In the midst of another losing streak, the Gamecocks are off to Fayetteville this weekend to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs are having struggles of their own, having lost their last two, including a blowout loss in Athens to a questionable Georgia team. This weekend's game is a must-win for Arkansas, whose NCAA Tournament chances are on life support.
The good news for Arkansas is that the Hogs will be back in the friendly confines of their home court, where they've had much more success than they on the road. Away from Pigville, Arkansas has ugly losses to teams like Oklahoma, LSU, and Georgia. At home, the Hogs have beaten Mississippi St., Michigan, Vanderbilt and others. They'll be a tough out on their court.
What can Carolina do to pull off the upset? First of all, as we've discussed, this team needs to get to the free-throw line more often. Arkansas has a significantly higher FT Rate than Carolina, and FT Rate is typically associated with success. However, Carolina actually ranks a slot (7th) above the Hogs (8th) in FT%. The problem, of course, is that Carolina simply doesn't get to the line enough. That seems to be changing somewhat, as Carolina has worked the ball to Damontre Harris and Malik Cooke more aggressively in recent games, leading to more FGA from under the basket, which means more FTA. Of course, Harris and Cooke will have to perform much better than they did against Tennessee for that strategy to work, but it's a start.
The other thing I'd like to see in this game is continued strong play from Damien Leonard. I've been waiting all year for the light to come on for this kid, who we really need to play well if we're going to improve. Over the past two games, Leonard has finally started to shoot the ball well. If he can do that against Arkansas and we can get better play from the post than we got against Tennessee, we might finally have the full package--and a win.