The University of South Carolina’s basketball team has had quite a roller-coaster of a season.
With an upset of top-ten ranked Virginia and a strong start to the season, the Gamecocks seemed to be a high-octane team.
However, they have since been underperforming.
The upset loss to the Stetson Hatters had many South Carolina fans wondering if tournament play is viable for the Columbia home team.
Tuesday’s loss to Florida was a competitive game, as the Gamecocks looked to take down the Gators.
Carolina trailed by only three at half time and played an extremely close game up to the buzzer.
Despite Frank Martin being on the hot seat with a so-far underwhelming season, he looks to go to Knoxville on Saturday looking to take down the Volunteers.
The Volunteers are currently 5th in the SEC and own a record of 9-5.
I think it’s notable to mention that Tennessee’s losses are to competitive programs such as LSU, Cincinnati, and ranked Memphis.
South Carolina is currently 9th in the SEC with a record of 8-6.
The records being close undoubtedly does not leave room for a similar comparison of the two teams. With the Gamecocks losses coming from lower-end schools such as Boston University, Wichita State, and Stetson.
However, the talented Gamecock men can make the matchup in Knoxville interesting, giving the Volunteers more than what they bargained for.
What To Watch For
Volunteers shooting struggles from 3-point land
In four of the Volunteers five losses, the team struggled from the three-point line.
In the games against Florida State, Memphis, Cincinnati and Wisconsin, the team shot poorly from behind the arch.
In those losses they shot 33%, 22%, 27% and a lackluster 15% from the three-point line.
It’s safe to say that if the Volunteers are smothered at the arch and struggle shooting, it will give South Carolina a chance to keep the game close.
South Carolina’s personal foul troubles
The Gamecocks are averaging 21.5 personal fouls in their six losses. South Carolina gave up 27 fouls against Stetson, giving Stetson 24 points just from the free-throw line.
When the Gamecocks give a lot of personal fouls, they struggle to keep up offensively.
If South Carolina causes a lot of fouls, they will struggle to stay competitive.
Gamecocks taking good shots
The Gamecocks have won every matchup so far this season when shooting above 40% from the field.
When the Gamecocks take good, efficient shots, they tend to tear defenses apart.
If the talented Maik Kotsar and Alonzo Frink can shoot well in the paint then Tennessee will have to play incredible defense to beat Carolina in Knoxville.
South Carolina getting “cookies” and turning Knoxville into “block city” for USC
South Carolina, despite their bumpy season, have been consistently good on the defensive side of the ball.
However, in South Carolina’s losses, they are averaging only 8.6 in STL%, where the Gamecocks have attained numbers such as 14.5 and even 22.2 against Virginia through the season. \
South Carolina’s steal efficiency needs to stay high to be able to stop the Volunteers from going on big offensive runs.
Similarly, since the beginning of the season, South Carolina’s BLK% has been rapidly declining.
The Gamecocks started the season with highs of 25 and 22 in BLK% and has since decayed through the season.
Slowly, that number crept into the lower teens, then the upper single digits, and was recently at 6.8 in South Carolina’s last game against Florida.
Needless to say, if South Carolina can play high-octane defense and get their steal and block percentages up then they will have a chance to get out of their defensive slump.
I think if South Carolina picks up their defensive efforts and can make Tennessee struggle from behind the arch, South Carolina can play an incredibly close SEC matchup.
I expect South Carolina to play to Frank Martin’s forte: defense.
The stats show that if their defensive efficiency stays high then the Gamecocks can compete in games and wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
With Martin nearing the “hot-seat”, I’m sure South Carolina plays hards and shoots effectively and a high percentage.
AJ Lawson is averaging 15 points per game and has the skill set to increase his season-high in points against the Volunteers struggling defense on the perimeter.
I expect Tennessee to have more trouble than expected scoring with a smothering defense from Columbia, that reads plays and picks up more steals and blocks than usual.
I expect the game to go down to the wire, ultimately with the Gamecocks pulling away.