The 2012-13 season has concluded. What now?

The Gamecocks’ season ended last Wednesday night in Nashville with a disappointing loss to Mississippi State, 70-59.  State jumped out to an 11-point lead over the last 10 minutes of the first half and Carolina never really threatened from there on out.  There’s not much to be said about the game because, frankly, everyone associated with it moved on almost immediately.  The season is over.  Now what comes next?

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Posted in 2012-13 Basketball | 5 Comments

Around the internet

You can find us on the Half Cocked Show podcast here.

We also voted in the end-of-regular season SEC power poll here.

Ken Pomeroy calculated the odds of victory for each team during each step of the SEC tournament.  Our odds are not good.  Also, the all-SEC team (as determined by a mathematical formula) is hilarious.

Posted in 2012-13 Basketball, Florida, Miscellany, SEC Power Poll, SEC Tournament | Leave a comment

Better Know Mississippi State (yet again)

For the third time this season, the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks will square off on the hardwood.  The teams split their regular season meetings, with State winning by two in Starkville back in January and the Gamecocks returning the favor with a seven-point victory in Columbia just last week.

The rubber game comes on neutral ground in Nashville, Tennessee, and the stakes are like those in all good rubber games – the winner moves on, the loser goes home.

Team

Four Factors USC O MSU D MSU O USC D NCAA
eFG 46.7
(256)
50.0
(236)
44.6
(315)
50.4
(245)
48.6
TO% 22.7
(305)
22.1
(62)
25.0
(342)
21.0
(121)
20.0
Oreb% 38.5
(16)
36.1
(322)
30.2
(221)
33.1
(231)
31.8
FTR 36.1
(166)
26.7
(15)
40.9
(51)
45.5
(329)
35.9
Pace 66.3
(156)
68.1
(77)
65.9
Shooting USC O MSU D MSU O USC D NCAA
FT% 68.8
(197)
65.9
(277)
69.3
2P% 45.5
(258)
49.3
(235)
45.7
(246)
50.5
(277)
47.5
3P% 32.8
(222)
28.1
(336)
33.9
3PA% 32.6
(182)
36.0
(286)
32.1
(202)
31.6
(120)
33.0

We covered much of this ground last week, but let’s re-hash briefly the strengths and weaknesses of these two teams.

The Gamecocks and State are both bad basketball teams, but where the Bulldogs really fall off is offensively (which makes it all the more confounding and disappointing that the Gamecocks conceded over a point per possession to them in the match-up last Wednesday).  The Bulldogs can’t hit shots from anywhere on the court, and their only offensive strength is getting to the free throw line (where they also miss shots).  They’re a slightly below-average team when it comes to offensive rebounding, which counts as a strength given their issues with shooting and turnovers.

Turnovers are what led the Gamecocks to victory the other evening, as State coughed the ball up on 29 percent of their possessions.  That stopped them from being even more efficient, as they shot very well from the floor against the Gamecocks (58.5 percent on eFG%).  However, their shooting struggles caught up with them at the foul line, where a 61 percent percentage cost them a few points in a close game.

For the Gamecocks, a surprising aspect of the game last Wednesday was that they simply couldn’t hit the offensive glass, something that given Mississippi State’s defensive rebounding issues was incredibly surprising.  This likely stemmed from Martin’s insistence of playing Brian Steele, who in his 15 minutes only grabbed one offensive rebound (though Carrera also posted what, for him, was a low one offensive rebound, thanks to foul trouble).  This is an advantage the Gamecocks should be able to press better than they did last week.

Carolina did do a decent job of scoring from every part of the floor (posting a 41 percent rate from 3P, a 50 percent rate from 2P, and an 80 percent rate from the line).  When you’re shooting that well from 3, it serves you well to take a lot of them, and the Gamecocks’ took 48 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.  And Carolina also did a fine job of getting to the line, taking 35 shots from the charity stripe.

That was surprising, as the Bulldogs do a very good job of avoiding fouls by and large, but weren’t able to do so against the Gamecocks, compiling 28 between their eight main rotation players, which led to three disqualifications.  The Bulldogs will be even more pressed to stay out of foul trouble since forward Jalen Steele won’t be playing after suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Gamecocks.

