Gunter: Gamecocks poised to host LSU, then UK
Published on Wednesday, 2/10/16, at 8:25 a.m. Eastern.
By William Gunter
Special to BrianEdwardsSports.com
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 (20-3; 7-3) returns home for a pair of games against SEC heavyweights LSU and Kentucky this week in ball games that will have a major impact on the SEC race. The Gamecocks will host Ben Simmons and the Tigers tonight in a 7:00 p.m. tilt (ESPN2) before the Wildcats arrive on Saturday for a 12:00 p.m. (ESPN) tip off.
As of early this morning, most betting shops had USC installed as a four-point favorite with a total of 152 points. The Tigers were +155 on the money line (risk $100 to win $155).
The Gamecocks went 1-1 last week as they split a pair of road games, falling at Georgia in the mid-week contest 69-56 as 1.5-point favorites with the total of 125 coming in below the Vegas line of 141.5. Frank Martin’s club responded on Saturday afternoon, however, for its first road victory over a top ten ball club since 2006. USC defeated Texas A&M by a score of 81-78 despite being a 9.5-point underdog. The total of 159 went over the Vegas number of 141.5 points, giving the Gamecocks their third contest going over the number in their last four.
Entering the week, the Gamecocks are now 15-5 ATS overall with an ATS record in conference of 6-4. Both games this week are in Columbia, where the team has been very strong ATS, posting a 7-2 mark including 3-1 ATS in conference games. The over seems to be a popular call lately in games featuring the Gamecocks with it now cashing in five of the last seven games.
South Carolina enters the week ranked 20th in the coaches poll. However, after their 1-1 road trip, the Gamecocks fell out of the AP Poll. The team did pick up a massive NCAA Tournament resume victory last week with its road win against the Aggies, which gave it a first win of the season against a team with an RPI inside the top 50.
This week presents another opportunity to gain a top 50 win as Kentucky rolls into town on Saturday afternoon for an SEC showdown. The other game against LSU will provide an opportunity to add a win against a top 100 opponent.
The Gamecocks are currently 26th in the RPI with a strength of schedule of 194 but with games against the Tigers and Wildcats this week, the SOS is likely to rise a little more which will also help the team’s RPI.
Lately there has been discussion of the RPI not mattering as much to the NCAA Tournament committee with more weight being given to the Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings (Kenpom.com). Despite their 20-3 record, Kenpom.com has the Gamecocks checking in at 44 on Monday night. While it may not mean much, it is another system worth keeping an eye on.
The Gamecocks received back to back strong performances last week from junior wing Sindarius Thornwell. In the loss to Georgia, the 6-foot-5 Gamecock produced 18 points and 11 rebounds and then followed that up Saturday with potentially the best game of his career. In the win over Texas A&M, Thornwell scored 25 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out nine assists as he also connected on 4-of-8 shots from three point range.
There is no major injury news to report at this time.
Frank Martin’s ball club now enters the month of February firmly involved in the race for the SEC Regular season championship. On Wednesday when they host LSU, the game will actually be for a share of first place in the league which does not have divisions anymore.
In the article last week, I mentioned that the Gamecocks needed to go 1-1 in their road trips to Georgia and Texas A&M. That once again has to be the bare minimum this week, but a 2-0 week will lock them into the NCAA Tournament and likely move their projected seeding into the top six.
With eight games remaining before the SEC Tournament in Nashville and five of those coming at Colonial Life Arena, the Gamecocks are poised to finish strong and be a legit contender to claim the league title. For that to happen, Thornwell must continue his hot play of late while senior combo forward Michael Carrera gives the team a second scorer.
The Gamecocks will need to get more production from their post players, as seniors Laimonas Chatkevicius and Minda Kacinas need to raise their level of play a little as freshmen Chris Silva has found himself in foul trouble the last four games.
Once again this week, the key will be taking care of the ball while also converting from the foul line. The Gamecocks have yet to lose a game due to their poor performances from the line but should it continue, it is hard to envision it not costing them a close game at least once.
Weekly ATS Notes:
LSU will enter Wednesday night’s contest 15-8 straight up and 8-2 in league play placing them at the top of the conference standings. The Tigers have covered their last three games including one road game at Auburn as 5.5 point favorites. However, they are just 8-12 overall ATS and more importantly are 2-5 ATS on the road this season. In conference play, the Tigers are just 1-3 ATS on the road.
John Calipari’s ball club enters the week with a 17-6 overall record and a 7-3 conference mark placing them tied for second. The Wildcats have struggled this season ATS, posting just a 10-13 mark overall with a 6-4 ATS record in conference. On the road this season, Kentucky is 2-5 ATS including its last road outing against Tennessee, a straight up 84-77 defeat as an eight point favorite.
The over had posted in the last three games for the Wildcats prior to Saturday’s victory over Florida in Lexington, KY., in which the 80-61 score fell just under the Vegas number of 143.5.