Well, Saturday did not go as expected and Mizzou lost another conference game and we still sit at the bottom of the SEC, but as fortune would have it, we are facing the other worst team in the conference, South Carolina who sit one game ahead of us at 2-8. Because we only play the Cocks once this year, this game is for the Columbia trophy, so we have to win!
Presenting the South Carolina Game
location: the other Columbia, South Carolina
By HHKB Chris: The first thing you need to know about South Carolina is something you already know. They are coached by human volcano Frank Martin. You remember him from our Big 12 days when he was at Kansas State and after having a rift with his administration, he left the Big 12 right after we did and followed us to the SEC taking over the Gamecocks three years ago. This season that started out with so much progress has not really worked out and I'm sure Frank is ready to blow at any second.
Anyway, you know all about Frank and his murderball style of play, his favorite movie Dante's Peak, favorite city, Pompei, but what you don't know about (at least not in my way) the Gamecocks is their interesting history, starting with their mascot.
Much like many, many schools in the SEC, South Carolina has two mascots, a human in a plush outfit that smells like febreeze and despair and a live animal representation of their mascot. Let's touch on the living one first. A gamecock is a fighting rooster, basically a chicken with a bad temperament and he's named "Sir Big Spur." Well how do you do Sir? This scary chicken, aside from being mad, has a $10,000 "roller" which is basically a cart so he can follow the players onto the field without being trampled. Why he needs to do that I have no idea. Funny aside, this rooster is cared for by the Snelling Family of South Carolina, so if you have any questions about this bird, you should talk to Sam, since his family has been raising him and his rooster parents forever.
South Carolina's other mascot is the human in plush form and his name is Cocky! Cocky's only been around since the '80s because their previous mascot "Big Spur" was deemed too unwieldy and had to be retired. Before he was retired he had Cocky somehow and yeah, it gets really complicated. No one liked Cocky at first because he wasn't dignified enough, because the first thing I think about when it comes to mascots is dignified. Then he was a lady, then a man, then after two years people liked him. Poor, poor Cocky, he had to change himself for other people, that's not right South Carolina, not right at all!
Check out the former mascot, does he look dignified to you?
It's quite sordid isn't it? South Carolina also suffers from the worst Mascot tradition of having so many Cockys. There's Cocky, Lady Cocky, and little Cocky. Just pick one mascot, make it a-sexual and move on. I can't tell you how much this irritates me. This and basketball courts, I guess I need a hobby.
Anyway, they've got a ton of mascots, and they also have some famous fancy alumni! When thinking of South Carolina, you think Darius Rucker. Who? Sorry, you know him by his given name, Hootie. When you talk about Hootie with people that really dig his country music people get all upset because they like the Darius name, but sorry, the guy's name is HOOTIE. DEAL. WITH. IT.... FOREVER.
Also, the lovely Leeza Gibbons who was on Entertainment Tonight in the 80s and 90s went to South Carolina. On an episode of Seinfeld, Mary Hart's voice (who also was on Entertainment Tonight) caused Kramer to have seizures, too bad it wasn't Leeza. Leeza Gibbons is doing something else now, but I'm sure wherever she is, she's wondering what kind of name is Leeza.
Finally, we can wrap this section up with Ainsley Earhardt, she's a lady on Fox and Friends, but not the one they make fun of on SNL and that made me sad. That bit is quite amusing. Just look at this gif, that drunk uncle guy is hilarious....
As noted earlier, this game is in the other Columbia, the South Carolina one that does not have Shakespeare's, or Booches or Flat Branch. Nope, if you have to go to this Columbia to watch this game (hey, good fan job), head to the Flying Saucer, they apparently have many beers and it's not too loud and full of too many kids, because you know how young kids can be, with their Cock hats and all. But if you can't make the game because it's far and a Tuesday, well just watch it from home, it's on the SEC Network. Grab a beer, some chicken wings and let's win a trophy...and make Frank Martin freak out on an epic scale, like Hulk level.
About Their Basketball Team
By Sam Snelling: We know Frank Martin well. He murder-balled us to oblivion a few times while he was coaching Kansas State in our old Big 12 days, and Martin decided to follow Mizzou to the SEC. Things haven't been going great as he completely rehauled the Gamecocks program. He's one 14 games each of the last two seasons, and dangerously close to doing that again after have a pretty great non-conference start that included wins over Clemson, Okie Light and Iowa State.
