Note: Resident basketball guru chickenhoops is traveling, so expect a far less thorough brand of basketball coverage for the Diamond Head Classic.
Do you like watching South Carolina basketball? I mean, really, really like it? That's good, because your unflinching commitment will be necessary if you wish to take in tonight's game. The Gamecocks tip at 11:00 PM ET in the opening round of the Diamond Head Classic. Joining the Gamecocks in the tournament are Iowa State, George Mason, Oregon State, Akron, Boise State, Hawai'i, and South Carolina's first round opponent, Saint Mary's.
The Gaels are a perfect 9-0 on the season thus far and fall just outside the top 25 in the national polls. But they're rated 24th based Ken Pomeroy's expected winning percentage and their RPI is 6. Suffice it say this is a pretty good team we're going up against. Senior forward Brad Waldow is the name to know here, whose ORating of 138.5 is good for 14th in the nation. Also keep an eye on senior guard Stephen Holt, who's playing more than 90% of his available minutes and maintaining a top 150 ORating. Plus, with a name like Steve Holt, you've gotta love the kid's intangibles. STEVE HOLT! The Gaels' strength of schedule leaves something to be desired, and they've only played one road game, beating Boise St. in Boise last weekend.
Meanwhile, South Carolina is coming off a disheartening home loss to USC Upstate, one in which they played without forward Michael Carrera due to a one-game suspension. Hopefully, Carrera's return will allow South Carolina to leverage its strength, which is extending possessions via offensive rebounds. Of course, it's even a bigger strength for Saint Mary's—they're 6th overall in OR%—so we'll need to get nasty on the defensive glass if we want hope to keep pace. The Gaels' knack for pulling down offensive boards creates longer possessions and, combined with their top tier eFG%, puts a ceiling on the overall number of possessions. And considering South Carolina is among the nation's worst in eFG%, keeping pace will be a tremendous challenge.
The game will be broadcast on ESPNU. Depending on first round outcomes, South Carolina will face either Boise State or Hawaii on Monday.