Young Gamecocks Search For Consistency and Leadership

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - DECEMBER 22: Head coach Frank Martin of the South Carolina Gamecocks signals to his players during the second half of a college basketball game against the Virginia Cavaliers at the John Paul Jones Arena on December 22, 2019 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

The South Carolina Gamecocks search for leadership and consistency will continue into 2020 as the team is still trying to find itself. Things had been looking up after winning four of five games, including three straight on the road. They followed that with this past Monday’s woefully uninspiring performance in an upset loss to a bad Stetson team. It became clear that despite a road victory over the defending champion Virginia Cavaliers a week earlier, the Gamecocks search for consistency was still ongoing.

Gamecocks Search Continues

Coach Frank Martin’s teams have always improved over the course of the season while he’s been at South Carolina. This squad seemed to be on that same path after a rocky start, but a second bad loss to a smaller school has derailed momentum. Now the Gamecocks are set to begin SEC play and have left themselves little margin for error if they hope to return to the postseason. As Coach Martin has lamented in multiple press conferences about his young team, they need a leader to step up. There are no nights off in conference play, so this squad’s consistency will be important.

Positives

South Carolina has shown flashes of the type of team it can be. There have been plenty of positives to draw from the non-conference portion of the schedule. In the win over Virginia, they showed both confidence and mental toughness to withstand a big second-half run. They have also defended at a high level at times this season. When guards A.J. Lawson and Jair Bolden are producing on the offensive end, everything else opens up for this team. Lawson leads the team in scoring, but he needs to be even more aggressive attacking the rim. Bolden is the team’s best shooter, and was huge in road wins over Clemson and Virginia. He has a tendency to fade in and out of games. This team needs his outside shooting to be more consistent.

Keyshawn Bryant was sorely missed while he recovered from a preseason knee injury. His length, athleticism, and instincts have provided a boost since his return. As he gets fully back into rhythm, his scoring output should increase. The Gamecocks need him to attack the rim on the fast break and in the half-court. Justin Minaya has also been playing better the past few games. He was excellent on both ends in the upset over the Cavaliers.

Going Postal

Senior forward Maik Kotsar is having his best season in Columbia. His offensive efficiency has improved, as has his confidence with the ball. He is the team’s best defender, and really ties things together on that end of the floor. The Gamecock’s search for consistency from the rest of the post players is still ongoing. Aside from Kotsar, South Carolina’s options inside are very young. Wildens Leveque and Alanzo Frink have done some good things, but it’s hard to know how much they’ll contribute on a given night. All of the big men need to do a better job on the glass.

Head Scratching

Following a pitiful performance in the loss to Stetson, the Gamecocks search for answers with a tough SEC slate ahead. Lawson and Bolden were non-factors last Monday, and this team can’t afford to get anything from its best scoring options. This was the third time this season the team just didn’t seem ready to challenge their opponent. Coach Martin praised his team’s talent level as the season began, but he also lamented their struggle with maturity. Low energy and shaky focus are both side effects of this ailment. The Gamecocks can’t afford any more lackluster efforts with conference play upon them. There are no nights off in this league.

Nothing For Free

If this team has any chance of making a run at a winning SEC record or a postseason birth, they have to shoot free throws much better. Top to bottom, this entire roster has not been good enough from the charity stripe. Losses to Boston, Northern Iowa, and Stetson could have possibly all been avoided with better free-throw shooting. It must improve.

Jekyll and Hyde

Coach Martin said after last Monday’s loss that his team can’t afford to be Jekyll and Hyde–being too inconsistent. They must find an identity and consistency in their performance level. This team has the talent to play very well but has also shown the ability to fall flat at times. The Gamecocks must establish an identity, preferably the aggressive defensively sound one Coach Martin’s teams are known for. South Carolina will host the Florida Gators this week as they kick-off SEC play. A hot start in the league will quickly erase the sting currently hanging around.

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