Gunter: USC faces Mizzou and UF this week
Published on Tuesday, 2/16/16, at 10:34 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 Weekly Preview:
South Carolina (21-4; 8-4) is coming off a big home stand in which it may have solidified its NCAA Tournament chances by defeating LSU on Wednesday night 94-83 as a 4.5 point favorite. The Gamecocks did suffer a tough 89-62 defeat to Kentucky on Saturday afternoon as a two-point underdog. However, by defeating the Tigers during the mid-week contest, the Gamecocks picked up a key league victory to add to the resume coming Selection Sunday.
Since opening the season 15-0 straight up and 11-1 ATS, the Gamecocks have gone 6-4 SU with a 5-5 mark ATS. Vegas appears to be giving a little too much credit to the defensive side of the game when the Gamecocks take the court, as the over has been the posted winner in seven of the last nine games, including three straight.
This coming week Frank Martin’s ball club will travel to Missouri tonight (7:00 p.m. SEC Network) as a 6.5-point favorite. Then it will return home to face Florida on Saturday (12:00 p.m. SEC Network). The Gamecocks are 4-3 ATS on the road this season but covered their last outing, an 81-78 victory in College Station, TX., against the Aggies as 9.5 point underdogs. At Colonial Life Arena, the Gamecocks have posted a stellar 8-3 ATS mark with an impressive 13-1 straight up record.
South Carolina dropped three spots this week in the coaches poll, falling to 23th while not making the top 25 in the AP Poll. Currently, the Gamecocks are projected as a seven seed by Joe Lunardi of ESPN, while Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com has them checking in with a six seed in the opening round.
After the win over LSU last week helped improve the Gamecocks overall strength of schedule to 150 while helping improve the RPI ranking to 26 (as of Monday night). Martin’s team will get another opportunity for a resume-building win on Saturday against Florida as they entered this week ranked 31st in the RPI. A win over the Gators would give the Gamecocks their fourth win over a top 50 opponent on the season improving their record to 4-2.
Michael Carrera scored double digits in both games last week to run his streak of scoring 10 or more points to eight straight games. During that streak, Carrera is averaging 20.9 points per game and has connected on 16-of-30 from three point range.
Gamecock starting point guard, freshman P.J. Dozier is shooting just 19 percent from three point range this season (7-of-37) and 53 percent from the foul line (32-of-61).
There is no major injury news to report at this time.
Two weeks ago, I believed the Gamecocks needed to go 2-2 against a four game stretch that included games on the road against Georgia and Texas A&M, followed by home games vs LSU and Kentucky. After Saturday’s loss to the Wildcats, the mission was accomplished. While that did not lock the Gamecocks into the NCAA Tournament, it made the final six games less critical for dancing but more important for seeding.
Granted, the Gamecocks can’t lose all of their remaining games and still make the Big Dance but a 2-4 finish likely gets them in. However, one of those wins needs to come on Tuesday night when they travel to lowly Missouri for a road contest. The Tigers are currently dead last in the league in the RPI Rankings among SEC squads, sitting at No. 194 with a 9-16 overall record.
While no game is considered a “must win” ball game this is one that the Gamecocks can ill-afford to lose in the event that they struggle down the stretch. Having a loss to the Tigers on Selection Sunday will be a detriment to the resume and something that could cost them if compared to other bubble teams.
On the other hand, Saturday’s home game against Florida once again provides the opportunity to enhance their seeding (provided they beat Missouri). The Gators will enter fourth in the league in RPI at No. 31 overall after falling six spots following Saturday’s home loss to Alabama. The Gators have dropped 2-of-3 recently and go on the road to Georgia tonight in a pick ’em matchup.
Senior wing Michael Carrera has been fantastic for the Gamecocks of late but has gotten help from junior Sindarius Thornwell. Prior to the game against the Wildcats, Thornwell had been tough to stop pouring in 25 points with nine assists and six rebounds against Texas A&M and following that up with 24 points six rebounds and five assists against LSU.
For the Gamecocks to continue to be successful in the weeks ahead, the duo of Carrera and Thornwell have to be the leaders of the ball club while sixth man Duane Notice adds another dimension off the bench. Last week against the Tigers and Wildcats, the junior guard was 6-of-11 from three point range and averaged 12.5 points.
Weekly ATS Notes:
Missouri is playing out the string of a rough season that has it currently sitting 9-16 overall, but it has produced a 12-8-2 mark ATS this season. The Tigers athletic department imposed a self sanctioned ban from the SEC and NCAA Tournament this season back on January 14th.Since then, the Tigers have lost eight of their last nine straight up but have gone 5-3-1 ATS including covering their last three games with a straight up win at home Saturday over Tennessee.
The over has hit in four of the last six Tiger games, although the win over the Volunteers saw the ‘under’ hit (148).
In its first season under Mike White, Florida is 16-9 straight up heading into the week. The Gators are just 12-10-1 ATS this season including a 5-3 ATS mark on the road, but they have won three of their last four ATS when leaving the friendly confines of Gainesville.
Senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has been a consistent force for the Gators, posting 12 straight games of double-digit scoring to go along with six double-doubles this season. In his last outing against Alabama on Saturday, Finney-Smith struggled from the field and finished with only 12 points in a 61-55 loss.
The under has hit in just two of the eight road games with a Vegas number so far this season including the previous two games.