South Carolina comes to Rupp Arena tonight to challenge the Kentucky Wildcats. This will be Coach Frank Martin's first trip to Rupp Arena as the coach of the Gamecocks.
Here's how the teams compare this season:
|Rank and Records||USC||UK|
|Strength of Schedule||#242||#60|
|RPI Top 50||0-2||1-4|
Kentucky leads the overall series with South Carolina 46-10. The Gamecocks and Wildcats have been playing every year since 1992, when South Carolina joined the SEC.
Between 1922 and 1932, South Carolina was a member of the Southern Conference along with Kentucky, so they played fairly frequently between 1928 when they first met, until 1933 when South Carolina left to join the ACC. Kentucky and the founding members of the SEC all left the SoCon in 1932, but the two teams played for the last time for over 3 decades in February 1933.
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The 'Cats and 'Cocks did not meet again until the UKIT in 1967. in the 1970's they met 3 times, but not again until the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992.
|45||Carlton Geathers||UI||F||6-10||255||SO||Out indefinitely with knee injury|
South Carolina is one of the most balanced scoring teams you'll ever see, with five players averaging between 8 and 10 points per game. Rebound-wise, Carrera is the leading rebounder from the small forward spot, and Jackson almost as effective from the 4 spot. But Slawson is the big dog on the offensive rebounding side, getting 14.2% of the offensive rebounds.
Bruce Ellington is the point guard and main distributor, having come over to the basketball team after football season. He is quick, fast, and dangerous, as well as very strong. He may well try to overpower Ryan Harrow at the lead guard spot, although at only 5'9" tall, he is giving up some size.
Kentucky is better in all the Four Factors except for offensive rebounding, which has been a problem for the Wildcats all year. I don't expect anything different tonight.
Most statistical measures in this game strongly favor Kentucky. Kentucky shoots much better at 51.5-44.3, and shoots the ball better from everywhere including the 3 point line. South Carolina is a better offensive rebounding team, and they shoot free throws better than the Wildcats at 69-54%.
South Carolina does not play slow, but neither do they play fast. They play a nice 65 possession average pace, which, as I discussed the other day, is somewhat out of Kentucky's comfort zone. The Gamecocks are not a big team, averaging over 3 inches shorter than Kentucky. USC does have some size, but it is mainly in the form of Chatkevicius.
The Gamecocks are a man-to-man team, and really struggle to score, averaging only 0.92 points/possession versus SEC foes. Kentucky's defense is actually allowing more points (0.98 p/p) than USC scores. The Gamecocks are not great defensively, either, as they allow opponents to shoot almost 50% eFG, although their 3-point defense is pretty good, allowing 32.4% by foes.
Martin prefers to play an aggressive man-t-man defense, but unlike some man coaches, he is not allergic to the zone and will use it when it works. So you can bet that you're going to see plenty of zone tonight against Kentucky, because UK has yet to show it can run good offense against zone defenses.
Overall, the Wildcats are favored pretty heavily in this one, around 17 points, but as the LSU Tigers demonstrated, that line is just a number against this Kentucky team even at home. Obviously, a loss here would be really harmful to UK's tournament chances, but with Willie Cauley-Stein coming back into the lineup, I don't expect one tonight.