Tonight, the Friars get the privilege of kicking off this year’s BIG EAST / SEC Challenge. Luckily, Providence has drawn a reasonable opponent (good luck with Kentucky, St. John’s!) in the South Carolina Gamecocks, albeit on their home court. The Gamecocks had to face the Tarheels already and obviously lost that one, but a road loss to Elon and a home one to Tennessee State shows they are indeed struggling to start the season. They also dropped 9 of their last 10 games last season and haven’t made the Tournament since 2004. Sound familiar?
Before our conference officially crumbles, let’s help them beat one of the conferences responsible for all this realignment mess. Beat the SEC!
WHAT TO: KNOW
Game Time: 7:00PM EST
Opponent: South Carolina (2-4)
Location: Colonial Center
Spread: South Carolina -7
ESPN Accuscore: South Carolina 68.2, Providence 66 (South Carolina wins 53.6% in 10,000 simulations)
CBSSports Daily Picks: South Carolina 74, Providence 66
Hit up the rest of the preview after the jump.
WHAT TO: LOOK FOR
The Gamecocks like it slow: Aside from the North Carolina loss, South Carolina has played in some pretty slow paced games. While the Friars looked better in the half court sets at times against Holy Cross, they are still obviously better out in the open court (hello Gerard Coleman!). South Carolina is most likely going to try to stop that — they come into the game with a 65.9 adjusted tempo, which is ranked #256 in the country. Their sophomore point guard Bruce Ellington (who made the SEC All-Freshman team last year) would have helped them keep up with a faster pace, but he has been busy catching passes for their football team. Ellington has joined the team, but won’t play until this weekend.
Threes will be tempting: South Carolina opponents this year are actually shooting better at threes (44%) than they are at twos (42.9%). That hasn’t really been the Friars usual source of points (they only get 16.3% of their scoring from threes, ranked #332 in the nation), but if they are getting open looks Bryce Cotton can do some damage. As Ed Cooley screamed throughout the Dunk during Holy Cross game…”BRYCE SHOOT THE BALL!!”.
Bloc Party: Vincent Council and Bryce Cotton should be careful when they attempt their little floaters in the lane. The Gamecocks have a 10.7% block percentage, which is ranked #22 in the country so far. 6-9 forward Domontre Harris leads the team with 8, and 6-6 forward Malik Cook is right behind with 7.
Brian Richardson will make 7-10 threes: The Gamecock guard went a decent 41-122 (33.6%) from behind the arc as a freshman last year. This year Richardson has a Starksian 5-28 (17.9%) three-point percentage in 18 minutes per game. He did seem to snap out of the early funk and hit 4-7 in his last game against USC. Odds he drills even more threes and has a career night?
WHAT TO: READ
Friars.com: Gamenotes [PDF]
USC enters the game with a 2-4 record. In its most recent game, USC was defeated by Southern Cal, 63-60, on November 26 in Las Vegas, Nev. Senior forward Malik Cooke leads the team in scoring, averaging 11.5 points per game. Sophomore forwards RJ Slawson and Damontre Harris lead the team in rebounding. Each player is averaging 5.3 boards per game.
GamecocksOnline.com: Men’s Hoops Hosts Providence In Big East/SEC Challenge Thursday
Not including the loss to then-No. 1 North Carolina, the Gamecocks’ other three losses have come by a combined nine points.
Beginning Thursday night, the two conferences will pit their basketball teams against one another in the first season of an expanded Big East-SEC Challenge. The two leagues were brought together by ESPN four years ago and the network sponsored two doubleheaders involving four teams from each conference.
Based largely on the success of an event it televises that pits ACC and Big Ten teams against each other, ESPN helped orchestrate an expansion of the Big East/ SEC event. It now involves 12 teams from each conference and moves to campus arenas. Six games will take place in Big East arenas and six at SEC sites.
PROVIDENCE AT SOUTH CAROLINA
Why To Watch: Both teams need a win. In a year where Providence and South Carolina figure to be at the bottom of the Big East and the SEC, any chance for a victory is one that should be seized.
Don’t Be Surprised If: The Friars guards dominate. Ed Cooley still has serious question marks in the paint but his perimeter trio of Vincent Council, Gerard Coleman, and Bryce Cotton can be a load to handle if all three are in unison.
Likely Result: Council continues to show why he’s one of the better floor generals in his conference the Friars earn a win on the road.
South Carolina: Darrin Horn looked like a smart hire three years ago, but the Gamecocks are still looking for difference-making players. The teams’ best, Bruce Ellington, is spending the fall getting banged up on the football team. Freshman shooting guard Damien Leonard will be a key.
Busting Brackets: Darrin Horn’s Seat is Heating Up Rather Quickly at South Carolina
In our first college basketball roundtable of the season, we made our picks as to what coaches could be on the hot seat entering the season.
My choice was Darrin Horn at South Carolina.
And unfortunately, the concerns for Horn may have been warranted considering that the Gamecocks lost at home by a point tonight to Tennessee State.
That’s not good in and of itself. However, also add in the fact that South Carolina trailed by 22 in the game and were coming off of a 58-53 loss to Elon, and Horn has found himself in dangerous territory.
For an SEC school that has to compete with the likes of Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida, and Alabama, losses to teams in the Ohio Valley Conference and Southern Conference isn’t encouraging.
Sports Network: Providence (5-2) at South Carolina (2-4) (ET)
Although South Carolina has the obvious advantage of playing this game at home, give the edge to Providence. The Friars are clearly a better offensive team than the Gamecocks.
Casual Hoya: Breaking Down the Big East/SEC Challenge
Providence @ South Carolina 7pm ESPNU
Yeesh this is an ugly match-up. Neither team is expected to be very good and will be struggling to stay out of the last spot in their respective conferences. Providence has the better record, and the home court advantage didn’t previously help the Gamecocks when they lost to Tennessee State (South Carolina also lost @ Elon), so Providence has a good chance to go in to Columbia and get a win.
Darrin Horn knew the South Carolina job would be challenging, and in his three seasons, he’s been faced with all manner of challenges. The latest is adjusting without his starting point guard for half the season.
Another problem is finding some scoring punch. Three newcomers will help put up more points, but Horn will have to figure out how to play without Ellington and then play with him once he returns. The timing for the latter won’t be good — if the South Carolina football team is as good as the experts think, Ellington won’t be back in basketball shape until a couple of weeks into SEC play.
Horn is slowly putting together the ingredients of a team that can compete for an upper-division finish, but it probably won’t be this season. The league is top heavy with strong teams (Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Alabama) and has several mid-level teams that are evenly matched.
WHAT TO: WATCH
Men’s Basketball vs. Mississippi Valley State Highlights
Elon Men’s Basketball upsets South Carolina 58-53 at Alumni Gym! Great win for the Phoenix!
Highlights: Men’s Basketball Season Opening Win Over Western Carolina
South Carolina Men’s Basketball Intro
Highlights: Men’s Basketball Win Over Kentucky Wesleyan
WHERE TO: FOLLOW
Twitter.com: I’ll probably be live tweeting the game @friarblog. Also be sure to follow the #pcbb hashtag as always.
WHERE TO: WATCH
WHERE TO: LISTEN
WEEI 103.7 FM