One of the weirdest results of the 2019 football season was South Carolina’s overtime victory against the Georgia Bulldogs. Had that not happened, the Bulldogs may have been at least considered for a College Football Playoff berth as a 1-loss SEC runner-up. South Carolina went on to finish 4-8, and their only other wins were over Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Charleston Southern, all at their home stadium. The talent was there – at least that one day – but the results were not. However, could the Gamecocks see some improvement in 2020. Let’s see what they are looking like ahead of this year.
Top Returners: Ryan Hilinski, Israel Mukuamu Hilinski returns under center for the Gamecocks, which is a needed dose of stability for an offense that lost their top two rushers and top receiver. Hilinksi’s numbers last season were solid (11 TD to 5 INT). His experience will be needed as South Carolina, with a modified and limited preseason, is forced to adapt on the fly.
The defense should be the strength of this South Carolina team, and it’s a unit I truly think could be one far better than many expect if they play to their potential. Mukuamu is a huge piece of that defense, coming off a 4-interception season, and he will lead the Gamecocks’ secondary into battle once more this year.
Biggest Concerns: The Run Game
South Carolina’s top two rushers are gone, leaving them with an unclear situation in the backfield and no experienced starter. The Gamecocks also lost their top receiver, but they had some better depth at the position, and they definitely will need to generate some yards on the ground to open up lanes for Hilsinki to go to work through the air.
X-Factors: Mon Denson
As per usual, the X-Factor belongs to the man who can address the biggest concern. Denson was South Carolina’s third-leading rusher in 2019. He gained just 232 yards on the ground, but he did do it efficiently, averaging 5.9 yards per pop. With more opportunities as the feature back in Will Muschamp’s backfield, Denson could improve his numbers greatly. His efforts out of the backfield could make or break this Carolina offense.
SEC Record Prediction: 4-4
A one-game improvement on last year’s record seems fair for a Year 2 starter at quarterback and some tough losses at the other skill positions. I think the defense is good enough to keep them in many games, but, ultimately, navigating a conference schedule that includes visits to Florida and LSU, as well as home dates against Texas A&M and Georgia, will prove exceptionally difficult.
Not all the recruiting action has been happening on the gridiron – South Carolina women’s basketball got some very welcome news on Saturday, landing a commitment from Saniya Rivers, rated by ESPN as the #3 prospect in the Class of 2021. Rivers is an extremely athletic guard, who is explosive off the dribble and drew rave reviews for her ability to finish plays in traffic. The Wilmington, North Carolina product averaged 25 points and 11.7 rebounds per game in her junior season at Eugene Ashley High School. She joins fellow 5-star guard Aubryanna Hall as the second elite recruit in South Carolina’s 2021 class. Their 2019 class ranked #1 in the nation, but the Gamecocks fell out of the top 20 last season. South Carolina was ranked #1 this year when the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. UConn, Texas, NC State, and many other schools were known to be in pursuit of Rivers’ services.
4-Star CB Deuce Harmon commits to Texas A&M
Texas A&M scored a huge win on the recruiting front, as the Aggies landed 4-star cornerback Deuce Harmon, a top-20 player at his position for the Class of 2021. With 46 tackles, two interceptions, and a forced fumble, Harmon was a dynamic contributor for Denton Guyer, making a state championship game appearance. He’s the first defensive back out of nine Texas A&M commits in 2021. Texas also made a strong bid for the in-state talent, while Notre Dame briefly appeared to be a contender for his services, but ultimately, the Aggies won out, earning the commitment from one of their earliest offers, as Harmon is headed to College Station.
Andrew Nembhard exits NBA Draft, leaves Florida
Andrew Nembhard, a former Florida guard, withdrew his name from the NBA Draft, but he is not staying with the Gators, as he will be taking his talents elsewhere after two years in Gainesville. Nembhard averaged 8 points per game in his freshman season, and he upped that mark to 11.2 last season. He’s also an excellent facilitator on offense, averaging a touch under six assists per game. Nembhard didn’t always have a high shot volume with Florida, but he had some excellent performances, with 25 and 24 points in wins over Georgia and Texas A&M respectively. He recorded two double-doubles and shot 44% from the field. It was a surprising decision, as not many expected Nembhard to transfer, so no real list of favorites has emerged to land the rising junior.
