College Basketball Pick
South Carolina only has three losses on the year, plays in a major Conference and still isn’t ranked in the Top 25. Meanwhile, Kentucky has six losses and has been ranked the entire season. The Wildcats have had a more difficult Schedule, there’s no doubt about that, but ranking is mostly perception and that’s where Kentucky has the edge.
The Gamecocks don’t have very many quality wins on the year and that’s why no one expected them to win at Texas A&M over the weekend. However, they pulled out the huge win and now have another chance to defy expectations in a Game against Kentucky.
As for Kentucky, everything remains a question, as the Wildcats have been the opposite of consistent all year. They had great wins in non-Conference play, but also some bad losses. The same can be said in SEC play with losses to Auburn and Tennessee, but then they destroyed Florida on Saturday. If Kentucky plays the way they did Saturday in every Game, it’d be hard for most SEC teams to take them down. Can they bring that offensive prowess on the road against a team hungry for another big win?
The odds of that happening are slim as Jamal Murray isn’t going to go 8-of-10 from deep in every Game. Murray does lead the Wildcats in scoring with 18.3 points per Game, but he makes just under three treys per Game at a 39% clip, which is far from where he was at against Florida. And if Murray isn’t hitting all of his threes, they’ll need help from elsewhere.
Alex Poythress was day-to-day earlier in the week, but should be good to go for this Game. Tyler Ulis and Murray are great on the perimeter, and Poythress will be needed against the Gamecocks. Marcus Lee started against the Gators and fouled out in 26 minutes, despite Kentucky leading by double digits for most of the Game.
South Carolina has won via mostly balanced production, but an issue for Kentucky is that the Gamecocks have some of the best rebounding numbers in the nation. That starts with 6-6 forward Michael Carrera who leads the team in scoring (14.1 ppg) and rebounding (7.2 rpg). While they don’t exactly have a true big man down low, the Gamecocks do have size all around the perimeter and that could give Ulis some trouble on the offensive end.
The most important player for South Carolina is guard Sindarius Thornwell, who dropped 25 points, six boards and nine assists at Texas A&M. His length and size on the perimeter is a real issue and the same cam be said about freshman PJ Dozier. It wouldn’t be surprising if Frank Martin drew some plays up so they posted either Thornwell or Dozier up against Ulis down low.
South Carolina doesn’t blow out teams and that’s part of the reason they aren’t getting much respect. Still, the Gamecocks are undefeated at home this year and they’ll definitely put in a full effort to take down Kentucky. But what Kentucky team will show up? If Poythress can’t go, the Wildcats will struggle on the boards and even if he does play, it won’t be easy. No matter the case, expect a tight matchup with Kentucky the road favorite, mostly due to name.