First note: Adam Ford has done a tremendous job for us this year writing his previews and reviews for both basketball and football. Fortunately for him, he's just taken a new job and unfortunately for us, he won't be able to continue contributing to Arkansas Fight because of it. He's certainly been a great asset to this site and the door's certainly open if he ever wants to come back, but we offer our congratulations and wish him well.
Meet the Gamecocks
Record: 14-14, 5-11 (Currently 11th in the SEC) A lot of people expected South Carolina to be a sneaky-good team that could make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid when the season began, but that hasn't worked out. At one point they were 9-3 with wins over Iowa State, Clemson, and Oklahoma State, but then SEC games started and South Carolina blew like three tires.
KenPom, whose ratings are completely based on stats (which can be good or bad), rates South Carolina 72nd and gives them a 51% chance of winning tonight.
Players to Watch: SF Sindarious Thornwell and SG Duane Notice are their two best scorers, at 11 and 11.3 points per game respectively. PG Tyrone Johnson is just behind them at 9.9 per game.
What They've Been Up To Since We Last Met:
Arkansas beat South Carolina by 20 points in Bud Walton Arena back on February 3rd, and the Gamecocks are 3-4 since with wins over Missouri, Mississippi State and - astonishingly - at Georgia. They lost games at Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Alabama, and at home to Texas A&M.
How Should The Game Go?
The Gamecocks are not a good offensive team. They average 65.3 points per game, which ranks 235th in the nation. They don't have any players shooting better than 33% from three point range. South Carolina is next to last in the SEC in offensive efficiency at 94.2 points per 100 possessions in league play.
By comparison, Arkansas ranks near the top of the league in efficiency with 106.6 points per 100 possessions in SEC play. The two teams have defensive efficiency numbers much more similar, with Arkansas allowing 100.9 points and Carolina allowing 103.5
Those numbers suggest that if the Razorbacks show up offensively, they should be able to overpower the Gamecocks. Of course, we all know the Hogs are capable of playing on the road like they played at Mississippi State recently, where Arkansas is subpar but still finding ways to win.
In league play, the only offensive categories in which South Carolina ranks better than Arkansas are in offensive rebounding and free throw shooting. The Gamecocks' best chance at an upset are if the officials call one of those extremely tight contests with lots of whistles.
South Carolina tends not to turn the ball over too often, but did so 20 times against the Hogs in Fayetteville. With this game in Columbia on Senior Night I don't expect the Gamecocks to be that loose with the ball again.
The Gamecocks are dead last in the league in both 3PT% and 2PT%. Arkansas has certainly not been the best defensive team this season but has shown that side of them on occasion. They could certainly make things difficult for South Carolina on the offensive end tonight, and even if they don't, South Carolina may not be able to take advantage unless one or two players get hot.
Keys to the Game:
Shoot free throws well: South Carolina sends their opponents to the line a lot. More than anyone else in the league. It's obviously important for the Hogs to convert there. By contrast, free throw shooting is also Carolina's best way to score. They've made 75% of their free throws in league play, good for 2nd in the SEC. Keep them off the line.
Rebounding: This is one of the few areas in which the Gamecocks are consistently decent in league play. The Hogs are prone to bad rebounding nights, but if they can prevent easy baskets via offensive rebounds, they should be able to effectively limit how many points South Carolina can score.
No easy baskets: This is sort of along the lines of rebounding. Carolina is the worst shooting team in the league, so if Arkansas can bring it's defensive intensity on the road, don't expect the Gamecocks to put up a lot of points. By contrast, if Arkansas' shooters show up, the Hogs could outscore them somewhat easily.
What's at stake:
Arkansas is playing for momentum and NCAA Tournament seeding at this point. Texas A&M and LSU both lost already this week, meaning the Razorbacks have locked up the 2-seed in next week's SEC Tournament. The latest NCAA Tournament projections have Arkansas largely as a 4/5-seed. How the Hogs close the season will have a major impact on what seed they get, what site they go to, and what type of opponents they end up facing.
The record books: Ky Madden moved up to 32nd on Arkansas' all time scoring list after the Kentucky game with 1,049 points, passing Eric Ferguson. Michael Washington is next at 1,065 points. He's also now 6th on Arkansas' all time assist list with 342 after passing Alvin Robertson. Ron Huery is next at 351.