It may sound far fetched to even entertain the idea that Radford University (2-0) can even contend with SEC heavyweight South Carolina. However, Kennesaw State just recently knocked off Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest was recently drubbed by mid-major Virginia Commonwealth University. So, let's dream for a few moments shall we?
First, let's take a look at the beast that Radford is up against. Last season, South Carolina went through a season of growing pains. The Gamecocks were inconsistent to say the least. They won games in dramatic fashion against No. 1 Kentucky and No.19 Vanderbilt. However, they also took an embarrassing loss at the hands of Wofford and eventually finished out the season at 15-16.
Two games into the season, this looks like this year could be a very different story for South Carolina. They opened up the year with an impressive 94-79 victory over Elon. They followed that performance with a nine-point loss at current No. 2 Michigan State. While South Carolina took a loss, they showed great skill and determination against an inferior opponent. They absolutely refused to go away, and it wasn't until the final minutes that Michigan State had sealed a home victory.
South Carolina presents a very balanced attack.
Freshman, Bruce Ellington leads a feisty guard game. He showed the ability to shoot the three-pointer under pressure against Michigan State where he led all scores with 22 points. At 6'9", senior, Sam Muldrow provides a fantastic interior presence for the Gamecocks. He dropped 20 points against Elon while going 8-13 from the field.
However, South Carolina does present a major weakness. Early in the season, the Gamecocks are just 56 percent from the free-throw line. Radford may have an advantage in a smash mouth, aggressive-style game. Through two games, the Highlanders have shot 61 percent from the field.
At 2-0, the Highlanders struggled to get what should have been easy wins over Division III opponents, Emory and Henry and Methodist. However, these aren't the same Highlanders that won the 2009 Big South Championship and went on to face North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Radford lost four of five starters and are rebuilding their starting line up. Hopefully, after two games under their belt and some solid practice time, the Highlanders will have started to gel.
So far, two players have stood out early for Radford. Senior point guard, Jeremy Robinson, has played phenomenally for the Highlanders. He has shown that he has the ability to manage the game and make plays all game long. He specializes in finding the open man, but he has the ability to drive the ball inside and make huge plays on defense. Robinson currently averages 9.5 points and four assists per game. He has really started to become an impact player for the Highlanders.
Another great surprise for the Highlanders has been the phenomenal play of redshirt freshman, Tommy Spagnolo. At 6'7", 210 lbs, Spagnolo bears a striking resemblance to former All Big South member Joey Lynch-Flohr. Spagnolo doesn't just look like his old teammate. He plays like him as well. Spagnolo looks almost Lynch-Flohr like in the way that he crashes the boards for rebounds, dunks the basketball and wows the crowd with an all too familiar jump hook shot. Spagnolo is currently providing a much needed inside presence for the Highlanders while averaging 14.5 points per game and eight rebounds. This is a hard working kid that plays all out like each game is his last.
While it would be very easy to project Radford to lose this game 105-62, I like to think differently. I believe that the Highlanders have the ability to go into a hostile environment and stun the Gamecocks in a thrilling 75-70 win.
Here's to the underdog!