When South Carolina faces Georgia, it just means more… brutality.
South Carolina visits Georgia tonight and it is this series and the Ole Miss series that really stand out on the SEC schedule because of the way the teams historically play against each other. Ole Miss is almost always leaving viewers in suspense when facing Georgia. South Carolina always leaves viewers wondering how either team can go on and play another game a few days later. Many people would look at the Big Ten and consider many of the games in that conference to feature physical, grinding games. The Georgia-South Carolina series since Frank Martin arrived in Columbia has taken on that sort of a quality and it is not like Mark Fox is too shy to have his team play that way either.
Typically when people think brutal hits in the Georgia-South Carolina game, they think Football and it was that way for a while. Now, the Georgia-South Carolina Basketball series really takes it to a different level and nobody’s wearing pads. In-your-shirt defense, collisions with just about everything, student-athletes thrown all about and the scrums on the glass define this series now. It is not pretty basketball, it’s just carnage that has done more to promote a rivalry that just seemed forced for a long time. Now, it is a rivalry that deserves a trophy.
About the South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina will get Sindarius Thornwell back tonight after being suspended for six games (five official games). The University of South Carolina has refused to comment on the exact reason why Thornwell was suspended in an indefinite fashion, but they were emphatic that it had nothing to do with an arrest in May. If they do not want to comment about what warranted the suspension, it is their right to do so. Let’s just speculate then that Thornwell was suspended for unapologetically littering in The Horseshoe and call it a day. It is a disappointment for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control because they proactively created a recycling and anti-littering campaign. It was rather trippy – anthropomorphic trash.
Without Thornwell, South Carolina went 2-3 in games that actually counted. South Carolina scheduled a game against Lander, which does not count as they are not a Division I program. The wins were over two programs that are decimated, FIU and South Florida. The losses were to programs with NCAA Tournament aspirations: Seton Hall (at Madison Square Garden), Clemson and at Memphis.
Strangely, South Carolina finds themselves in a very similar situation to one that they faced last season. South Carolina’s wins in the non-conference slate were diminished by their opponents having disappointing seasons. Joe Castiglione, last season’s NCAA Tournament Committee Chair replied to the question as to why South Carolina was denied a bid in March by saying,“Only one win against the Top 50.”
South Carolina may be in that boat again and Georgia also faces this same sort of a problem too. Why is South Carolina on the path to repeat history? Look at their schedule and their biggest wins.
Remember how the back-to-back wins over Michigan and Syracuse were a big deal? Both are fading. Michigan took a tough road loss to Iowa in Overtime and Syracuse is now projected to go 15-16 on the season. In the above image, the projected RPI from RPIForecast.com is provided. (Remember to use RPIForecast.com’s Live RPI for your RPI research needs, ESPN’s RPI is inaccurate and not used by the NCAA Tournament Committee.)
Unlike some teams in the SEC, South Carolina has run out of non-conference resume boosting opportunities. The first three weeks of the conference season could make-or-break this season for the Gamecocks. Going 3-3 to start the conference season would put a lot of pressure on this team to win against Auburn, Missouri and LSU. Then in the month of February, they would have to win two out of three games against UGA, Arkansas and at Florida to make a case for themselves. They could also blow it at the end of the season too. It is not like they are immune to doing it.
If the Gamecocks do not win tonight, the next three games are must-win games and to feel good about their NCAA Tournament chances, they would have to split the Florida and Kentucky games afterward. Yes, this game is THAT important.
South Carolina can be expected to play ten deep and they have enjoyed the contributions of newcomers Rakym Felder, Maik Kotsar and Hassani Gravett. Of course, the big four of South Carolina are Thornwell, PJ Dozier, Duane Notice and Chris Silva. Duane Notice has shot the ball in a shockingly poor fashion while Dozier and Thornwell have got it done from three point range. Chris Silva is a fouling machine who can block shots rather well. If given the choice between Silva and Horace Spencer, most would take Silva because he is a better rebounder and is just tougher.
Chris Silva’s 2016-17 Game Log… just focus on the Personal Fouls.
Silva has picked 4 or more fouls in 9 out of 13 games this season (counts the game that does not count against Lander). Silva has fouled out 4 out of 12 Division I games this season. South Carolina’s record when Silva fouls out: 1-3.
Silva fouled out three times last season. Where did he foul out in one of those games? At Stegeman Coliseum against Georgia.
Speaking of fouling, South Carolina cannot defend without fouling. They put opponents at the Free Throw Line far too often. They may hold offenses to hideously low shooting percentages and deny shot opportunities, but they let opponents get to the Free Throw Line. Offensively, this is an average offensive team at best as far shooting rates are concerned. Offense is not South Carolina’s strength, it is their defense.
However, South Carolina runs the same sort of offense that Oklahoma State now runs with Brad Underwood. Find out more about their spread offense here.
South Carolina mixes up their defense a bit. Frank Martin typically employs a 2-3 Zone, Pack Line Defense disguised in a Zone and pressure man-to-man defense. South Carolina will turn the full court pressure defense on and off periodically through the game, but the problem is that his team is rather prone to fouling far away from the basket.
South Carolina is not much of a defensive rebounding team, they will allow second chance opportunities. However, they get plenty of second chance opportunities themselves. Defensively, they commit a lot of fouls as mentioned before, but they are successfully forcing opponent turnovers, which results in points on the other end and less Field Goal Attempts against them.
