South Carolina at Georgia Preview: The Frank is Here

South Carolina makes their annual visit to Athens and it is a game Georgia needs to win.

The South Carolina Gamecocks may not provide a major RPI bump for Georgia, but a win over Frank Martin’s squad can provide positive momentum and prevent any sort of a backslide.  At this point, it is a race to 20 regular season wins given Georgia’s schedule.  Georgia is 11-4 and winning 9 out of the next 15 games would put Georgia into a good position to go to any venue in the NCAA Tournament.  After the debacle in Columbia, Missouri, the reward of facing their most physical and intense rival is more like a punishment.  The good news is that this South Carolina squad is not like last season’s team, but the wins do carry less weight and the losses hurt more.

Previewing South Carolina

South Carolina runs a spread motion offense and a blend of defenses that are not necessarily what Georgia faces during the season.  South Carolina features three different Half Court Defenses:  Pressure Man-to-Man Defense, Pack Line Defense and 2-3 Zone that can be disguised as a Pack Line.  Frank Martin is one of the best defensive coaches in the country and opponents that do not match or exceed their level of physicality fail to win games.

Here’s the catch for South Carolina.  Point Guard has been a bit of an issue and so have injuries, which has resulted in an offense that is unstable and perimeter defense that is not to Frank Martin’s liking.  South Carolina desperately misses Rakym Felder and he won’t be available until next season.  Justin Minaya (son of former New York Mets General Manager Omar Minaya), Hassani Gravett, Wesley Myers and Kory Holden have all had their shots at Point Guard and it just has not gone well.  Nobody has been able to match what Felder and the departed due to graduation Sindarius Thornwell were able to do.

Evan Hinson has been a spark for Gamecocks coming over from the Football Team, which is not an unfamiliar synergy between the programs.  Remember Bruce Ellington?  The best comparison for Hinson as far as his role for the Gamecocks is Michael Carrera.  Carrera brought a great deal of physicality and that’s Hinson’s role.

Readers of this publication should be extremely familiar with Chris Silva.  Silva is a dynamo on the defensive end and he’s the top interior threat for the Gamecocks.  Silva really is able to work inside and out, which makes him a tough matchup.  However, Silva’s defense is his calling card as he is an aggressive defender, but his weakness is obvious.  Silva has a propensity to foul a lot.  The goal for most opponents is to use his aggression against him and make the Gamecocks a less able team on both ends by getting him into foul trouble early and keeping him on bench saddled with fouls.

Silva only averages 23.4 minutes per game, but if he played a full 40 minutes, he’d foul out in every game.  It’s critical to keep him off the floor because there is no clear interior presence without him.  Felipe Haase and Maik Kotsar are not able to carry the load and bring the same level of play on either end.  In fact, the Gamecocks are distinctly softer without Silva.  South Carolina is 3-5 in games when Silva fouls out.

South Carolina’s inability to keep a firm grasp on a game and let games get out of their control is a major issue.  This is not a team that can force opponents to respect them and their style of play.  South Carolina plays with far too much finesse for a Frank Martin coached team on offense.  It explains why Frank Martin has needed to rely on walk-on Evan Hinson to deliver the energy and aggression, but it just has not been enough.

South Carolina is a heavy jump shooting team this season and they really are not that good from the perimeter nor are they a good mid-range shooting team.  Opponents that went with 2-3 Zone against the Gamecocks and closed out the possessions as one-and-dones were able to run them out of the building.

Georgia Has to Exploit South Carolina’s Flaws

Mark Fox’s team has been stronger in Man-to-Man Defense this season than the 2-3 Matchup Zone, but against the Gamecocks, Fox has to change the approach.  Normally, the 2-3 Matchup Zone would be the de-emphasized defense for good reason, but Fox has to play mostly 2-3 Matchup Zone in this game.  South Carolina will turn it over and exercise horrible shot selection against the 2-3 Matchup Zone and Mark Fox will need to get the rebounding effort that he saw from his team against Alabama.  If he can get this sort of energy with this defensive approach, the game could be an easy 20 point blowout for the Dawgs.

Georgia has to not be a jump shooting team.  Yante Maten may get double teamed, but Frank Martin may feel comfortable leaving Maten against Silva one-on-one.  Silva is one of the best defenders in the country and Martin may have reason to feel secure about putting his best player against the best player in the SEC.  If Silva defends Maten, the objective should be to pull Silva away from the basket and let Derek Ogbeide take on Kotsar.  Once Silva collects his fouls, Martin will probably double team Maten or play the 2-3 Matchup Zone that resembles a Pack Line.

