Start time: 7:29 pm ET
TV: TBS (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)
Live Stream: NCAA March Madness Live (website or app)
Radio: 107.5 The Game (Columbia) | Live Audio: Gamecock IMG Sports Network
Winner plays: (4) Florida/(8) Wisconsin in the Elite Eight, Sunday at Madison Square Garden - time TBA (CBS)
The South Carolina Gamecocks are in a position they haven’t been in since the Nixon administration. This is fairly familiar territory for the Baylor Bears. The two teams are meeting in the Sweet 16 tonight at Madison Square Garden - the first such trip for the Gamecocks since the tournament expanded to 64 teams and the Bears’ fourth visit to the regional semifinal since 2010. The winner will be facing either the SEC’s Florida Gators or the Big Ten’s Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
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)|
Baylor, for their part, has been remarkably consistent throughout the year. Their only losses came to K-State (twice), Kansas (twice), Texas Tech, West Virginia, and Iowa State. That’s it. I’m not so sure we can even call Texas Tech a “bad loss” since it’s the same team that beat WVU in overtime in their first meeting in Lubbock before losing in double OT in Morgantown later that season, lost to Kansas by a point, and defeated Kansas State. All that to say the Bears’ resume is quite stout (Oregon, Michigan State, and Louisville have been their headline wins thus far). While they handled New Mexico State before holding off Southern Cal in the second round, the Gamecocks will be their toughest challenge yet.
The Motley factor
The Baylor offense will mostly go through junior forward and all Big-12 pick Johnathan Motley. All the Houston product’s done is average nearly a double-double (17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds) per game while starting every single game this season for the Bears. I’m interested to see how he and Sindarius Thornwell go at it this evening; Sin’s almost certain to draw the responsibility of guarding him throughout the night. Chris had a chat with the Our Daily Bears gang that you might want to check out, but their site manager Kendall called Motley “the best player of the Scott Drew era”.
While Duke’s KenPom adjusted offense ranked seventh (121.2 points/100 possessions), Baylor checks in at 118.2 (20th in the country). The Gamecocks were able to get away with giving away 81 points to Duke by scoring 65 in the second half; safe to assume that they won’t come close to that mark again. I’d like to see a more even game in which the team doesn’t lean on the three-pointer too much and instead elects attack inside and drive the ball, forcing their big men to make plays (i.e. Maik Kotsar hitting shots up close), as well as improving their effectiveness on mid-range jumpers. Another slow start could cause the Bears to put South Carolina into a hole they can’t dig out of.
Frank Martin may or may not have seen this number yet, but if he did, I’m sure he was licking his lips at the possibilities of letting his Gamecocks defense run wild. The Bears have turned it over an average of 13.3 times per game. That includes a 29 (!!!) turnover game at West Virginia on January 10 in which, naturally, they got blow out. They have eleven 15+ TO games this season, and while they’re 8-3 in those games, not valuing the ball catches up to you sooner rather than later. I’m not saying that the Gamecocks will go full Press Virginia tonight, but Baylor’s shown to be erratic with the ball this year, so I say exploit it as much as you can.
Help for Sindarius...again
I’ve been very impressed with the way guys like PJ Dozier, Chris Silva and Rakym Felder have played in support of Sindarius Thornwell this postseason. But one player that really stood out to me against Duke was Duane Notice. He was aggressive on both sides of the ball and finally showed the potential that caused Frank Martin to slot him into the starting lineup as a nightly option. For Felder (who grew up in NYC), this is me sounding like a broken record, but the kid is going to be a star for this program. I love his game and the tournament he’s had thus far.