Throughout non-conference play, the Spartans played some very good basketball and posted a record of 12-4, with big wins at Georgia Tech and against Mississippi State on a neutral court. They had a pair of close games at Memphis and Maryland, where they had the chance to pull off a couple more upsets. Although they fell short, the nation took notice - with many experts vaulting them over the Eagles as the favorite for the Atlantic Sun’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In conference play, however, Upstate has struggled early. The Spartans are 1-2 in the Atlantic Sun with a two point win over lowly Kennesaw State and a pair of single digit losses to Lipscomb and Northern Kentucky. Even though they are already multiple games out of first, the Spartans have shown the pedigree to beat good teams and will be in the running for the conference championship right up until the very end.
USC Upstate’s game is predicated around a very solid defense, which is 34th in the nation in points allowed (60.2). This is thanks in large part to their ability to defend the three at an elite level, holding opponents to a meager 28.8% behind the arc (19th in the nation). On the offensive side of the ball, Upstate doesn’t hurt themselves; Spartans turn it over an average of 10.6 times a game, which again is ranked in the top twenty in the nation. In a classic mid-major way, the Spartans live and die by the three, averaging over 22 taken a game. When these shots don’t go down, it spells trouble for Upstate. In four of their six losses, they failed to shoot 35% from behind the arc. This bodes well for the Eagles who are not slouches when it comes to defending the three in their own right, holding opponents to an almost identical 28.5%.
The Spartans of Upstate are led by a two prong attack at guard with seniors Ty Greene and Fred Miller. The two combine for over 30 of Upstate’s 70 points per game. Both Greene and Miller are not only scoring guards, but can also help the team in many different ways including rebounding and dishing the ball. They average a combined 7.4 rebounds a game and 6.3 assists per game. The pair also leads the Spartans on defense, with both players averaging over two steals a game. They certainly make life difficult on opposing guards trying to run the offense.