The South Carolina Gamecocks come into the Ferrell Center this Tuesday afternoon as part of the national tip-off classic to official start off the 2013-2014 basketball seasons. This will be the Gamecocks first game so far this year, while the Baylor Bears are already 1-0 after their victory Friday night over Colorado. South Carolina finished a disappointing 14-18 last year and especially struggled in SEC play at 4-14 overall. While the Bears return most of their starting lineup, the Gamecocks will have quite a bit of turnover in Frank Martin's second year as coach.
The one area where the Gamecocks have an advantage is at point guard, where returning leading scorer Brenton Williams returns for his senior year. Averaging 11 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game, Williams is a combo guard that takes care of the ball but doesn't really take over as an assist man. In fact, they had no player with more than 3.1 assists per game. They were a below average assist per field goal team, with just 52.8% of their made baskets coming via an assist.
Michael Carrera is their other returning guard, and he is an all-around player. He is a beast on the board averaging 7.2 last year from his wing position, while also chipping in 9.9 points per game. Alongside him on the wing is 4-star recruit Sindarius Thornwell, a 6-5 shooting guard from Oak Hill Academy. The 5th ranked guard in the 2013 class, Thornwell is a tremendous shooter who can hit the long ball and also take it to the rack.
In the post, the Gamecocks start 4-star freshman Demetrius Henry from Florida, who is more of a power forward than a center at this point. At just 6-foot-9 and 210 pounds, he is rather light to be anchoring the post, but with the South Carolina front court being so undersized, that is the position he is being put in. Alongside him will be sophomore Mindaugas Kacinas, a rotation player from last year who played about 20 minutes per game and was one of their better rebounders and shot blockers last year.
Keys to the Game
1. Win the Glass – This is a very small South Carolina team, with their two starting posts at 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-9. They have good players in the wings, but just not the size needed to win the battle on the glass. Baylor should pound this team inside and take advantage of the large size advantage. Last year though. South Carolina was the 14th best offensive rebounding team in the country, though
2. Take advantage of youth – The Gamecocks will have 7 freshmen on the roster, with star recruit Sindarius Thornwell taking on a starting role along with center Demetrius Henry. Their other starters are two sophomores and a senior. This is a very young team for coach Frank Martin, and one that will probably get much better as the year moves on (especially when football player Bruce Ellington joins, and transfer Tyrone Johnson becomes eligible next semester). The Bears on the other hand are starting 2 seniors, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman with 3 returning as starters from last year.
3. Keep attacking – The Bears are always going to be a better team when they are attacking the paint, either off the dribble or by posting up. This was the case against Colorado in the opener. Kenny Chery holds the keys to this offense, and his aggressiveness (or lack thereof) will tell you a lot about how the Bears will look.
KenPom.com – 75-63 Baylor (89% chance for win)
Massey.com – 77-60 Baylor (92% chance for win)
BearsIllustrated.com – 78-62 Baylor
The Bears are the bigger, faster, and more experienced team in this one, making their home debut. With the Bears size advantage, this should be a game where they get a good lead in the first half and coast to an easy victory. Look for big games from the two Baylor starting post players as South Carolina simply cannot matchup with the size and skill of the Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson.