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Bama Basketball Breakdown: #19 South Carolina

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The Tide host the undefeated Gamecocks in Tuscaloosa

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Two days after the Crimson Tide's football team knocked off an undefeated opponent from the the state of South Carolina, the basketball version of the Tide will look to do the same against an opponent from the Palmetto State.

Frank Martin has finally turned the South Carolina Gamecocks (15-0, 2-0 SEC) around, as they are surprisingly one of only two remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball. Martin's South Carolina squads have always been known for tough defense and strong rebounding, but the offense just hasn't been there. That's not been the case this year, as the Gamecocks rank 98th in the country in ORtg at 108.5.

The Gamecocks are one of the most experienced teams in college basketball, as they start four upperclassmen. Alabama's young team will need to bring their best effort Wednesday night if they hope to be the first team to hand the Gamecocks an 'L' this year.

The Roster

Starting Line-up

  • PG 6'5 Sindarius Thornwell (12.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.6 SPG)
  • OG 6'7 P.J. Dozier (7.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.9 APG,1.4 SPG)
  • WF 6'5 Michael Carrera (11.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.8 BPG)
  • PF 6'7 Mindaugas Kacinas (11.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG)
  • C 6'11 Laimonas Chatkevicius (10.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.1 BPG)
South Carolina is a big, physical team. Having a 6'5 point guard and a 6'7 off-guard is ridiculous. This team does a fantastic job of defending and rebounding the basketball. Thornwell has been the main guy on offense, as he leads the team in attempts and assists per game. With that being said, he's only shooting 37.3% from the floor and 31.7% from beyond the arc, so he's not the most efficient scorer. He does do a great job of conducting the offense though, and his quickness is tough to deal with when he is on the defensive end of the court (90.3 DRtg). Dozier is the one non-upperclassman in the starting line-up, as he has been an impact true freshmen for the Gamecocks. His length is tough as nails to get past (86.6 DRtg), and it also allows him to rebound at a decent rate (9.6% RB%) for a guard. His 41.1% FG% is solid, but he's struggled from the line thus far in his career (51.4%).

The South Carolina front court is the backbone of this team. Three seniors, each with tons of experience and size, have led the Gamecocks in this undefeated run.

Carrera, somehow still eligble to play, has continued to do what he has always done, which is play really good defense (87.6 DRtg) and rebound as if he were four inches taller (13.6% RB%). But this year he's really added to his offensive game, shooting 48.7% from the field and an extremely impressive 51.2% from beyond the arc. The two Lithuanians have continued to blend their European style backgrounds with Martin's hard-nosed, blue-collar approach with great success. They don't rebound extremely well (Kacinas: 9.7%, Chatkevicius: 11.4%), but they do enough. They are both shooting over 50.0% (Kacinas: 56.3%, Chatkevicius: 56.1%), and that's not just because they only play close to the basket. Both guys can step out away from the rim and knock down shots, which really stretches the floor.

The Bench
  • G 6'2 Duane Notice (11.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.9 SPG)
  • G 6'2 Marcus Stroman (3.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.7 SPG)
  • G 6'4 Justin McKie (1.7 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 1.0 APG)
  • F 6'9 Chris Silva (5.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.0 BPG)
  • F 6'10 Eric Cobb (1.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG)
The Gamecocks can go a full substitution deep, making them one of the deeper teams Alabama has played this season. It also allows the 'Cocks to be as physical as Martin wants them to be.

Notice is your prototypical scoring sixth man, as he is known to come into the game to create offense. He shoots 39.3% from the floor, which isn't great, but he can be very dangerous from outside (43.3% 3P%), and is not a guy you want to send to the line (81.5% FT%). Stroman and McKie are both guys with a good amount of quality experience, which is what a team wants in their rotation. Neither has done much offensively this year, but Stroman is shooting 50.0% from three in his few attempts, so he is capable. Silva and Cobb are both true freshmen who have really been big for the Gamecocks. Having two true post players ready to come in has allowed the starters in the frontcourt to play with less hesitation. Both are still pretty raw, but Silva's been awesome for a freshman back-up and they both can rebound extremely well (Silva: 19.0%, Cobb: 16.1%).

What to Watch For

  • Retin's Rise. Retin Obasohan has been huge for Alabama this season. The senior leader is coming off of three straight 20+ point performances, which the Tide have needed every bit of lately. Can Retin continue his hot streak? Alabama will probably need it against South Carolina.
  • Advanced Metrics. The numbers aren't particularly fond of Alabama this year, despite the Tide's relatively impressive resume. Ken Pomeroy currently has Alabama ranked 123rd in the country (12th in the SEC), and Sports Reference's Simple Rating System has Alabama listed at 3.72, compared to the Tide's 10.52 from a year ago. These numbers show that the Tide could be in for a long conference season, but hopefully the team will continue to find ways to win games. Avery Johnson's been coaching the heck out of this team.

Three Keys to Victory

  1. Don't Get Completely Destroyed on the Boards. South Carolina has a ton of length and a coach who is known for crashing the boards with authority. Alabama cannot afford to get blown away in the battle for rebounds like they did the other day against Kentucky. If Alabama can hang with South Carolina in this regard, the Tide will have a chance.
  2. Knock Down Some Threes. South Carolina is really good defensively, like top-ten good. Their 89.0 DRtg is literally 10th best in the country. The main reason why they are so good is that they stifle opponents inside of the arc. The Gamecocks are 8th in the country in both total two-point shots allowed and 2P%. Alabama is going to need guys like Arthur Edwards, Shannon Hale, and Justin Coleman to have good nights shooting from beyond the arc, because relying on Jimmie Taylor and Michael Kessens in the post or drives to the basket just isn't a good strategy versus this team.
  3. Win the Turnover Battle. The Gamecocks want to win the battle for possessions so that they can eat away the clock and suffocate teams with their halfcourt defense. Alabama is going to need all the offensive possessions they can get if they hope to score enough points to beat the Gamecocks, and they more than likely won't be getting a ton of those from rebounds. Also, a few breakaway steals would do wonders for this team.
The Crimson Tide will have yet another difficult challenge when the undefeated Gamecocks stride into town Wednesday night. South Carolina is beatable though, maybe a bit more so than their record would indicate. They aren't a team that has a ton of margin for error, so Alabama has a shot.

It's probably going to take a great shooting night, but Avery Johnson should have another good gameplan drawn up. It will all come down to execution. Does Alabama have the players (and the legs) to stun the unbeaten Gamecocks?

The game will tip-off at 8:00 PM CST and will be televised on the SEC Network.