South Carolina vs. Kentucky: Preview, tipoff time, TV channel, and more

Willie Cauley-Stein and the Wildcats come to Columbia seeking redemption after a tough loss to Arkansas. - Andy Lyons

The Gamecocks host the best two teams in the SEC in back-to-back contest to close out the home portion of their 2013-14 schedule. First up - Kentucky.

The Gamecocks finish their SEC home schedule with the cream of the crop - Kentucky and Florida. On Saturday afternoon, South Carolina finds out where it measures up against the best program the SEC has to offer. Can it handle what Kentucky will throw at it?

The Four Factors (Pomeroy Rankings)
When USC has the ball When UK has the ball
USC Off. UK Def. Edge UK Off. USC Def. Edge
268 14 UK BIG eFG% 125 186 Push
322 287 Push TO% 154 64 USC
13 163 USC BIG OReb% 2 276 UK BIG
55 82 Push FTR 12 345 UK BIG
Shooting (percentages)
When USC has the ball When UK has the ball
USC Off. UK Def. UK Off. USC Def. NCAA Avg.
70.4% - FT% 68.1% - 69.8%
44.3% 43.5% 2P% 51.5% 50.1% 48.5%
36.8% - 3P% 32.1% - 34.5%
27.7% 29.2% 3PA% 27.3% 35.1% 32.8%

It feels like the right way to face the Wildcats is early in the season, when the freshmen are still young. However, given the Gamecocks' lack of experience, it's not exactly a huge advantage to play teams earlier or later in the year. That said, despite Carolina's effective experience (experience weighed by minutes played) coming in at 343rd in the nation, it still exceeds the Wildcats, who are dead last - 351st.

Kentucky brings superior post play to the Colonial Life Arena, which spells trouble for the Gamecocks. Superstar freshman Julius Randle dominates possessions and opponents, shooting over 53% from the field and drawing almost 7 fouls a game to get to the line. He also grabs over 14% of Kentucky's misses when he's on the court (34th in the nation), which drives the Wildcats' formidable offensive rebounding, which exceeds even South Carolina's.

He's joined by 7'0" sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein, who takes far fewer shots but doesn't miss the ones he takes, shooting over 60% from the field and also getting to the line when he goes up (he's taken 75 foul shots against 151 field goals). Much like Randle, he grabs over 13% of Kentucky's misses. The Carolina front line will be exposed early and often if they don't show up ready to play their best basketball of the season.

In the backcourt, the Wildcats don't let up, starting twin brothers Andrew and Aaron Harrison (both freshmen) along with freshman James Young on the wing. All three players stand 6'6" tall, giving Kentucky a massive size advantage over the Gamecocks. They also all spend a lot of time at the free throw line, as each has over 100 free throw attempts on the season. Given Carolina's tendency toward fouling, expect a long afternoon of free throws.

Frankly, Kentucky boasts far too much talent for Carolina, though home-court advantage always plays a role. The bigger concern isn't the talent disparity but the match-up issues - with their size and ability to go to the foul line, it's difficult to conceive a result that doesn't involve the Wildcats scoring at will against the Gamecocks. Even if Sindarius Thornwell and Brenton Williams play the game of their lives offensively, would it be enough?

The game tips off at 6pm and can be watched on ESPN2.

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