The Gamecocks head to Nashville this Saturday to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. VU will be looking to avenge two straight losses to Carolina. The Commies will again be ranked after falling out of the Top 25 briefly following their loss to us a few weeks back. Let's take a look at what you need to know about this game.
Implications: After its ugly loss to Auburn, USC has fallen like a rock in the RPI, all the way down to 102. That has effectively taken the Gamecocks out of the NCAA bubble conversation. With Vandy currently a well-regarded team, a win at Memorial Gym could change that for Carolina. It could also put us back in the thick of the SEC East race. A loss would put us far away from legitimate competition for that honor.
Players to Watch: After this week's win over LSU, I'm more convinced than ever that this USC team rises and falls by virtue of its outside shooting. In that game, Bruce Ellington, Brian Richardson, and Ramon Galloway each made their share of shots, and Carolina won as a result. If those guys can get going again, much as Ellington did late in the game when Vandy visited Columbia, we may have a chance in this game.
Why USC Could Win: Last time Carolina played Vandy, things got a bit snippy during the second half. That seemed to benefit us more than Vandy, as we quickly took control of the tenor of the game after that. Is it possible that we're still in Vandy's head after that performance? It's hard to say, and certainly Vandy will be more comfortable in the friendly confines of its own gym. That said, Kevin Stallings's Vandy teams have been known for being a bit soft in the past, and that may again be the case this year. A physical, assertive approach may throw them off their game.
Why Vandy Could Win: Vandy is the better team. The famed Four Factors bode well for our academically inclined brethren, particularly in shooting and getting to the line:
While Carolina's offensive-rebounding prowess may be a benefit, it probably won't make up for the other deficiencies.
Prediction: Vandy wins by 8.