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South Carolina

vs.

Baylor

Sweet 16

College Basketball

Pick

3/24/17

South Carolina pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament against Duke, but the Gamecocks still have a long way to go and are no longer playing in their home state. Baylor dealt with some adversity and is back in the Sweet 16 after a few years. The Bears opened as -3.5 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook for the game in Madison Square Garden.

Not many expected the Gamecocks to be in this position, especially after how they entered the tournament, losing six of their final nine games. In addition to that, three of those losses came against non-tourney teams, yet here we are. South Carolina has suddenly figured out how to score, averaging over 90 points in their first two games after just 73.1 ppg in the regular season. However, this game could prove to be much more difficult. For starters, Marquette and Duke are both average defensive teams at best, while Baylor is much better and was second in the Big 12 in efficiency.

After finishing the season with bad shooting percentages all around, South Carolina was still mediocre from three-point, but dominated in the paint in the first two games and got to the line a ton. Scott Drew will likely run multiple zones for Baylor to use in this game and that's not great for a South Carolina team that doesn't have consistent shooters. But in the first two games, the Gamecocks simply outworked their opponent and that will have to be the case again. Sindarius Thornwell is the obvious name to know after he scored 53 points combined in the two wins and is by far their most consistent player. The difference in those wins was that the other guys stepped up around him.

Rakym Felder, averaging just over 5 points per game, had 15 points in 21 minutes against Duke. PJ Dozier, Chris Silva and Duane Notice all scored in double digits in both tournament wins. The size of Silva along with Maik Kotsar will be key in this game going against one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. Johnathan Motley has the name recognition, but Baylor is a lot more than just him. Point guard Manu Lecomte went to a next level late in the USC win and if he brings that over to this game, the Bears will be tough to stop.

Yet the reason South Carolina is in this spot is because of its great defense. The Gamecocks held Duke's perimeter down last game and they are one of the best at forcing turnovers. Unfortunately for Baylor, it turns the ball over a ton. On the other end of that, if Baylor can hold onto the ball, South Carolina is a bad defensive rebounding team. And it's not only Motley down low for the Bears as Jo Lual-Acuil, Nuni Omot and Terry Maston can all have their way in the paint. The biggest thing could be the play of Maston, who has come out of nowhere to score 19 points in each of the first two wins.

But at the end of the day, this one could come down to how Baylor defends Thornwell. Ishmail Wainwright has the build to take on Thornwell, but with various zones expected, Thornwell could find success over guys like Al Freeman or Lecomte.

The Gamecocks have played like a different team in their two tournament wins, which makes them a harder team to trust. As for Baylor, it's a known what to expect. The Bears will attack with their bigs down low on offense and force South Carolina to make shots from outside on the other end. Then again, if South Carolina continues to play like it has been, then Baylor could have a tough time.

Our Pick - South Carolina +3.5

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