There are more questions than answers as state teams begin the college basketball season today.
How good is College of Charleston's ballyhooed recruit, Adheji Baru? How will South Carolina fare without Bruce Ellington, and how long will the Gamecocks have to fare without him? Is history repeating itself at The Citadel? And is there life after Jamarco Warren at Charleston Southern?
The answers to these and other questions will begin to reveal themselves today. We'll have the answers by the time the madness starts in March. (By the way, Clemson's questions are addressed elsewhere in today's paper).
Where to, Baru?
The Cougars just ended the Andrew Goudelock era. Tonight's season opener against Holy Cross at TD Arena could go down as the start of the Adheji Baru era.
Baru, the 6-9 freshman center from Ivory Coast, is the highest-profile recruit in Cougars history, and with Goudelock now waiting out the NBA lockout, could slide right into a starring role. Coach Bobby Cremins calls Baru and 6-8 sophomore forward Trent Wiedeman his "twin towers."
There will be no easing Baru into the spotlight.
"We're going to throw him to the wolves," Cremins said.
As South Carolina begins it season tonight against Western Carolina, erstwhile point guard Bruce Ellington will be preparing to play football against Florida on Saturday in sort of a key game for the Gamecocks.
That's a big deal for USC basketball coach Darrin Horn, considering that Ellington averaged 12.8 points per game last year as a freshman.
"I'm unbelievably proud of Bruce Ellington," Horn said recently.
"I think the job that he's doing is outstanding, and I think it's really been challenging and difficult to do that. Nobody is cheering harder for that kid, except for maybe his mom and his brother. I teased him with a text that it took him long enough to score (a touchdown), but we're cheering for him and we're pulling for him. We look forward to getting him back whenever that is."
Lakeem Jackson, a 6-5 junior, will attempt to run the point in Ellington's absence.
"He's still within our team chemistry," Jackson said. "I hope when he comes back it's smooth sailing."
Deja vu for Citadel?
Five years ago, Ed Conroy inherited a senior-laden Citadel team and won just seven games. He brought in eight freshmen the next year and won just six games, including a 1-19 record in the Southern Conference. But then came the most successful two year-period in Citadel history, as the Bulldogs went 20-13 and then 16-16 before Conroy left for Tulane.
Last year, Chuck Driesell inherited a senior-laden team and won just 10 games. This year, he's brought in eight freshmen ... well, you can see where this is going.
If recent history is any guide, Driesell's second season might be a struggle, starting tonight against high-scoring VMI in the All-Military Classic at the Air Force Academy. Guard Cosmo Morabbi is the team's lone senior, and junior center Mike Groselle the only returner who averaged in double figures last year.
The fate of this year's team will depend on how quickly freshmen such as guards Ashton Moore, Lawrence Miller and Marshall Harris and big men C.J. Bray and P.J. Horgan can develop.
Life without Jamarco
Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh says this is his deepest team in his seven years with the Bucs, and that's good because he must find a way to replace all those points scored by the departed Jamarco Warren, the second-leading scorer in school history.
Radebaugh hopes to replace Warren with better balance on offense and improved effort on defense, starting with tonight's opener at Kansas State. Kelvin Martin, a senior forward, was the Big South's defensive player of the year last year as the Bucs won 16 games, their most in 14 years.
Kansas State is picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 this year after losing standout forward Jacob Pullen and five other scholarship players. Are the Bucs catching the Wildcats at the right time?
Another question to be answered.