Nothin' But Rhett: Basketball Analysis

Nothin' But Rhett is GamecockAnthem.com'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 analysis of USC's exciting win over Kentucky and disappointing loss from Vandy, as well as his preview of the upcoming all important contest with Tennessee.

How amazing is it that the Gamecocks have two of their biggest games in over a decade happen within a week's time. I'm talking about last week's win over Kentucky and this Thursday's game against Tennessee. It is so exciting to have games this late in the season with so much on the line, especially against the annual frontrunners for the SEC East crown.

Last week's dominant performance against Kentucky totally went against one of their weaknesses. I have been talking about it all year long, and that is a lack of inside play. The four-headed monster of Archie, Holmes, Muldrow, and Steed can play collectively with almost anyone in the country, especially the SEC.

They have definitely exceeded our expectations all year, and the biggest difference came when Sam Muldrow rejoined the team. His relentless attack against Patrick Patterson of Kentucky has given the Gamecock fans something to talk about for years. What made his performance so special is that it was against Kentucky , so now he is really becoming a Gamecock favorite. We also saw a change in the defensive scheme of things. They weren't trapping everywhere, they were just playing a straight-up hard nose man-to-man defense. The bigs fronted the post, only allowing a lob pass over the top. That's when the weakside defenders rotated over and came up with a historical 16 blocks on that night.

Now we come to the Vanderbilt game. We ran across a team that shot the lights out the ball that could have beaten anyone that night as well as they shot, similar to the way we shot against Kentucky. Vanderbilt had two guys that had career highs against us, Jerome Beal with 27 points, and Jekyll and Hyde performance of A.J. Ogilvy. He definitely caught our big guys off balance, attacking them from all over the floor. As a team we only shot 9 free throws compared to 35 attempted free throws from Vanderbilt, UNBELIEVABLE.

Now to the second biggest game of the year against Tennessee , they are facing a team that is very hard to scout for. They have been sporadic all year, and coming off an impressive win against Florida on Sunday, they will be ready on Thursday night to capture the lead for the SEC east crown. Tennessee is a team that doesn't shoot the ball well from the perimeter, but on the plus side they all can rebound and initiate their fast break offense. Their philosophy is similar to a Clemson style of play on defense. They want to get you in a hectic style of play so they can turn you over and get as many easy baskets as they can. The big plus for the Gamecocks is they should be used to playing against that style, and also we are at home, with an undefeated SEC record on the line at home and the garnet-army is in our favor. What a great job the garnet-army has done bringing a great college atmosphere and somewhat of an intimidating presence.

So our division title is on the line, and a strong possible win at Georgia , we once again can control our fate. With so much at stake with the division title, a possible bye in the first round of the SEC tournament, and trying to solidify a spot in the NCAA's, the pressure is truly there, but my question - are we prepared to handle it and are we ready to take these Gamecocks to another level?

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