Better Know An Opponent: Appalachian State

With the exam break over and South Carolina coming off one of its best performances of the season, the Gamecocks are back in action this evening at the odd start time of 5pm.  This allows for the men to step aside and make way for the ladies as they take on #1 Stanford at 7:30pm.

I would do a preview of that game (no really, I would) except time got away from me over the last few days, and so even this one will be a bit rushed.  This is the second game in a run of opponents that could genuinely bear out a nice little run for South Carolina, giving the team a chance to improve without suffering defeats as they head into the teeth of the conference schedule.  With Manhattan, PC, S.C. State, Mississippi State, Auburn, LSU, and Vanderbilt on the horizon, there’s no games against top 100 competition between now and January 22nd, when the Gamecocks head to Columbia West to take on Missouri.  These represent a lot of chances to improve our team and our record, and South Carolina can take one of those chances tonight.

That said, let’s meet the Mountaineers.

The Four Factors

USC O ASU D ASU O USC D
eFG 52.2 (53) 55.5 (330) 49.3 (134) 50.0 (221)
TO%  26.9 (338) 17.6 (299) 20.6 (167) 18.6 (267)
OReb% 45.1 (4) 32.3 (174) 31.9 (173) 30.3 (116)
FTR  41.2 (73) 37.8 (205) 37.4 (131) 41.3 (254)

Appalachian State is not a very good basketball team.  As of now, they have two wins in their pocket that bookend their season – a 86-54 shellacking of non-Division I Montreat, and an 81-71 road win in their last outing against a putrid UMKC squad.  In between?  Losses to such stellar competition as High Point, Campbell, East Carolina, and Western Carolina, a who’s who of collegiate basketball programs in North Carolina that aren’t on Tobacco Road.  Hell, they’re so bad Wake could beat these guys.

While not particularly good on either side of the ball, the Mountaineers are losing because they are porous defensively.  We’ve learned lately that it’s difficult for a team to effect the opponent’s 3PA% against them, but that’s not ASU’s problem – they’re letting teams shoot 57.7% against them from 2PA (4th from last in the country).  If you can go get 1.15 points per shot on 2s, you’re going to have an easy evening unless you turn it over a bunch or clang a ton of 3s or FTs.  South Carolina has a coach that loves getting in the lane and taking those 2PAs (and making 51.3% of them, 61st in the country), so this seems a place the Gamecocks will make out just fine.

The Mountaineers other big weakness is that they don’t force turnovers, so you’re going to get to take those 2PAs.  They aren’t exceptional anywhere else to make up for these deficiencies – and these are major deficiencies – so the Gamecocks should come out and have their best offensive performance of the season if all goes well.  South Carolina continues to do great work on the offensive glass, which should only lead to more 2PAs and more baskets.  The worst a D-1 team has done offensively against App. State this season is 0.994 points per possession (Duquense, who squeaked past the ‘Eeers by 1), so expect tons of points from the Gamecocks.

On the other side of the ball, it’s relative strength against weakness.  While the Mountaineers have two fatal flaws defensively, the Gamecocks simply lack any strengths.  Fortuitously, App. State doesn’t really bring any to this game either.  The ‘Eers don’t shoot a lot of 3PAs (though they make the ones they do, hitting 37.8%), so it seems likely that they won’t be able to get hot and beat South Carolina on a streak of good fortune.  Their inside game is far weaker, with a 46.3% shooting from 2PA.  While the Gamecocks don’t defend that area particularly well, they should be able to do a good enough job to prevent App. State from going ham inside.  They don’t bring in anyone over 6’8″ getting substantial minutes (though 7-footer Brian Okam may see the floor), so South Carolina shouldn’t have to worry too much about being undersized.

Personnel

App. State

Min.
%Poss
OR%
DR%
ARate
TORate
Blk%
FT%
2P%
3P%
Jay Canty
86.7
28.7
6.5
15.9
20.0
21.2
1.2
77%
50%
24%
Nathan Healy
79.7
17.3
5.5
15.9
8.7
19.1
4.8
87%
62%
45%
Tab Hamilton
75.3
18.6
2.1
9.1
10.5
12.2
0.7
75%
39%
45%
Jamaal Trice
71.9
19.4
1.7
8.6
11.9
24.5
0.8
74%
26%
40%
Michael Obacha
48.3
15.0
11.0
13.5
3.0
19.3
0.6
46%
50%
0%
Chris Burgess
47.8
16.2
1.3
7.2
16.6
38.0
0.0
100%
46%
27%
Tevin Baskin
40.3
23.8
8.5
20.5
2.9
17.8
2.7
61%
49%
33%
Brian Okam
14.4
14.0
6.5
16.7
0.0
22.9
3.7
40%
40%
0%
Tommy Spagnolo
12.5
12.0
10.0
30.2
7.4
41.4
0.0
0%
33%
0%

App. State will likely have three of the four main guys on the floor at all times: Canty, Healy, Hamilton, and Trice.  They rotate through Baskin, Burgess, and Obacha otherwise (Obacha is the fifth starter).

