Sports

Gamecock Hoops: Rising In The Rankings

South Carolina on the cusp of its first Top Ten appearance in 26 years …

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Not content with their making first trip to the national rankings in nearly a decade, the University of South Carolina men’s basketball team is now knocking on the door of its first Top Ten appearance in more than a quarter of a century.

Head coach Lamont Paris’ squad – which was picked to finish dead last in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) prior to the beginning of the 2023-2024 season – is now ranked No. 11 in the nation according to both The Associated Press Top 25 and the USA Today/ Coaches’ poll. The Gamecocks (21-3, 9-2 SEC) moved up four spots in the AP poll and nine spots in the coaches’ survey.

If South Carolina were able to defeat No. 12/ 13 Auburn on the road this Wednesday – and beat unranked LSU at home on Saturday – a Top Ten appearance would be all but guaranteed.

The Gamecocks have not been ranked in the Top Ten since December 22, 1997. For those of you mathematically challenged, that’s more than 26 years ago.

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While Paris’ team has been a definitional unit, the last few games have seen true freshman Collin Murray-Boyles explode onto the scene. Murray-Boyles earned SEC freshman of the week honors after putting up a career-high 31 points in last weekend’s win over Vanderbilt. The 6-foot-7, 231-pound power forward from Columbia, S.C. – who played three seasons at A.C. Flora High School – also led the Gamecocks in scoring with 16 points in last week’s win over Ole Miss and 16 points in a road win over Georgia.

“His ceiling is unbelievably high,” Paris said of his star freshman.

Murray-Boyles’ recent scoring eruption has lent potency to an offensive attack paced by junior guard Meechie Johnson of Cleveland, Ohio (14.1 ppg), graduate transfer forward B.J. Mack of Charlotte, N.C. (13.6 ppg) and graduate guard Ta’Lon Cooper of Roebuck, S.C. (10.2 ppg).

The unit is also playing lights out defensively, ranking No. 1 in the SEC (and No. 15 nationally) in scoring defense.

As the Gamecocks’ dream season rolls on, accolades continue to pour in for Paris – who is the runaway frontrunner for national coach of the year honors. Not surprisingly, Paris suddenly finds himself on the radar for several much higher-profile coaching gigs.

(Click to View)

University of South Carolina head basketball coach Lamont Paris (@GamecockMBB/ X)

Will he stick around Columbia? Or will the 49-year-old former Chattanooga head coach make another jump?

Reportedly the fourth choice for the Gamecock job when he was hired in March of 2022, Paris watched his first team go 11-21 a year ago and lose its leading scorer, GG Jackson, to the NBA draft. As a result, expectations heading into the current season were nonexistent. All Paris has done is lead South Carolina to its best record since the 1969-70 season – and put the Gamecocks in position to make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2017’s historic trip to the Final Four.

South Carolina’s visit to the plains against Auburn (19-4, 8-2 SEC) is scheduled to tip off at 8:30 p.m. EST this Wednesday evening (February 14, 2024). The SEC Network will televise the game nationally, with Kevin Fitzgerald handling play-by-play duties and Jon Sundvold offering color commentary.

For those of you keeping score at home, South Carolina’s highest-ever national ranking was attained in 1969 when the late Frank McGuire‘s team – which played in the ACC at the time – entered the season ranked No. 1 in the nation.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and eight children.

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1 comment

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Dr Roberts Top fan February 13, 2024 at 4:28 am

Great achievement,,,Go Gamecocks!

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