NCAA March Madness Preview – South Carolina Gamecocks

South Carolina Gamecocks

SEC (22-10, 12-6)

 by Joel Welser

South Carolina nearly made the NCAA Tournament in 2016. They had to settle for another trip to the NIT instead of their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004. Coach Frank Martin did come into this season with some big holes to fill, but he is starting to build a winning culture in Columbia.

Big Wins: 11/23 Michigan (61-46), 1/4 at Georgia (67-61), 1/18 Florida (57-53)

Bad Losses: 12/21 Clemson (60-62), 12/30 at Memphis (54-70), 2/7 Alabama (86-90)

Coach: Frank Martin

Why They Can Surprise:

The winning mentality comes from aggressive, physical defense. This season the Gamecocks allow just 64.5 points per game. The opposition shoots just 39.6 percent from the floor and a dismal 29.2 percent from beyond the arc. Those are some impressive numbers, but the South Carolina defense is not just about forcing the opposition to take bad shots; it is also about not allowing them to get a shot off in the first place. Only a few teams in the country force more turnovers than South Carolina. Sindarius Thornwell is the team’s top defender, but the 6-5 guard does everything else too. On top of his team high 2.2 steals per game, Thornwell also averages 21.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Why They Can Disappoint:

PJ Dozier and Duane Notice join Thornwell in the backcourt and form a very good trio. All three are at least threats to shoot the long ball and are not afraid to attack the basket as well. Yet, this offense can be stagnant at times and the Gamecocks often have to rely on their defense to create easy offense. The team also takes a big step back when forward Chris Silva is not on the floor. Silva, a 6-9 sophomore, is the team’s most dangerous interior scorer and a solid shot blocker as well. However, he runs into a lot of foul trouble and the Gamecocks are a very different team when he is not on the floor. When the opposition attacks Silva and he is forced to the bench, South Carolina could be in trouble.

Probable Starters:

PJ Dozier, Sophomore, Guard, 13.6 ppg, 2.9 apg, 4.8 rpg

Duane Notice, Senior, Guard, 10.1 ppg, 2.3 apg

Sindarius Thornwell, Senior, Guard, 21.0 ppg, 2.8 apg, 7.2 rpg, 2.2 spg

Chris Silva, Sophomore, Forward, 9.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.3 bpg

Maik Kotsar, Freshman, Forward, 5.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg

Key Role Players:

Sedee Keita, Freshman, Forward, 1.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg

Justin McKie, Senior, Guard, 4.3 ppg, 1.3 apg

Rakym Felder, Freshman, Guard, 5.4 ppg, 1.3 apg

Hassani Gravett, Sophomore, Guard, 3.6 ppg, 1.5 apg

By the Numbers:

Scoring Offense: 72.7 (188th in nation, 9th in conference)

Scoring Defense: 64.5 (31, 1)

Field-Goal Percentage: 69.4 (196, 8)

Field-Goal Defense: 39.6 (18, 1)

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.8 (223, 7)

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.1 (222, 9)

Free-Throw Percentage: 69.4 (196, 8)

Rebound Margin: 1.4 (142, 7)

Assists Per Game: 12.8 (225, 9)

Turnovers Per Game: 13.5 (224, 9)

Recent Postseason Appearances:

2016    NIT      First Round win over High Point

2016    NIT      Second Round loss to Georgia Tech

2009    NIT      First Round loss to Davidson

2006    NIT      First Round win over Western Kentucky

2006    NIT      Second Round win over Florida State

2006    NIT      Quarterfinal win over Cincinnati

2006    NIT      Semifinal win over Louisville

2006    NIT      Final win over Michigan

2005    NIT      First Round win over Miami

2005    NIT      Second Round win over UNLV

2005    NIT      Quarterfinal win over Georgetown

2005    NIT      Semifinal win over Maryland

2005    NIT      Final win over St. Joseph’s

2004    NCAA Round of 64 loss to Memphis

2002    NIT      First Round win over Virginia

2002    NIT      Second Round win over UNLV

2002    NIT      Quarterfinal win over Ball State

2002    NIT      Semifinal win over Syracuse

2002    NIT      Final loss to Memphis

*all team stats through 3/5

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