Article featuring now #10 USC
2. South Carolina starts big in SEC:
LSU made the big splash in the SEC with a road win at Tennessee on Thursday. Florida did the same with a victory at Kentucky on Sunday. But there are also ripples that could affect the conference championship race from No. 13 South Carolina's wins at Arkansas on Thursday and against Vanderbilt on Sunday.
South Carolina had an interior presence a season ago, when it ranked second in rebound margin in conference play. But it was a stretch to call size an asset when most of that board work came from a pair of 6-footers, Aleighsa Welch and then-senior Ashley Brunner, and there wasn't much offense, inside or outside. What a difference a year makes. Welch is still there piling up offensive rebounds with an impressive all-court game, but Sunday was a chance to show off the size in a 76-66 win against the Commodores. Freshman Alaina Coates had 24 points and 10 rebounds and Elem Ibiam added 11 points and eight rebounds, both 6-foot-4 players posting up at the same time on occasion.
Granted, if South Carolina couldn't take advantage of its size against a Vanderbilt team playing without any, it never would. But the tandem of Coates and Ibiam, not as the focus of the offense but as complements to Tiffany Mitchell, Welch and Khadijah Sessions, when she returns from injury, makes this a team with a higher ceiling than a season ago (not to mention the defensive end, where the Gamecocks have almost matched last season's block total).