South Carolina’s shot distribution is not where it should be, but an opponent can take advantage of it. South Carolina is not strong enough on the interior to score in the restricted arc and they set up more two point jump shots, which is sub-optimal. Duane Notice lives from beyond the arc on offense, but he has struggled this season. Will he return back to form?
Inside the restricted arc, South Carolina will let opponents have opportunities to score, but opponents have not been very successful due to Chris Silva’s presence. Teams with strong frontcourts have given the Gamecocks trouble. Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame and Elijah Thomas made it very tough for South Carolina and came away with the win in Columbia. Seton Hall’s Ismael Sanogo and Angel Delgado dominated the glass against the Gamecocks and won.
Georgia’s Side of the Coin
Georgia hosts their first conference home game after adjusting and coming back at Auburn. Georgia proved once again to be at their best when they are the aggressors and play 2-3 Matchup Zone. The emerging stars on this team are Derek Ogbeide and Jordan Harris. Yante Maten is having an All-American quality season and needs to receive more national attention for his performances. J.J. Frazier has been in a perimeter shooting slump this season and his big game against Auburn was triggered by his own personal adjustment to attack the basket with options and get fast break points off steals.
Georgia is going to need more contributions from the rest of this team and forcing Turtle Jackson to be more than just a three point shooter would help a lot. In fact, Georgia needs Turtle Jackson to attack off the dribble drive just the way J.J. Frazier will likely do so. Last season’s games featured an alternative offensive approach against South Carolina than any other opponent. For more about Georgia’s approach against South Carolina last season, see this article. This should provide the nuts and bolts as far as what scheme to expect tonight.
Frazier’s struggles are obvious, but Turtle Jackson and Jordan Harris have taken advantage of good rhythm shot opportunities. For all the talk about Tyree Crump being the sharpshooter, Jordan Harris shooting 63.2% from three point range. Harris may get more opportunities from three point range tonight.
Georgia’s shooting struggles are known, but the team is able to hit Free Throws rather well. Georgia is a GOOD Free Throw shooting team and this should motivate Mark Fox to tweak his approach a bit in order to get this team to take more Free Throws. Attacking the restricted arc and targeting foul prone defenders is the way to get the Free Throw Parade going.
Georgia is very good at getting second chance opportunities, South Carolina yields these opportunities far too frequently. Georgia is a very good defensive rebounding team, South Carolina is a very good offensive rebounding team. Who has the edge? Georgia. Why? The first reason is that Georgia is far less likely to get themselves into crazy foul trouble like the South Carolina Gamecocks. Georgia’s best rebounders will be able to play more than ten minutes.
Georgia does let opponents shoot and if opponents can make shots and get more shot opportunities, they can win. Georgia’s defense is still too passive, but in the second half against Gardner-Webb and Auburn, Georgia was disruptive. Georgia used 3/4 court traps and the 2-3 Matchup Zone to get into better position to defend three point shots, take away the dribble drive, not let anything set up until 20 seconds were left on the shot clock and force turnovers.
The keys for Georgia to win tonight:
- Putting Chris Silva on an island against Yante Maten or Derek Ogbeide: The key is to force Chris Silva to make a defensive play on his own out of position. Silva has a high tendency to foul and getting him into foul trouble opens up the interior. How can Mark Fox do this? He did it last season rather well. Spacing with ball screens. Using Yante Maten or Derek Ogbeide as a ball screener and testing whether Silva would switch off with Dozier or Thornwell with defenders spread out on the floor would put a lot of stress on South Carolina. The Gamecocks would either have to make a big play or have someone leave Jordan Harris or Turtle Jackson wide open on the wing. Another way is for Yante Maten to set up on the high post and cut down to the low post against Silva. Maten against Kotsar is a mismatch.
- Invite Duane Notice to do something inside the perimeter: He may be 30% from three point range, but he is at his worst shooting long two point jump shots. Don’t give him space on the perimeter, make him cut to the basket and make a play inside the perimeter. If Duane Notice backdoor cuts, congratulations to him. Feel free to overplay here on Notice in the man-to-man when he is outside of the perimeter otherwise let him get the ball.
- 3/4 Court Traps and Zone Defense Combined: Use them to force this South Carolina team to do something a bit too hasty or to force Dozier or Thornwell to do too much with limited time on the shot clock. Seton Hall was very effective using the 3/4 court trap combined with 2-3 Matchup Zone themselves against South Carolina.
- Rebounding: Go all-in on crashing the glass. Points can be had by rebounding effectively. Kotsar, Silva and Dozier could get into foul trouble by getting out of position when rebounding. Georgia controlling the glass and getting into good position could result in Free Throw Attempts and eventually easier opportunities on offense.
- Free Throws: Georgia needs to take more than 32 Free Throws to guarantee a win in this game. Can this team do it? Yes. Can this team knock down 80% or more of them? Absolutely. The last eight minutes of each half should be filled with Free Throw stoppages for UGA.
Will Mark Fox carry through with this approach tonight? Mostly yes. Georgia could play 25 to 30 minutes of this game in a zone defense. Screen-and-rolls, Screen-and-slips and even an occasional Screen-and-fade (with Yante Maten) in spread out looks will put a lot of pressure on South Carolina’s young frontcourt. South Carolina is not an offensively efficient team and Georgia can play to South Carolina’s defensive weaknesses rather well. South Carolina is going to get into foul trouble and lose out on the glass, which will hurt them most.
Prediction: Georgia 68 South Carolina 58
Now for your entertainment…
Unfortunately, replays of games are not available more than a month after the original broadcast anymore. There would have been the video of the upset South Carolina faithful on March 3, 2016, but the above video has to do for now.