Start time: 30 minutes after the North Carolina/Arkansas game which starts at 6:10pm -- so approximately 8:40 pm.
TV: TNT (Brian Anderson/Chris Webber/Lewis Johnson)
Live Stream: WatchTNT or NCAA March Madness Live (website or app)
Radio: 107.5 The Game (Columbia) | Live Audio: Gamecock IMG Sports Network
Winner plays: (3) Baylor/(11) Southern Cal in the Sweet 16, March 24 at Madison Square Garden - time TBA
When you talk about NCAA tournament mainstays, several names come to mind. Kentucky. North Carolina. Kansas. Louisville.
The Duke Blue Devils certainly qualify. The Blue Devils, in their 22nd straight NCAA Tournament (fourth-longest streak in Division 1 history) and their 41st overall (sixth-best in D1), are seeking their third straight trip to the Sweet 16 and 24th since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Suffice it to say that this will be the stiffest challenge for the Gamecocks in Frank Martin’s five-year tenure at the helm of the program.
Tale of the Tape
|Conference record||12-6 (SEC)||12-6 (Big 12)|
|Conference tournament results||L Alabama 63-54 (QF)||L Kansas State 70-64 (QF)|
|Best regular season win||#19 Florida 57-53||#4 Oregon 66-49|
|Worst loss||Memphis 70-54||Texas Tech 84-78|
|KenPom Adjusted EM (Rank)||+18.61 (28)||+25.25 (10)|
|KenPom Offensive Rating (Rank)||107.5 (121)||118.2 (20)|
|KenPom Defensive Rating (Rank)||88.9 (4)||93.0 (13)|
Duke would have been a #1 seed in the tournament if not for three losses in four games in January that saw them go down to Florida State, Louisville and N.C. State, in addition to late-season defeats at Syracuse and Miami. They went on to right the ship and win the ACC Tournament, but when they heard their NCAA seeding, they were no doubt kicking themselves over missed opportunities in the regular season.
Stopping Duke’s big three
Duke actually averages slightly less points per game than Marquette (80.7 versus the Golden Eagles’ 82.5). But it comes with the caveat that the Blue Devils are far and away a more talented and much better team than Marquette. One thing that Troy was able to do in their loss to the Blue Devils on Friday was hold leading scorer Luke Kennard (19.8 ppg) to just eight on 3-12 shooting. Granted, Grayson Allen (21) and Jayson Tatum (18) picked up the slack for Duke as they eventually ended up winning going away, but if the Gamecocks are able to limit even one of the Blue Devils’ stars, that will help level the playing field - at least a little - and force them to possibly lean on Amile Jefferson, Frank Jackson or Matt Jones a little more than usual. In Syracuse’s win over Duke, the Orange were able to hold Allen to just eight points despite 23 from Kennard and 19 from Tatum.
The Gamecocks forced Marquette into 17 turnovers on Friday. That’s encouraging, because the Golden Eagles only averaged about 12 per game. Duke averages just over 11 per game, but they struggled against Louisville (18 TOs) and Kansas’ (16 TO) defenses in the regular season. If I’m Frank Martin, I change nothing in his team’s approach in the second half against Marquette and try to frustrate Duke into bad decisions with the basketball.
Help for Sindarius
While Sindarius Thornwell stole the show (again) against Marquette, I was encouraged to see PJ Dozier play so well in the second half, scoring 21 points to provide a one-two punch for the Gamecocks. It was also good to see players like Rah Felder and Justin McKie provide a spark off the bench at critical times. But this one fact rings true more now than at any time this season: the Gamecocks absolutely must get their other scorers going. Maik Kotsar has to find his touch and finish more around the rim. Chris Silva needs to avoid getting into foul trouble and set the tone on the scoresheet and on the glass. I want to see Duane Notice assert himself and find his rhythm offensively. The team also found success driving the ball - when they did that against the Golden Eagles, that, along with increased defensive intensity - began to turn things in Carolina’s favor, so credit to Frank Martin for making the necessary adjustments in the locker room.
The Coach K factor
Frank Martin has led his team to five NCAA Tournament appearances and gone 7-4 combined in those trips. Mike Krzyzewski has led Duke to 33 NCAA Tournament appearances (where they’re 91-27 in his tenure), taken the Blue Devils to the Final Four twelve times and has won five national championships. It might not be Coach K’s best team in his nearly four-decade tenure, but he’s shown that he has the ability to motivate players and get them performing at their highest level.
Home sweet home...technically
The most important factor at Bon Secours Wellness Arena might be the one sitting above the court. Although Duke has a national following and will make up a good portion of the crowd, you can still expect a heavily pro-Gamecocks presence in the stands. If South Carolina can feed off that energy and ride the wave of support for all 40 minutes, and get the needed contributions from the players I mentioned above, they’ll be making their second trip to Madison Square Garden this season - only this time, much more will be on the line.