From those four, the scorers are Canty, Healy, and Hamilton.  Healy really gets it done inside, and I’m not sure we have anyone that can match up with him down low to prevent easy points in the paint (that’s killed us against teams with strong forward play).  The main guy who hands out assists is Canty also, so he’ll also be a key focus of our defensive personnel.  App. State doesn’t bring a lot of rebounding prowess to this game, but offensively they have a few weapons, and should give the weak Gamecock defense some issues.

South Carolina

Min.
%Poss
OR%
DR%
ARate
TORate
Blk%
FT%
2P%
3P%
Lakeem Jackson
79.5
16.8
11.4
17.1
15.1
29.5
2.5
38%
61%
0%
Eric Smith
65.1
18.9
2.1
7.3
23.6
30.8
0.4
68%
36%
28%
Mindaugas Kacinas
63.8
17.0
12.1
12.9
6.6
31.9
3.5
66%
68%
38%
Brenton Williams
54.9
22.5
2.5
8.6
11.3
22.9
1.0
90%
63%
47%
LaShay Page
53.8
23.2
2.6
14.1
8.6
16.4
0.5
85%
41%
33%
Brian Richardson
49.5
18.1
4.2
10.2
17.5
24.6
2.3
91%
39%
48%
RJ Slawson
43
16.6
16.3
12.5
10.3
26.4
3.9
65%
44%
0%
Michael Carrera
33.8
26.7
17.6
28.9
8.8
20.9
5.8
81%
49%
100%
Bruce Ellington
21.9
24.4
1.6
10.1
7.4
26.5
0.0
65%
53%
0%
Damien Leonard
20.8
19.4
3.4
7.6
4.9
42.9
1.4
100%
50%
27%
L. Chatkevicius
10.0
26.2
14.0
12.6
29.2
36.0
0.0
25%
56%
100%

The Gamecocks continue to spread playing time very thin across their now 11-deep roster.  It will be interesting to see when (or if) Martin reigns this in to a more reasonable 8- or 9-man rotation – my best guess is that’s not coming tonight, but if they want playing time going forward, now’s the time for Leonard and Chatkevicius to step up and make an argument for more minutes.  Their chances are running out.

One thing App. State seems to try to do more than some other teams is prevent the 3PA (though it’s just as likely teams refuse to settle for it when there are makeable 2PAs on offer), so this game may shift away from shooters like Brenton Williams and toward players that excel at 2PAs (though Brenton’s no slouch at those, hitting 63% right now).

One other thing I remain interested in seeing as this team evolves is who takes the shots.  LaShay’s still taking up a preposterous amount of shots (given his penchant for not turning the ball over nearly as much as the rest of our players, that doesn’t show up above, but he takes 31.4% of Carolina’s shots while he’s out there, which puts him 60th in the NCAA). I love you LaShay, but you should not be 60th in the NCAA in shot-taking.  Brenton remains incredibly efficient and continues to take on additional burdens on this front, and Carrera is active when he’s in there.  But right now it seems our shot distribution hasn’t settled into any sort of cohesion.  Then again, given our rotations, injuries, and other issues, I’m not sure there’s been much of any cohesion on the offensive end for this team thus far.  And yet, that’s where we do our best work.  Go figure.

Predictions

KenPom: 78-68 (79%)

TeamRankings: 74-65 (80%)

Vegas: Gamecocks by 9, or -450/+374 (80%)

 

Given all the mean things we just said about Appalachian State above, 80% doesn’t feel like good enough odds for this game.  And yet, given our defensive issues, that’s where we are.  A lot of what I’ve read in the build-up to this game continues to focus on the work we need to do offensively.  Don’t get me wrong (and if you’ve read our work, you know where this is going) – doing work to fix our turnover issues is welcomed by this blog, and would take South Carolina from a slightly above-average offense to a downright decent one.  But the work this team needs is on the other end of the court.

I think South Carolina will do enough offensively to beat these guys because I think we’ll excel from 2-point range, but tonight would be a good night to see the defense take a step forward.  South Carolina hasn’t held a team under 0.90 points per possession yet this year.  High Point held these guys to 0.90 ppp.  If we can do that, that would be a mark of progress going forward.

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About marvinnedick

Blogging from the mid-Atlantic on Gamecock sports, as well as general musings on sports theory otherwise.
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