The Gamecocks are a typical Frank Martin team, tough, physical and can't score (unless a highly ranked MIzzou team travels to the Octagon). They're led in the scoring category by Sindarius Thornwell at 11.4 ppg, but he only shoots 35% from the floor and 26.7% from 3. Next is Duane Notice at 11.0 ppg, and he shoots slightly better at 39.3% and 34.1% respectively. The Cocks typically go 9 deep, and nobody averages more minutes than Thornwell at 29.2.
Their frontcourt can struggle, the backcourt doesn't shoot well, but still if those shots start falling the Gamecocks can take just about anyone in the country, as evidenced by their win over Iowa State. They're still just on the outskirts of the top 50 of the KenPom rankings which means that they've been involved in some tough losses. And they have as almost all of the Gamecocks games have been close, except for the last two, and their game against Kentucky.
Now for a closer look at their basketball team, let's chat with somebody who knows them best...
Q&A With GARNET & BLACK ATTACK
As usual, we'd like to thank ChickenHoops at Garnet & Black Attack for answering our questions. ChickenHoops has been on the podcast, answered preview questions, and basically answers the bell every time we ask. He's awesome. So give him a follow.
RockMNation: With another rocky conference start, how does the basketball fan base view the hiring of Frank Martin to this point, and do you think he has the program trending up?
ChickenHoops: I think most people are still willing to give Frank the benefit of the doubt, if only because they somewhat realize just how good this team can be - the wins over Clemson, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State left no doubt about that. Plus, we signed PJ Dozier so we're bringing in a huge new talent, we've dealt with some injuries, and expectations here aren't too high. So people haven't freaked out just yet.
I think that's most people, and I think most people haven't realized just how good this team is this season. In our pre-season preview, I said that I thought this team was still a year away, and could be somewhere between 50th-75th in the nation. That's where we are, and we're at the high end, just with bad luck in close games. A team that finishes this year 50th or so, loses one piece, and brings in a five-star recruit? That's going to be a very good team in 2015-16. I'm excited to watch it.
RMN: What are the main problems that have caused the Gamecocks to slump since the start of conference play?
ChickenHoops: Our offense has gone from serviceable to disasterous. We've yet to put up a performance better than 1.04 points per possession in SEC games, and we didn't even win two of the four games where we cleared 1.00. It's one thing not to be very good on offense, it's another to be this bad.
Meanwhile, the defense wasn't quite as dominant as it had been - we only gave up over 1.00 ppp in any non-conference game (a home loss to Baylor) but went out and allowed that in each of our first six SEC games, as well as our last outing against Vandy. So the culprit is both sides of the basketball, but while the defense has never gotten really bad, we've had some truly horrid offensive performances in SEC play.
RMN: Who are the main guys that Mizzou fans need to know about and how can they be slowed or stopped to keep the Tigers in the game?
ChickenHoops: I understand why you premised your question this way, but this is looking at South Carolina basketball completely the wrong way. You can stop and slow down the Gamecocks on offense. The question becomes can you score enough points to beat us. It won't be easy.
Carolina tries to beat you the way Frank teams normally try to beat you - you won't score 2s. You can get to the line against us, and you can take 3s, but we're not going to give you 2s if we can stop it at all. And, we normally can, particularly now that Demetrius Henry has returned to the line-up after missing three games with concussion-like symptoms. We block 14% of twos, and that number holds up at 11.5% in SEC play.
On offense, we rely on the three-guard lineup of Duane Notice, Tyrone Johnson and Sindarius Thornwell, but none of them have been even decent offensively in SEC play. It's been a real grind on that side of the court, and while any of them could step up and bite you at a moment's notice, we've been waiting on that moment now for over half the conference season, and it really hasn't come.
RMN: With Missouri obviously struggling to stay in and win games, what do you see as a big key for the Tigers to change their fortunes, and how does South Carolina plan on attacking that key to prevent them from being close? And kind of piggy-backing on that, what does SC do well that you think Mizzou will have a hard time with?
ChickenHoops: Missouri turns the ball over a fair amount, and the correlation between our defensive turnover rate and our offensive efficiency is pretty damn high - +0.62. Basically, if we're forcing defensive turnovers, we're playing well on offense. If we're not, we're not.
