Nothin' But Rhett: Basketball Analysis

Nothin' But Rhett is's weekly column by former USC basketball player Joe Rhett, where he will share his expert insight and analysis on the Gamecock basketball team. Read inside for Rhett's sixth column, as he analyzes USC's last-second win over Alabama on Saturday and previews the Gamecocks' upcoming contest at Mississippi State.

OK, Gamecock Nation, let's answer a question. Contrary to last year, are we that lucky all of a sudden or has Darrin Horn and the new coaching staff really got this team believing it can win every game? Since I have been analyzing the games a little closer this year, I've been trying so hard to figure out exactly what the difference is, especially when we have the exact same team we had last year. The answer goes several ways; these guys are obviously a year better. They obviously have gotten tired of losing close games from last year and have learned from that experience. Also, they have bought into Coach Horn's system quickly, and his style certainly has fit some players and his system has made some players look better than usual.

In the Alabama game, once again we fought our way back in the game after a sluggish start. I know the week off was physically good for us, but with the way they have been playing lately, they were on a roll and enjoying basketball. The guys probably wish they can play everyday, but I think overall the week off almost cost us a win by getting out of rhythm. Defensively we still gave up way too many easy baskets. That last line of defense is not rotating right, nor are the guys rotating back fast enough to cut off the easy baskets. It was nice to see Brandis Raley-Ross step up and play well, even though starting shooting guard Zam Fredrick didn't have his best game. That's one of the nice things about this style of offense, if you're a guard and can shoot and put it on the floor, there are opportunities with this style if you stay committed and be aggressive.

We have certainly been on too many ends of the losing side where teams tip in or make last second shots against us. It was nice to see things fall our way for a change. Although that tip by Mike Holmes could have been called goaltending, that wasn't what was reviewable. At that point they could only review if he tipped it before the clock went to zero. In the past, it seems that call would have gone badly for us, so it is nice to see these guys fight and play until the end.

I see Coach Horn making an argument as to why some of the SEC teams, including South Carolina, aren't in the top 25. As of right now, I'm glad we are not in the top 25. If the Gamecocks go to Mississippi State and win and then come home and handle Arkansas, we may deserve a nod to be in the top 25. When facing Mississippi State our big guys are going to have a tough time against there big man Jarvis Varnado, who averages about 13 points and 9 rebounds per game. He also averages an astounding 4.9 blocks per game. Varnado not only tops the SEC in blocks, but is one of the best in the nation. Going against a shot blocker like that, we can't play below the rim. We are going to have to jump through him and play above the rim like I know we can or we are going to have a long night. We need as many easy baskets as we can get, especially on the road.

Mississippi State has lost their last two games against LSU and Auburn. Prior to that they had impressive wins against Kentucky and Arkansas, so they are another tough, well-coached team. However, if we stick to our game plan, we can pull out another road win and then bring it home to another sell-out, rocking crowd on Saturday against Arkansas.

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