ways. They missed a lot of shots, and anytime you are a running, trapping team, you're not going to be in man to man to block out. A guy may be in the corner open, and he misses it. You want that, and then they end up getting the rebound because it's a long shot. I'm more concerned about muscle rebounds that we don't get. We had one or two [against Guilford]."

Odom also sang the praises of Guilford, pointing out that not too many Division III teams have an NBA prospect playing center. Ben Strong had his way with Carolina inside, finishing with 26 points and 15 rebounds.

"We played against a team in the truest since," Odom said. "Guilford is a team that is going to be a factor not only in their league, but on the national level in Division III. They presented some challenges that maybe we'll see along the way."

Carolina started a very small lineup for the exhibition, with 5'9" Devan Downey, 6'0" Zam Fredrick, and 6'2" Brandis Raley-Ross all starting in a three guard lineup, with Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes, both 6'7", in the front court. As of Thursday afternoon, Odom still had not decided if he would use the same starting lineup against the Bulldogs.

"I think the lineup will be basically the same as we went with in the Guilford exhibition," said Odom. "We may make one change. Basically you're going to see the same eight or nine players early on, whether they start or not."

Odom also has one other roster decision to make soon. He said earlier this fall that he expected to redshirt freshman guard Trevor Deloach. Asked on the eve of the season if he was still planning to let Deloach sit out the season, Odom still had not made up his mind.

"I've got 24 more hours, but I'm leaning heavily in that direction," he said.

Against Guilford, Chad Gray was hit in the neck and sat out the second half as a precaution. He has recovered fully, and should show no ill-effects.

"He's okay," said Odom. "He practiced yesterday and should be back full go."

On the flip side, Mitchell Carter's status has been confirmed. The sophomore center will start the season injured. He has a deep bone bruise in his foot that has kept him on crutches, with no timetable for a return.

"It's week to week, not day to day," said Odom. "We'll just have to see how it goes."

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