Start time: 30 minutes after the Duke/Troy game which starts at 7:20 pm -- so approximately 9:40 to 9:50 pm.
TV: TBS (Brian Anderson/Chris Webber/Lewis Johnson)
Live Stream: Watch TBS or the NCAA March Madness App
Radio: 107.5 The Game (Columbia) | Live Audio: Gamecock IMG Sports Network
Winner plays: (2) Duke/(15) Troy on Sunday, time TBA
So.... this is new.
For the first time in the blog/social media era, the South Carolina Gamecocks are in the NCAA tournament -- which means what you’re reading is probably one of the first game previews for a Gamecock tournament game on the internet.
It’s pretty crazy to think about. The last time the Gamecocks strapped up for the big dance Myspace was barely a thing and YouTube wasn’t even a URL. This is truly the first Gamecock tournament game that fans will experience in the social media age.
The Gamecocks will be the second to last game of the first round to tip off, so expect Twitter to be buzzing with activity late into the night about South Carolina. It’s going to be a first for fans of the basketball team or Gamecock alums who just want to see their alma mater on an unfamiliar stage.
I digress, it’s hard not to get nostalgic when thinking about what’s actually happening here. Frank Martin -- who left a better job in Kansas State amid a dispute with AD John Currie -- has delivered on his promise to get the Gamecocks back to a place they used to regularly visit in the mid-70’s under Frank McGuire.
Since McGuire’s departure South Carolina has only been to the big dance four times and not a single trip has produced a win. Martin could lay claim to be a real hero in USC athletics if he could pull off a win against a fast paced Marquette team tonight.
Tale of the Tape
|Conference record||12-6 (SEC)||10-8 (Big East)|
|Conference tournament results||L Alabama 63-54 (QF)||L Seton Hall 82-76 (QF)|
|Best win||#19 Florida 57-53||#1 Villanova 74-72|
|Worst loss||Memphis 70-54||Georgetown 80-62|
|KenPom Adjusted EM (Rank)||19.59 (28)||17.03 (31)|
|KenPom Offensive Rating (Rank)||105.5 (148)||121.0 (7)|
|KenPom Defensive Rating (Rank)||88.5 (3)||103.4 (153)|
The matchup presents an interesting challenge for the Gamecocks. The Big East put seven teams in the tournament this season -- looking reminiscent of their old form when they were consistently the top conference in college basketball.
While Marquette was a middle of the pack team in terms of the conference, they still have the resume of a tough No. 10 seed. The Golden Eagles are undefeated against the SEC with wins over Georgia and Vanderbilt this season, not to mention they went 6-6 against the other Big East tournament teams in the regular season.
Marquette has quality wins over Villanova, Seton Hall and swept Creighton in the regular season, but much like South Carolina they were one and done in their conference tournament against a common foe in Seton Hall.
Marquette is a team that scores a lot of points very efficiently -- and it doesn’t come as a by product of playing a blazing pace either. Their KenPom pace rating is ranked 77th in the country, which is fast but not Loyola-Marymount fast.
The Golden Eagles have five players who average double-digits in per game scoring -- all but one of whom shoots at least 46 percent from the field. Four of those five also shoot at least 38 percent from three -- making Marquette a dangerous candidate to catch fire and drown an opponent from downtown.
As a matter of fact by percentage Marquette is the best three-point shooting team in the country to go along with being the sixth best foul shooting team in the country by percentage. If a defensive first team like South Carolina ever wanted a challenge, they couldn’t have asked for a better match up.
Every talking head faking their way through analysis this week will mention guard play as one of the key’s for tournament success. Well they’re not wrong, one strong correlation you can make with most deep tournament runs is strong guard play -- and Marquette has it in bunches.
The Golden Eagles top three scorers are guards, none more impressive than true freshman Markus Howard. The five foot 11 Arizona native shoots 54.9 percent from three and averages 2.6 made three’s a game. He’s an 88.9 percent foul shooter and holds an astounding eFG percentage of 65.8 percent.
Falling in behind Howard are JaJuan Johnson and Andrew Rousey -- both of whom hold PER’s over 20.0. Rousey is the better shooter of the two, averaging 45.4 percent from downtown and 46.6 percent from the field. Needless to say -- Sindarious Thornwell, PJ Dozier and Duane Notice will have their hands full on defense.
The real knock on Marquette is they don’t play a lick of defense -- which is only partially true. The Golden Eagles have a handful of good defenders, but the problem lies in the team’s ability to communicate in transition and on smaller things like switches.
That’s a strange thing to say when four of the teams five best players are upperclassmen. Johnson, Rousey and center Luke Fischer are all seniors -- and it comes as no surprise six foot five Johnson is the teams best perimeter defender and the six foot eleven Fischer guards the paint averaging 1.6 blocks per game.
The liabilities come in Rousey and Howard. Both are under six feet tall and play so enough minutes to where they inevitably have to guard someone much bigger than they are. It’ll be key for either Dozier or Notice to take advantage of this, considering one would assume Johnson guards Thornwell.