Opponent: South Carolina Gamecocks
Date: Tuesday, March 2
Place: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, South Carolina
TV/Streaming: SEC Network
All-Time Series: Arkansas Leads 20-15
All-Time Series At South Carolina: South Carolina Leads 8-6
South Carolina Gamecocks 6-12 (4-10)
Frank Martin has had some underwhelming seasons at South Carolina, but 2020-21 is by far the worst.
This group of Gamecocks lacks a lot of the physicality and toughness that Frank Martin’s teams are known for. The roster just isn’t built the same way. South Carolina ranks 5th in adjusted tempo. They want to gets shots up quickly. Even faster than Arkansas!
In his tenure in Columbia, Martin’s teams have had a lot of size in the paint that employed that toughness. This team does not. In the South Carolina rotation, there is just one player listed taller than 6-7. That’s big man Wildens Leveque. He is 6-11 and 230. Yet, he isn’t the leading rebounder on this team. Justin Minaya leads the team in that category at 6.7 per game.
SC does have couple wing players are that are scoring machines. AJ Lawson and Keyshawn Bryant. The duo averages a combined 31.8 points per game. Bryant is great inside the 3 point line. He grabs boards at a high rate too. Lawson can score from anywhere on the floor including from range. He’s shooting 36.2% from 3 this season. Both players rebound and force turnovers with steals.
Where South Carolina really struggles is shooting the 3 as a team. They rank 266th in the country in 3-point percentage at 31.8%. Their 3-point defense is even worse. Opponents are shooting 36.1% from deep against South Carolina. Because their tempo is so fast, one has to wonder if that effects their shooting percentage. A team like South Carolina that lacks talent can’t afford to take a lot of rushed, ill-advised shots. No team has shot more 2s in SEC play than South Carolina, but SC shoots the 3rd lowest percentage. Not exactly a recipe for success. Then again, their lack of size and toughness makes it tough to play slower. The Gamecocks are just in a rough spot.
That fast pace has obviously given opponents more possessions. SC sends opponents to the FT at a very high rate. Frank Martin’s teams always foul at a high rate. They’re very consistent year to year in that.
Keys to a South Carolina win:
-Keep Arkansas off the glass.
-Make open 3s.
-Take care of the basketball.
#12 Arkansas Razorbacks 19-5 (11-4)
Arkansas comes into this game riding an incredible week. 2 convincing Quad 1 wins at home! The wins launched the Hogs up to #12 in the AP poll.
Much of the success Arkansas has found in this streak is the ability to get to the Free Throw line. Arkansas is first in SEC play in Free Throws Attempted at 22.6 per game. Musselman is always quick to mention the FTA stat in press conferences. He’s a big believer in that and it has trickled down to the play on the court.
The other reason this Arkansas team is streaking is the balance of the roster. You cannot just focus on one or two guys from a defensive perspective. There are plenty of guys that can score. When you add in the half-court sets that Eric Musselman has employed, it creates a very dangerous team.
These games this week are must wins for the Razorbacks. You cannot stumble headed into postseason play. We know the Hogs have locked in a NCAA Tournament berth. These matchups don’t do much for the resumé, but you can’t lose them. You hurt your seed line. Arkansas is solidly a 4 seed right now and may be a 3 seed. That’s an incredible opportunity for a Sweet 16 or more. The Hogs have to take care of business against South Carolina.
Here are the keys to an Arkansas win:
-Dominate the glass. Arkansas has a per game rebounding margin of +4.7 rebounds per game while South Carolina is -1.2 rebounds per game.
-Start the game well. Arkansas has had some sluggish starts in the middle of this winning streak. South Carolina can score the ball. You cannot start slow and the let the Gamecocks build a lead.
-Get to the free throw line. South Carolina fouls at a high rate. Arkansas gets fouled at a high rate. That’s a match made in heaven.
Arkansas has been extremely locked in. They haven’t overlooked any opponent in this streak. I don’t see them doing that now. South Carolina is a great matchup for Arkansas. They can score in bunches, but they don’t defend and they send teams to the free throw line a ton. Arkansas will stay aggressive and cruise to the win on Tuesday night.