In the always-changing, conference realignment era of college basketball, sometimes it's hard to remember just how many teams are in a given conference. The Big Ten has fourteen teams. The Big 12 has fourteen as well. The Atlantic 10 has fifteen teams. The Pac-12 does have twelve, but next year they'll be down to 2.

The reason I mention this is because the South Carolina Gamecocks were picked to 14th in the SEC's preseason poll, and for at least a couple of more months, the SEC has only fourteen teams. Despite their predicted last place finish, the Gamecocks finished the regular season with a 25-6 record including 13-5 in conference play, a mark that was good enough to earn South Carolina a share of 2nd place in the conference. And that was enough for South Carolina to reward 2nd-year head coach Lamont Paris with a well-deserved six-year contract extension.

Before leading South Carolina to one of their best regular seasons in program history — and earning the SEC Coach of the Year award for his efforts — Lamont Paris rose through the coaching ranks, first as a key assistant at Wisconsin, coaching Badgers teams that made back-to-back Final Four trips in 2014 and 2015. Shortly after the departure of longtime Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, Paris took the head coaching job at Chattanooga, where in five seasons he led the Mocs to three straight winning seasons and only their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 25 seasons.

Lamont Paris turning South Carolina into a 25-win team was not the expectation, at least not in year two. Now the next step for Paris and the Gamecocks will be repeating this success year over year, helping South Carolina gain ground on some of the traditional powers in the SEC.