UAH Hockey Saved By Donations
Jackson Wilson reported yesterday on the end of the Alabama-Huntsville Hockey program, but the Chargers have a temporary reprieve. Between crowd-sourcing, and two major donations, UAH raised over $750,000 dollars to save the hockey team. Their efforts worked, although time will tell whether enough UAH players will stay with the program, after many looked to transfer following the initial announcement.
Evidently, as they’ve been for the past month and a half, the trending sports headlines have been few and far between, but we’d love to keep up the sense of normalcy while we wait for the return of our favorite pastimes. Here are a few of the headlines from Monday, May 4.
Arkansas AD announces plans for season
Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek made an announcement that got the attention of a lot of football fans on Monday. He informed the school board that he planned to start practice in mid-July to prepare to play the Razorbacks’ season-opener on September 5, as originally scheduled. Yurachek did later clarify that no decision had been made, but still, it’s a glimmer of hope for desperate football fans hoping that the season will return in full force in the fall.
NCAA releases updated, 9-step plan for the return of college sports The NCAA released a document this past Friday about their plan for the return of college sports. While much of their plan is conditional on the contain of the virus and the availability of widespread testing, it’s good to see the NCAA taking some administrative steps to prepare for the end of the shutdown.
“For The Culture” debuts
While many of the women’s basketball headlines revolved around the record-breaking Sabrina Ionescu and the Oregon Ducks, many forget that South Carolina was ranked #1 on the season. Oregon was hardly the runaway favorites, as the Gamecocks may very well have been the best team in the country. On Monday, the SEC special “For the Culture” debuted -a documentary feature on the Gamecocks. It’s a great event to remember a great team in a sport that often doesn’t get enough coverage.
Temple vs. UMass series announced
Despite having one home-and-home set already on the slate, the Temple Owls and UMass Minutemen scheduled another two-game series in 2025 and 2027. The two teams have already played twice before, with the Owls leading the series with two close victories. They are scheduled to play this upcoming season and 2024, so hopefully another solid Group of 5 contestant is en route.
There was a lot of chalk this week in women’s college basketball, but there were also a couple of really high-profile games and results that shifted the Power Rankings a little bit. One new team entered (welcome NC State), and one team dropped from the top 10 into the honorable mentions. Ultimately, the 15 teams mentioned stayed the same as no monumental upsets occurred.
10 – Arizona State (Last Week: 9)
The Sun Devils drop one spot largely due to circumstances out of their control. They had two wins by double digits over the weekend, beating Washington and Washington State, both on the road. They continue to, in my opinion, be undervalued by the polls, ranked 16th as of this writing, but they do drop one spot due to the performance of the teams surrounding them in the rankings.
9 – NC State (Last Week: Honorable Mention)
I excluded the Wolfpack – currently ranked 8th – from the Top 10 last week, and they shamed me into including them this week, as they rolled through 2 ACC games, including a 17-point win over #14 Florida State. I’m not necessarily convinced this team is a Final Four threat, but 17-1 is 17-1, so the Wolfpack slot in at #9 here.
8 – DePaul (Last Week: 10)
DePaul finally rose a little bit, from 14th to 11th, in the rankings this week, but I continue to value them a little bit higher. This team has been very impressive, especially offensively. They dominated two Big East road games this week, defeating Xavier by 23, and Butler by 15. It’s been over a month since they gave up more than 71 points, and almost 2 months since they scored less than 74. They are 17-2 and lead the Big East, so definitely watch out for this team.