A key thing for Georgia in this game will be how Turtle Jackson, Tyree Crump and Teshaun Hightower diagnose the defenses that Martin puts out there.  They will have to figure out whether the Pack Line is really a Man-to-Man Packline or a sagged 2-3 Zone disguised in a Pack Line look.  Getting into a typical set against the wrong defense will result in turnovers and Frank Martin knows all of the tricks, which is why Mark Fox will likely not run as much of the sets in this game.

Mark Fox in the past two seasons has not run the familiar Man-to-Man sets against South Carolina.  The offense typically is more screen and roll/fade/curl heavy to set up more natural offensive action.  It’s a completely different approach and it will not be shocking to once again see this.  The Georgia Offense will likely thrive playing this way and this will result in Free Throws.  Moving Chris Silva around, forcing switches and getting the Point Guards into a passing and shooting rhythm will create a lot of different opportunities.  There’s nothing predictable about it outside of the screen and roll action.  Martin could hedge and he does hedge the screens, but the downside is that this is a game inside the friendly confines of Stegeman Coliseum and that means Turtle Jackson, Teshaun Hightower and Tyree Crump will get to the Free Throw Line by simply taking it to the hedging defender and drawing a blocking foul.

It is expected that Fox plays this alternative offense, but does he throw in a slight twist such as a slip as opposed to a roll or fade?  Maybe he provides Maten, Ogbeide, Claxton, Hammonds the option to choose their own method.  The reason why a slip would be a good option is that South Carolina does hedge screens, which means that a member of the Georgia Frontcourt can shed a defender and sneak their way to the rim for an open dunk or layup.

There would not be discussion of playing offense this way if there was no precedent for Georgia playing offense like this against South Carolina.

Tyree Crump was able to get out of his shooting doldrums to an extent against Missouri.  The question is how can Mark Fox get Crump to be more consistent on the offensive end?  Ensuring Crump is engaged defensively is extremely important, but how does Fox get Crump into a position to succeed rather than let him go off and play on an island?

The solution for Crump is actually quite simple and this game provides a perfect opportunity for Crump to go off and have a BIG GAME.  How?  Crump’s first few shots cannot be from three point range.  Crump must find a way to score at the basket and get himself opportunities at the Free Throw Line before he even takes a three point shot attempt.  Crump needs to be engaged and lathered up in this more flexible offensive approach and he cannot just start taking shots coldly.  Crump could have a 20+ point game if he is attacking off ball screens and taking threes in rhythm.  Marshall Henderson would often get into the rhythm of games by doing this and if Crump is what his teammates say he is, then the approach has to change.  Crump needs to get warmed up and it’s not a matter of playing time, it’s a matter of what he is doing when he has the ball in the first place.

Jordan Harris can be a very important player in this game as well, but his shot attempts against Missouri were awful and out of rhythm.  His mechanics were dreadful on jump shots and he does not seem to shoot very well off a pass from the perimeter.  Harris’ best shots come inside-out action, which is how he can develop a calm follow-through on his shot.  His teammate Tyree Crump could help him a great deal off the dribble drive or Yante Maten in a double team can set Harris up for three point attempts that are most aligned for his success.

If Georgia can score more than 80 in this game, Fox could end up reconsidering the offense like he did two seasons ago.  All signs point to this sort of history repeating and possibly starting against South Carolina.

Prediction:  Georgia 76  South Carolina 61

Translated from English to Hawaiian to Latin to Spanish to Norwegian to Yiddish and back to English again courtesy of Google Translate.

And now… the South Carolina Fight Song… “The Leader of the Band Competition on the Road”

E: Give us Ka’oli’oli here Aia’o Carolina;
It went, it is incompatible with the shape of the cables to the ground behind.

If no attention is @KhloeKardashian difficult;
When Election comes for a moment when Bookley.

Usalou our Múppa from him and Kaeleele,
In a way of Carolina.

So, music – to play!
Click on the program – Action!
And this is the end of the year?
Therefore, eolioli, Carolina del aia’o here.
What Honyokiuki on the way?

Sing along to the lyrics above as they are far better than the lyrics provided in the video below.  How many fight songs have Khloe Kardashian’s Twitter handle?  NONE.

Can we really escape the clutches of the Kardashians?  Is it remotely possible?