If the 2023-24 college basketball season ended Wednesday, South Carolina’s Lamont Paris would be among the top vote-getters for Coach of the Year, and for good reason. In his second season at the school, Paris has the No. 15 Gamecocks off to a 20-3 start after their most recent 68-65 victory over Ole Miss on Tuesday.
South Carolina is ranked inside the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in nearly seven years and it’s time to put them in the upper echelon conversation within the SEC. They aren’t just a fun story, they’re a very good basketball team.
The Gamecocks were voted to finish last in the preseason SEC poll and now they’re just 0.5 games back of Alabama for first place in the conference standings with a little more than a month to go before Selection Sunday.
Barring a historic collapse in those final six weeks, South Carolina will make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017 — when it went to the Final Four under coach Frank Martin. In CBS Sports’ latest Bracketology projections by Jerry Palm, South Carolina was a No. 3 seed and could continue to climb if it stays in the SEC title race.
Welcome to the first edition of the college basketball stock watch where all the happenings around the sport will be discussed every Wednesday throughout the rest of the season. This report will represent if a team, coach, player, school, conference, etc. have seen their stock rise or fall over the course of the last seven days.
Stock rising: South Carolina as an SEC title contender
Who would’ve thought that in early February, South Carolina would be right in the thick of the SEC title race? The No. 15 Gamecocks are 3-2 vs. Quad 1 opponents and 4-0 vs. Quad 2 teams. Despite South Carolina’s 20-3 record, they’re ranked No. 39 in the NET Rankings and No. 43 on KenPom.com. The computers don’t love South Carolina, but it certainly passes the eye test.
South Carolina’s win over Tennessee last week is going to hold up nicely on Selection Sunday, especially because days later, that same Tennessee team went into Rupp Arena and recorded a wire-to-wire win over the Wildcats. South Carolina is one of four Division l teams in the sport (No. 1 UConn, No. 2 Purdue and Grand Canyon are the others) that have 20+ wins this season. That’s good company to be in.
This block by Collin Murray-Boyles was a big reason why South Carolina was able to hold on down the stretch in a 68-65 victory vs. Ole Miss on Tuesday despite missing multiple shots in the final minutes of the game.
The bottom line: South Carolina will have a chance to prove it is legit because of a brutal stretch to close out the season. The Gamecocks face Vanderbilt, No. 12 Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi State in the final eight games of the season and it’s likely they won’t be favored in at least half of those games.
Stock falling: Kansas falls to Kansas State in OT, again
The Kansas dilemma is this: The No. 4 Jayhawks have looked like the best team in the country against quality competition in spurts. But, they have also had multiple head-scratching performances shortly after that makes you question what their floor will be come tournament time.
Kansas blew an 11-point lead on the road in a 75-70 loss in overtime Monday to in-state rival Kansas State and lost to the Wildcats for the second consecutive season on the road. The defeat came days after knocking off then-No. 4 Houston at home in a near wire-to-wire victory. The Jayhawks went down 2-0 in the opening minute and knocked off one of the best overall teams in the country 78-75.
On paper, Kansas star guard Kevin McCullar Jr. had a good performance with 15 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals, but he finished 6 of 18 from the floor. Kansas’ starters played 43, 36, 39, 43 and 43 minutes. Reserve forward Parker Braun played a team-high 10 minutes off the bench and former five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson logged a season-low five minutes after playing nine minutes against Houston.
The best version of Kansas features multiple players on the bench you can rely on for a spark. That is supposed to be Jackson, the highly-touted five-star recruit who started the season in the starting lineup. If Jackson can find a role off the bench, the Jayhawks will be in a good spot.
As of right now, you just don’t know what version of Kansas you’re going to get, which makes it hard to predict its floor.
Last spring, Kyle Filipowski and Tyrese Proctor both elected to bypass the 2023 NBA Draft and return to Duke for their sophomore seasons. Both players were projected to be first-round picks and they wanted to come back to school to give themselves another chance to make a run and simultaneously increase their draft stock in the process.
Three months into the season and (arguably) the best draft prospect on the Blue Devils roster isn’t Proctor or Filipowski, it’s Jared McCain. The former five-star recruit immediately jumped into a starting role from Day 1 with the program and he’s become one of the best reliable players on the roster.
In Duke’s 93-84 loss to North Carolina last weekend, McCain recorded his second career double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds. McCain has a chance to become the third Duke freshman in the last 25 years to shoot above 40% from distance on over five attempts per game. Former Duke stars Gary Trent Jr. (40.2% on 6.5 attempts) and Brandon Ingram (41% on 5.4 attempts) both accomplished the feat during their first season. McCain ranks No. 23 in CBS Sports’ latest 2024 NBA Draft prospect rankings.
Stock falling: Holtmann’s future at Ohio State
What is going on at Ohio State?
Ohio State missed the 2023 NCA A Tournament, finishing at 16-19 and it is heading in a similar direction this season. It’s hard to imagine Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann not being on the hot seat unless they have a dramatic turnaround.
The Buckeyes blew their second 18-point lead of the season in a 76-73 loss Tuesday to Indiana at home for their eighth loss in the last nine games. Ohio State sits at 13-10 overall with an abysmal 3-9 in Big Ten conference play – good enough for second-to-last place behind its arc rival Michigan. Ohio State blew an 18-point lead earlier this season to Penn State.
Last weekend, Ohio State dropped its 15th-consecutive road game in Big Ten play to Iowa. It’s been over 400 days since the Buckeyes won a conference game on the road. That’s just mind-boggling stuff for a program that has the talent and resources to make the NCAA Tournament every season.
Stock rising: Clemson finally secures a close win
Four of Clemson’s seven losses have come by less than three points this season. The Tigers lost to Memphis 79-77 before conference play began. Since then,, they have a three-point loss to Georgia Tech and dropped a pair of one-point heartbreakers to Duke and Virginia. In the loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Blue Devils knocked down two free throws to seal a last-second win.
But Clemson finally found themselves on the right side of a close game Tuesday vs. No. 3 North Carolina.
Clemson needed this win in the worst way and this game is certain to hold some weight come Selection Sunday. Clemson now has four Quad 1 wins. In CBS Sports’ latest Bracketology by Jerry Palm, the Tigers sit on the No. 6 line. If Clemson does make the field, it will be a tough out thanks to one of the best big men in America: PJ Hall. They have to just get in the dance, first. The win over UNC is a step in the right direction.
Stock down: Big 12 officiating is a mess
Scott Drew has been coaching at Baylor for 21 seasons and last weekend marked the first time he had gotten ejected from a game during his tenure with the school. Drew received his second technical foul with 11:20 remaining against Iowa State and received the hook.
After Drew was ejected, Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades spoke at the postgame press conference and called out the officials, saying it was “an embarrassment for this league.”Rhoades was fined $25,000 by the Big 12 and was publicly reprimanded by the conference office.
Just days after Drew’s ejection, Houston’s Kelvin Sampson found himself in the locker room before the game ended. Sampson was ejected just minutes into the second half in Monday’s game against Oklahoma State after giving one of the referees an ear-full.
Sampson declined to give his thoughts on the ejection because he (probably) wanted to save some cash. He learned his lesson from Rhoades.
“I have no thoughts,” Sampson told reporters after being ejected. “So if I say something and answer your question, they fine me $25,000. What part of $25,000 are you willing to pay? So don’t ask me silly questions because it’s a $25,000 fine if I told the truth, so I can’t. So, don’t ask me.”
Time will tell if Sampson is the last Big 12 coach to get ejected from a game this season by the refs. Regardless, it’s pretty rare to see two big-time coaches get tossed in a span of a few days.