South Carolina basketball had promise after Darrin Horn arrived in Columbia, but it's been on a downward spiral since his first year as the Gamecocks basketball coach.
After sharing the SEC East title with the Tennessee Volunteers in the 2008-2009 season, the Gamecocks have finished with a losing record in back-to-back seasons. The energy appears to have left the program and fan support is dwindling down.
However, the new season always brings new hope and this year started off with promise for South Carolina. The young talent came to play in the season opener against Western Carolina, with a few underclassman leading the charge in a 75-50 win. True freshman Anthony Gill led the team in scoring with 14 points, while JUCO transfer Brenton Williams provided a spark off the bench for 13 points.
So far, so good.
Things were looking up for South Carolina. People began to hope this could be a turning point in South Carolina basketball with a young basketball squad growing up together and getting better over the year.
Up next: A road game at Elon. Yes, at Elon. Easy win, right?
South Carolina got away from their half-court offense that worked against Western Carolina and began to launch an array of three-point shots that didn't fall. There appeared to be no offensive game plan whatsoever as USC fell 58-53 to Elon. The Gamecocks shot 31.3 percent from the field while only shooting 11.1 percent from three-point range on 3-of-27 shooting.
It's amazing how this basketball team regressed from Friday to Tuesday night. A mere few days and all the optimism brewing from the opening game is demolished. Now the outlook has become grim, as the Gamecocks play North Carolina, Ohio State and Clemson in the coming weeks. They also play Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt two times each this season in SEC play.
This schedule isn't getting any easier.
If South Carolina can lose to Elon, then what happens when they play the number one North Carolina Tar Heels?
Darrin Horn will need to make some adjustments quick to give hope back to the Gamecock nation for the rest of the season. The talent on hand seems solid: Damien Leonard and Anthony Gill entered the starting lineup almost immediately as true freshman, and players like Malik Cooke, Lakeem Jackson and Damontre Harris should be better this season.
Bruce Ellington plans to return to the basketball team after he plays against Clemson in football on November 26 to give the Gamecocks its leader from the 2010-2011 team.
The pieces are there for this team to fight for, at the very least, an NIT bid but you can't give away what should have been a guaranteed win in Elon.
Now questions will arise when the Gamecocks play lesser teams this season, and the wonder of whether they will finish with a winning record in 2011-2012 will continue to cross the minds of Gamecock fans all season long.
Maybe it's too early to give up hope when the Gamecocks have only played two games, but fans won't put up with bad basketball for long. There needs to be some immediate results soon.
This basketball team needs to show improvement, or it will be essentially the same team from the past two seasons and there won't be any signs of growth in the program.
Darrin Horn appeared to be the right guy for the job when he was hired but if he can't pull it together this season, he could be looking for a job in the near future. The support behind him and this program has all but faded over the last few years, and another losing season will surely wipe out what remains.
South Carolina fans always have hope. They've been through a lot over the years. There will be hope this basketball team will come around this year, but they won't wait around forever.
It could be now or never for Darrin Horn and right now, unfortunately for him, it looks like it might be never.