7- Oregon State (Last Week: 5)
It’s hard to penalize the Cowboys too much for a brutally close road loss to an elite Stanford team, as their game-tying 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer. They are just 2-2 against ranked teams, with losses in two of their past three games overall, so a home and home set against Oregon should reveal something about this team, and whether they’re truly going to be capable of a deep run come March.
6 – Stanford (Last week: 3)
Yes, Stanford’s only loss was to Oregon…but they lost by 32 points. That’s unacceptable no matter what, especially as a Top-5 team. They were completely dominated in the second half and put together an all-around putrid performance. The Cardinal rebounded with a solid road victory of Oregon State, and they’ll get a couple of home games this week to prep for a road trip followed by a showdown with UCLA.
5 – UConn (Last Week: 6)
It’s honestly still difficult to figure out where this team slots into the national picture. After being outclassed by Baylor, the Huskies haven’t lost, but they haven’t really played a tough game. Conference opponents Memphis and UCF played UConn close, but the Huskies have also blown out Houston and Tulsa, by 40+ points each. They host Tennessee on Thursday, which should give a little bit of a clear idea of where this team stands right now, but I wouldn’t necessarily suggest betting against the Huskies and their history of success.
4- Louisville (Last Week: 4)
This may have been my toughest ranking of the week, as Louisville put together two solid road performances, including a win over UNC who was 9-1 at home. However, the lack of ranked opponents, given their competititon’s achievements kept the Cardinals slotted in at #4 this week. They have just two ranked opponents – Florida State and NC State – left on their schedule, which will likely reveal how tournament-ready Louisville is.
3 – Oregon (Last Week: 7)
“They still have a deep tourney run in them, but they’ll have to win the games they’re supposed to.” That was my direct quote analyzing Oregon’s standing after last week, and the Ducks responded to my challenge – well probably not my challenge specifically, but they improved their play drastically. Hosting Stanford, who was #3 at the time, Oregon blew their Pac-12 rival out of the water, turning a slim halftime advantage into a second-half laugher. Thoughts of a letdown game were quickly squashed, as Oregon beat Cal by 50 points. Cal isn’t a powerhouse, but a 50-point conference win is really good. The Ducks are back, but they’ll have a chance to prove themselves again with two games versus Oregon State this weekend.
2 – South Carolina (Last Week: 2)
I still disagree with the AP Poll, which has the Gamecocks ranked 1st. South Carolina has no doubt been impressive, especially with their dominant start to SEC play, but I don’t see them as the top team in the country right now. They did add to their resume with a top-10 win over Mississippi State, but I’ll need further convincing to move the Gamecocks up the final rung of this ladder.
1 – Baylor (Last Week: 1)
South Carolina’s ranking at #2 has more do with what Baylor is doing than what South Carolina isn’t doing. The Bears look to be on cruise control right now, and if you don’t believe me, ask the rest of the Big 12. Baylor has won three straight conference games by at least 40 points. And not over scrubs either: The Bears have victimized Oklahoma State (11-6), Kansas (12-4), and #17 West Virginia (13-3). It’s been an unprecedented stretch of dominance by Baylor, and they sit at #1 until their performance indicates reason for change.
How this women’s basketball season will turn out is pretty much anybody’s guess? For the first time in a while, there’s not one dominant team, but rather a group of favorites who all seem like viable options to be the last team standing. Last week, the top-3 teams in the AP Poll all lost, leaving the top of the rankings in disarray. I’m sure I’ll be less than successful, but I’ll try to sift through the madness of the regular season so far and give you my top 10 NCAA women’s basketball teams, plus a couple teams I think are very good, but not Top-10 material.
#10 – DePaul
Probably not the most popular pick at #10 as DePaul is ranked just 14th in the AP Poll and 15th in the coaches poll, but I really like DePaul’s offense and I think they can stay with anyone when their shooting game is hot. They are near the top of the country in 3-pointers made and 3pt percentage, as well as fourth in the country in points per game. They may not be the most well rounded team, but they’ve got a bevy of lethal shooters that are more than capable of turning a game on its head.
