Gunter: South Carolina weekly report
Published on Tuesday, 2/23/16, at 11:01 a.m. Eastern.
By William Gunter
Special to BE Sports
Editor’s note: William Gunter is the co-host of Reynolds & Gunter, a Fox Sports Radio show on 1400 AM in Columbia, South Carolina, from 3:00-6:00 p.m. Eastern (Monday-Friday). William is providing weekly content to BE Sports centered around the South Carolina Gamecocks and SEC hoops.
South Carolina (22-5; 9-5) enters the final two weeks of the season trailing league-leader Kentucky by one game and it has full control of its NCAA Tournament hopes. Last week, the Gamecocks suffereda big 72-67 setback on the road to Missouri as an eight-point favorite, with the total of 139 falling below the Vegas number of 144.5.
However, the Gamecocks returned home Saturday to pick up a big 73-69 overtime victory over Florida as two-point favorites, with the total of 142 falling just short of the Vegas number of 142.5. With the 1-1 week ATS, the Gamecocks are now 17-7 ATS on the season with an 8-6 ATS mark in conference play.
After three straight games of the total number going over the Vegas spread, both games last week went under moving the Gamecocks to an even 12-12 over/under record on the season.
This coming week Frank Martin’s ball club will look to avenge its earlier loss to Tennessee in Knoxville. On January 23rd, the Gamecocks dropped their first game of the season when the Volunteers defeated them 78-69 despite USC coming in as a 1.5 point road favorite. Tip off is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday night with television coverage by the SEC Network.
On Saturday, the Gamecocks will go for the season sweep of Ben Howland’s Mississippi State squad. The Gamecocks knocked off the Bulldogs back on January 26th by an 84-74 score as eight-point home favorites. The total of 158 surpassed the Vegas number of 149.
Despite going 1-1 last week straight up including the big victory over Florida on Saturday, the Gamecocks fell outside of the top 25 in both the AP and the Coaches Poll. However, the RPI numbers did not take a hit as the Gamecocks are still ranked 31st as of Monday night, with the strength of schedule improving by nine spots to 141.
Following the victory over the Gators, the Gamecocks are now 4-2 against RPI top 50 teams on the season. The early week projections by Joe Lunardi of ESPN has the Gamecocks as a No. 7 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, while Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com has Frank Martin’s club projected as a six seed.
Against the Gators on Saturday, Martin changed his starting lineup to go back with senior Laimonas Chatkevicius over freshman Chris Silva. Against Missouri, Chatkevicius played 19 minutes but made just 1-of-7 shots, grabbed three rebounds and fouled out. On Saturday, he bounced back by scoring 13 points on 6-of-16 shooting while grabbing five rebounds and dishing out three assists.
With the late tip-off time on Wednesday night against Tennessee, the depth of the Gamecocks could be tested. They have eight players averaging double-digit minutes on the season. However, in the OT victory over UF, just six players played more than five minutes with stalwarts Sindarius Thornwell playing 44 minutes and Michael Carrera getting 43 minutes of action.
Junior guard Duane Notice scored a season high 21 points off the bench in the loss to Missouri while playing 36 minutes. He again was on the court for 36 minutes against Florida but managed just five points on 2-of-5 shooting. Notice however has been strong from three point range of late connecting on 12-of-22 shots from deep in the last four ball games.
There is no major injury news to report at this time.
Barring a complete collapse that sees them not win another game, South Carolina locked up an NCAA Tournament bid on Saturday with the win over Florida. The question now becomes how they respond over the next four games and if they can continue to hold serve at home with two remaining contest at Colonial Life Arena.
South Carolina would need some help from Kentucky down the stretch but with the Gamecocks just one game out of first place, the opportunity for a regular season championship is still in play. However, for that to happen, Martin will need to get more out of his bench than he did on Saturday.
Freshmen P.J. Dozier must continue to provide a scoring punch while his freshman teammate, Chris Silva, has to add a physical presence down low to go along with rebounding support. Martin has been getting nice minutes of late from a third freshmen in Jamall Gregory who brings a different level of athletic ability to the court and helps rebound from the guard position.
Along with the freshman, the Gamecocks need junior guard Duane Notice to continue to play at a higher level. Of late, Notice has added a second shooting presence to the team to go alongside Michael Carrera.
The Gamecocks are 4-4 on the road this season and at times have struggled to shoot in the opponents’ gym. For this coming week to be a success, the Gamecocks need to go no worse than 1-1. However, if they would like to remain in the hunt for the SEC Regular Season Championship and a Thursday bye in the upcoming SEC Tournament, they likely need to go unbeaten this week.
Weekly ATS Notes:
Tennessee enters the game on Wednesday night with the reigning Player of the Week in 6-foot-4 guard Armani Moore. In the mid-week game against Kentucky, Moore scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and then backed that up with a 17 point, 10 rebound performance in the win over LSU on Saturday night.
The Volunteers enter the game 14-11-1 ATS on the season. Overall the Vols own a 13-14 straight up mark with a conference record of 6-8. Rick Barnes’ squad has covered three of its last four but has dropped four of the last five ATS on the road.
The Bulldogs enter the week 14-9 ATS but 7-4 at home. Overall, the team is 12-14 straight up with a 5-9 mark in conference placing them 12th in the 14 team league.
Ben Howland’s club is 7-7 ATS in conference play, but it has won three of its last four both straight up and ATS. The status of freshman guard Malik Newman is in question entering the week after suffering a back injury last week. The 6-foot-3 guard is averaging 12.3 points per game on the season along with three rebounds but did not play in Saturday’s win over Alabama.