Gunter: Gamecocks hit the road
By William Gunter
Special to BrianEdwardsSports.com
Editor’s note: William Gunter is the co-host of Reynolds & Gunter on Fox Sports Radio in Columbia, South Carolina. Brian Edwards will be talking Super Bowl 50 with the duo at 4:30 p.m. Eastern this Friday afternoon. You can follow William on twitter by clicking here.
South Carolina (19-2; 6-2) hits the road this week for a pair of big games against SEC competition. The Gamecocks travel to Georgia on Tuesday night for a 7:00 p.m. matchup (ESPNU) and then to College Station, TX., for a match up with Texas A&M on Saturday for a 4:00 p.m. (ESPNU) tip off.
As of late Monday night, most betting shops had South Carolina at Georgia listed as a pick ’em.
The Gamecocks responded last week with a pair of home wins both straight up and ATS as they knocked off Mississippi State 84-74 on Tuesday night as an eight point favorite with the total of 158 registering over the Vegas line of 149. On Saturday, the Gamecocks avenged their first loss of the season by defeating Alabama 78-64 as a 9.5 point favorite. The combined 142 points again surpassed the total of 135.5 set at game time.
Entering the week, the Gamecocks are now 14-4 ATS overall with an ATS record in conference of 5-3 however, the team is just 2-2 ATS on the road and with both games this week away from home, it is something to keep an eye on. The over has now cashed in four of the last five games for the Gamecocks but in the four conference road games, the team has played under the total in three of them.
As of Sunday evening, the Gamecocks are projected to enter the week with an RPI of 28 (according to ESPN.com) with their strength of schedule checking in at 222. This week Frank Martin’s ball club should have their toughest week of games to date with road trips to Georgia who is currently rated 75th in the RPI and Texas A&M who is rated 12th.
Currently, the Gamecocks are 6-0 against teams with an RPI of 51-100 but have played just two games, both against Alabama, versus teams with an RPI inside the top 50. The Crimson Tide are clinging to that ranking though as they enter the week ranked right at 50. The games this week against the Bulldogs and Aggies will give the team an opportunity to improve both of their records.
Last week, senior Michael Carrera made a play for SEC and National Player of the Week with a 34-point, 15-rebound outing vs Mississippi State and followed that up with 20 points and 11 rebounds against Alabama. On the season, Carrera is shooting a career high 48 percent from the field while averaging a career high in points at 14.2 per game.
Keep a close eye this week on the Gamecocks turnovers and free throw shooting. Against the Bulldogs on Tuesday night, the Gamecocks committed 18 turnovers and shot just 65 percent (27-41) from the foul line. On Saturday, vs Alabama, the team did a better job of possessing the ball with 11 turnovers but again struggled from the foul line making 61 percent (28-46) from the foul line.
There is no major injury news to report at this time.
The Gamecocks will open the most difficult stretch of the season this week with a pair of road games at Georgia and Texas A&M. Next week, the Gamecocks return home but face LSU and Kentucky meaning this four game stretch could define the team’s seeding in the NCAA Tournament play. The good news is that playing this type of competition should drastically improve the teams’ strength of schedule while continuing to help their RPI.
Frank Martin lamented his team’s inability to possess the ball following their 18 turnover performance against Mississippi State and how it will eventually cost them a game. Both the Bulldogs and Aggies are quality programs that do not need extra help in the form of turnovers meaning that the Gamecocks trio of point guards, P.J. Dozier, Marcus Stroman and Sindarius Thornwell need to have solid performances in order for the team to go 1-1 which would be considered a good week.
Weekly ATS Notes:
Georgia will enter Tuesday night’s contest both 11-8 ATS and straight up. The Bulldogs currently hold a conference record of 4-4 straight up but have produced a solid 6-2 mark ATS. In home games at Stegeman Coliseum, Georgia is 3-1 both SU and ATS. Mark Fox’s ball club is coming off a match up against Baylor in the SEC/Big 12 challenge in which they lost 83-73 but covered the Vegas spread of +11.5 while the 156 total was over the number set at 138.5. During conference play, the over has hit six of the eight games.
Billy Kennedy’s Texas A&M ball club enters the week off a 72-62 victory over Iowa State in the SEC/Big 12 challenge. On the season, the Aggies are 18-3 overall but just 8-6-2 ATS including dropping their last two ATS in SEC conference play. Prior to a 74-71 setback on the road at Arkansas on January 27th, the Aggies had won three straight games by double digits covering two of them. During conference play, the ball club has 3-4-1 ATS mark and 2-2 ATS at home. The under has been the play in the last six Texas A&M games and in eight of the last 10 ball games.