Individual

Mississippi State
Name
%Min
%Poss
eFG%
OR%
DR%
ARate
TORate
FTM-FTA
2PM-2PA
3PM-3PA
Craig Sword
65.5
29.7
42.8
3
9.5
22.9
29.6
79-142
96-207
13-63
Fred Thomas
70.4
20.5
38.7
1.1
13
11.2
15.1
55-70
57-130
37-161
Colin Borchert
60.1
20.7
47.7
5.2
15.5
11.9
24.6
27-41
60-129
30-91
Roquez Johnson
55.5
23.1
45.1
9.4
10.4
3.7
24.5
79-134
70-155
5-17
Jalen Steele**
39.6
22.4
42
2.9
9.8
10
18
36-39
31-89
28-85
Trivante Bloodman
71.3
16.8
38.2
4.1
8.3
17.9
33.6
78-104
35-92
10-39
Gavin Ware
64.2
17.7
54.6
9.7
18.5
2.7
16.6
45-83
106-194
0-0
Wendell Lewis**
13.9
19.3
56.8
9.5
17
9.7
21.6
15-16
25-44
0-0
Tyson Cunningham
51.7
9
51.6
4.6
8.6
13
32.3
8-11
6-20
18-44
South Carolina
Name
%Min
%Poss
eFG%
OR%
DR%
ARate
TORate
FTM-FTA
2PM-2PA
3PM-3PA
Michael Carrera
43.8
27.1
45.9
15.8
25.4
7.4
20.2
82-111
78-176
7-17
Bruce Ellington
56.7
22
37.7
2.4
7.5
18.3
24.2
45-71
53-147
21-77
Brenton Williams
49.4
23
56.4
1.7
8.6
15.1
14.8
80-95
55-110
48-115
Brian Richardson
44.6
20.9
50.5
4.3
10.2
12.5
16
30-41
39-93
42-109
Laimonas Chatkevicius
22.2
22.9
45.4
10.7
19
8.7
30.2
21-34
30-68
3-8
Lakeem Jackson
71.1
16.6
56
9.4
15.5
14.1
23.5
21-62
105-188
2-5
Eric Smith
68
16.7
36.9
1.5
6.1
22.1
27.8
39-58
42-115
17-68
RJ Slawson
39.3
17.1
47
12.1
13.3
6.3
23.6
38-56
43-85
3-16
Damien Leonard
31.7
18.3
38.8
5.5
10.5
7.8
23.1
13-17
15-47
21-73
Mindaugas Kacinas
47.7
15.7
54.1
9.6
13.4
7.3
28.8
34-50
53-89
4-20

**Will not play

I typically take these charts from Ken Pomeroy’s outstanding website, which doesn’t include Brian Steele because he hasn’t played 10 percent of our minutes this season.  If we play Tennessee, I’ll go back and add him, but for right now he’s a guy who doesn’t use many of our possessions (by either shooting or turning the ball over), which means when he’s on the court, other guys have to pick up the slack by taking more shots.

If he can stay on the court this time, the Gamecocks should be able to dramatically improve their offensive rebounding simply by Carrera seeing more than the 14 minutes he played last week.  Coupled with the efforts of Lakeem Jackson and whoever Martin decides to rotate at the 5 (of course, this assumes Steele isn’t playing major minutes, which makes Carrera interchangeable with Lakeem at the 4), the Gamecocks can hopefully dominate the offensive glass and get extra possessions.

You would think some of the shots he rebounds will be coming from the hands of Brenton Williams, who once again should have the opportunity to have a great game against State’s 1-3-1 zone.  It’ll be interesting to see if the Gamecocks can get to the foul line as often as they did last time out given that the Bulldogs will play zone most of the game (especially with Steele’s injury limiting them to seven rotation players), but if they don’t, open 3s should be on the offer, and it’ll be up to Carolina to take and make those shots.  Williams is well placed to play that role, hitting just shy of 42 percent on the season.

Mindaugas Kacinas has seen more minutes the last few outings, and may continue to do so given the merry-go-round nature of Martin’s allocation of playing time.  He didn’t play very well agains State last time out and didn’t make much of an impact against Vanderbilt either, so it’ll be interesting to see if he keeps seeing playing time.

For the Bulldogs, the names and faces haven’t changed, though there’s one less as we noted above with Jalen Steele out.  The loss of the junior guard puts even more weight on the shoulders of freshman guard Craig Sword and sophomore Trivante Bloodman to stay out of foul trouble and be productive on offense.

Neither guy has done a terrific job at either of those roles this season, and it can’t be a good thing for State that they’ll be called upon so heavily Wednesday evening, though Sword put up very respectable numbers against Auburn in scoring 19 points on 17 shots in the Bulldogs’ overtime win in Starkville last Saturday night.  One thing you can expect from Bloodman is to try to do more to get to the line – he’s spent most of his season finding his way to the foul line by posting an incredible 79.4 percent FTR, though the Gamecocks limited him to only two free throw opportunities the last time out.