#9 – Arizona State
Again, the Sun Devils aren’t really a Top 10 team by their whole resume, but wow they are playing like one right now. They pushed #7 UCLA to the brink on the road, and they followed that up with a three-game winning streak, taking down #6 Oregon and ending #8 Oregon State’s undefeated season in the process. They struggled early, but the Sun Devils are quickly proving themselves capable of playing with the best.
#8 – UCLA
The Bruins rank 6th in RPI, and they’re the only undefeated team in the country. The toughest part of their schedule is yet to come so their spot at #8 indicates a respect for their results so far with some wary optimism about what’s ahead. They’ve been dominant in Pac-12 play, with two wins by at least 24 points, and a 12-point win over #21 Arizona.
#7 – Oregon
The Ducks were #2 and knocking on the doorstep of #1 following UConn’s loss to Baylor, but the Ducks turned around and were upset by Arizona State, sending them crashing out of the top 5. They’re #6 in the AP Poll, and they land #7 here. They still have a deep tourney run in them, but they’ll have to win the games they’re supposed to.
#6 – UConn
In our last women’s basketball post, we discussed whether UConn was still a dynasty, and we came to the conclusion that they are, but that does not mean they’re the best team this year. They’ve been dominant at times, but they’ve also shown some holes, including being unable to pull away from a pesky Memphis squad in their most recent AAC game. The Huskies have never lost a game in the AAC, but they didn’t look convincing last night, just one game removed from a 16-point home loss to Baylor. UConn is an elite team, but they’re sitting at #6 until they show a more consistent string of dominance.
#5 – Oregon State
The Beavers almost made it to these power rankings unscathed, but they fell victim to the wave of upsets as Arizona State took them down. Before that however, Oregon State beat Arizona on the road, handled Colorado easily, and stormed by Utah to start Pac-12 play. Prior to conference games, the Cowboys had won 12 straight, all by double digits.
#4 – Louisville
The Cardinals boast an extremely impressive resume already, and they are cruising in the ACC, posting a 4-0 record while barely breaking a sweat. Outside of a close road loss to Ohio State, Louisville has quality road wins over #11 Kentucky and #6 Oregon. They’re currently on an 8-game winning streak, a run that includes five road victories.
#3 – Stanford
It was a close call between Stanford and Louisville, but the west coast squad got the bid for the third spot. The Cardinal have a signature blowout victory in a 27-point victory over a quality Tennessee team, and they have dominated the Pac-12 to start the year, going 4-0 with their closest contest being a 14 point victory. They also beat #10 Mississippi State and #16 Gonzaga this year, but the Cardinal will have to eventually start proving themselves on the road, as they’ve played just four games away from home, losing one of them.
#2 – South Carolina
The Gamecocks are #1 in the AP Poll and #2 in the Coach’s poll, tussling for the top spot with Baylor. I gave the nod to Baylor, demoting South Carolina to #2 in the initial Power Rankings. South Carolina is third in the country in scoring margin, and they have quite simply dominated throughout the year. They have a road victory versus Maryland on their resume, and they’ve scored 90 or more points in six games, including four straight. They’ve beaten several ranked opponents in Arkansas and Kentucky, and Baylor, but their 14-point home loss to Indiana was hard to ignore.
#1 – Baylor
Baylor just ended UConn’s 98-game home winning streak, giving the Bears the premier win they needed the nab the top spot in the power rankings. The Baylor’s men team is ranked #2 in the AP Poll, giving Baylor probably the top basketball program in the country right now as a whole. The women’s team has given up the second least amount of points, scored the most, and subsequently, leads the country in scoring margin, having scored 100+ points a whopping four times already. Although they lost to South Carolina head to head, the Bears have won their ensuing games by 38.7 points per game, including the UConn victory. It’s a toss-up, but a gut feeling says to give the top spot to the Bears. We’ll see if they keep it through the next edition of power rankings.