So the Tigers can't give Carolina easy baskets, and that means protecting the ball on your own end of the court. If you miss shots, that's fine, just get back and defend. This can be a slow, grinding, horrible game that you can win. But if we're getting up and down because we're turning you over on your end, I don't think Missouri can score enough against our defense to come back from those easy buckets.
RMN: Finally, how do you see this game playing out? And what is going to be the final score?
ChickenHoops: If you have a friend and want to get that person to start watching college basketball, please do not start with this game.
I think Missouri doesn't have the strengths it needs to take advantage of Carolina's weaknesses. They can't really get to the line or make 3s (or do much of anything offensively), so the defense should swarm them. If and when that starts to include turnovers, the game will get away from them and they just won't be able to score enough to get it back - so I predict a 10-12 point Carolina victory, with the final margin basically coming from a 2-3 minute stretch where the Tigers lose their poise.
Put me down for 64-50, Gamecocks.
Thanks again to ChickenHoops, he's the man. Nothing more to say except that you should follow him.
If you are expecting this game to be a pretty one, then I need to introduce you to the Missouri Tigers and Frank Martin and the teams he typically puts on the floor. This game could potentially set back good basketball several years. But still somebody has to win, and why not our Tigers?
1) Points, no seriously...
This game should be a slog. It is really going to come down to who figures out how to score. SC's defense is better than Missouri's, but amazingly their offense is worse. If Missouri can somehow find a way to score points, even like they did vs. A&M, they'll have a good chance to even pull this game out. That's how bad SC is on offense. At the same time, if SC is hot and Thorwell and Notice are making jumpshots... Mizzou is in trouble.
2) Take Advantage of your slight advantage
SCs weakness is on the interior. Their bigs aren't very good. They do play physical, but this is a game that JW3 should be able to get inside and get offensive boards and get to the free throw line. Keanau Post could have a big game. Jakeenan Gant could even find success because he and Demetrious Henry are about the same size/weight. SCs guards are pretty good (even if they don't shoot well), but their bigs can be exploited. Exploit them.
3) Be Tough
Missouri has been at it's best when the guards are not just taking care of the ball but knocking down shots. Mizzou simply cannot turn the ball over in this game and expect to be close. If they handle the physical defensive pressure at the point, make strong rip throughts with the ball on the wing, and go to the rim from the block, there will be plenty of chances to sink free throws and get extra points at the line.
Frank Martin teams look to beat you up on D, and force you to take long jumpshots and give nothing up on the inside. Missouri is a team that works best when its getting some kind of penetration into the heart of the defense, two feet in the paint and then kicking it out. Not really an ideal matchup from that standpoint, but South Carolina is also very young and frankly quite bad on offense, which would seem a good matchup for Missouri. So which is it?
If you are a KenPom fan, this is a bad matchup for Mizzou. A 12 point loss according to Pomeroy. Yet both teams have hit proverbial walls here lately with 2 bad losses for each in a row, and Missouri's has stretched to 3. My fear in this game is that Missouri doesn't have the same fight early and into the second half that they've had against A&M and Bama, and that this could turn into an Ole Miss kind of rout. SC's offense is just bad enough that Mizzou should find a way to stay in the game, but then if those shots start going in, while Missouri's done... the Tigers will be in trouble. It would be nice to have Namon Wright and Montaque Gill-Caesar back in the lineup as I think both guys could help with the outside shooting, that remains to be seen.
I think the slog continues for our young Tigers. We'll have one inside guy have a good game (let's hope it's Johnathan Williams III), but Wes Clark and Keith Shamburger will find the sledding is tough and both will have rough games. In order for Mizzou to win, both Clark and Shamburger need to play well, and this matchup doesn't favor them. I'm predicting that one of those two plays well enough and sinks enough shots to keep the Tigers close for a while, but in the end it's not enough to overcome the home team, and the Tigers go down again. I predicted 67-59 over on the Q&A with Garnet&BlackAttack, which feels like I may have overestimated the offenses, so here I'll say something like: Gamecocks 61, Tigers 58.
So that's that. Leave your trifecta picks in the comments below, any game thoughts and predictions as well. For my trifecta? I'll go with JW3, Keanau Post and Shamburger. I feel dirty hanging my guy Clark out to dry like that, but c'est la vie.