However, as it’s been all season, the Gamecocks should be most concerned with the interior play of Gavin Ware and Colin Borchert when sizing up their chances.  Ware is the more efficient scorer but the less-frequent shooter, and frankly, neither should strike any particular fear into the hearts of normal basketball teams.  But the Gamecocks’ interior defense is anything but normal, and if they start putting State on the line with regularity, the game could get away from Carolina.

Predictions

Pomeroy: 68-63 W (66%)

Vegas: Gamecocks by 5.5

Despite the fact that Mississippi State went out on its home floor and got an overtime win over Auburn without him, the loss of Jalen Steele for me pushes this game from “advantage Carolina” to “likely Carolina.”  There are of course exposures – can the Gamecocks find their offensive rebounding form?  Can they avoid the turnovers that plagued them in the last 10 minutes of their game in Columbia?  Can they replicate their ability to get to the foul line against a Mississippi State team that doesn’t often foul, and can they rein in their own fouling tendencies against that same State team that shoots a lot of free throws?

All ways that I could see the game on Wednesday evening going wrong.  But, for me, the advantages outweigh the weaknesses, and I think it more likely the game will play out much as it did in Columbia, with the Gamecocks offsetting a slightly weaker performance from the free throw stripe through extra possessions garnered by offensive rebounding.  It won’t be automatic (few things are automatic with this bunch), but I expect to see Carolina back out on the court in Nashville against the Tennessee Volunteers on Thursday.

Posted in 2012-13 Basketball, Better Know An Opponent, Mississippi State, SEC Tournament | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Brenton Williams drops 38, Gamecocks win final home game over State 79-72

On what was supposed to be a night where the focus was on Lakeem Jackson, Brenton Williams stole the show, scoring 38 points while using 38 percent of our possessions in 31 minutes, and the Gamecocks turned over State just enough to hold off a late rally and win 79-72 in their final home game of the season.

In a game that was even for the first half, the second half broke itself into two incredibly divergent units – the Gamecocks outscored State 29-12 to start the second half and jump out to a 19-point lead, before the Bulldogs rallied with a 14-0 run of their own to make things interesting late.

With the win and the Auburn loss, the Gamecocks are assured of finding themselves playing either State or Auburn in the first round of the SEC tournament as either the 12th or 13th seed, as both those teams are one game behind USC with one to play and face each other in the final regular season game, ensuring that one will end the season with at least four wins (our current number), but also ensuring that both can’t catch us.

Team

USC MSU
eFG 55.4 58.5
TO% 18.7 28.8
Oreb% 29.6 31.0
FTR 76.1 59.6
Pace 69

The final numbers belie just how dominant South Carolina was in the turnover department for most of this game.  Coming into the match-up, we knew the Gamecocks could likely force State into turnovers, but there was no clear indication that they could stop from turning the ball over themselves.  For the first 33 minutes of the game, State’s turnover percentage stayed in the 30s while the Gamecocks’ sat under 15, and it was the slow convergence of those two numbers down the stretch that let the Bulldogs hang around.  In the end, the lead was simply too great, the time was simply too short, and Carolina had its fourth SEC victory.

Unfortunately, this game doesn’t give me too much hope going forward, and not just because it came against State.  Against this anemic an offense, it’s disappointing that we still conceded over one point per possession (1.04).  Even more distressing, if you look at State’s effective possessions (those not ending in a turnover), we gave up 1.469 ppp, which will get you killed in any game against even half-decent opposition.

That came from the fact we simply couldn’t stop the Bulldogs from scoring inside (the 63% hit rate from 2P is unconscionable), and distressingly couldn’t keep them off the boards or stop from fouling.  The steals were of course helpful, but the problems this team has had all year haven’t gone away, and aren’t going away.

On the offensive side of the ball, Carolina won the game in large part by protecting the basketball and stroking it from outside, going 9-22 (41%) from 3PA and taking almost half their FGAs from beyond the arc.  The other place that Carolina got its work done was at the free throw line, where its 35 FTAs and its 80 percent rate were what both grew and iced the lead.

One thing that shocked me was that Mississippi State, who has one of the worst defensive rebounding rates in the nation, held us to less than 30 percent in our offensive rebounding percentage.  Offensive rebounds have become more and more scarce as the season has gone along, and I’m not sure if it’s from the step-up in competition or Martin de-emphasizing them so the team can get back on defense.  That would certainly explain why our defensive efficiency has ticked up while our offensive efficiency has slowly ticked downward as SEC play has gone on.

Individual

Mississippi St.
Name
Min
%Poss
Pts
2PM-A
3PM-A
FTM-A
OR
DR
A
TO
Craig Sword
33
31
20
5-5
2-4
4-9
0
2
3
5
Fred Thomas
26
21
8
1-4
2-6
0-0
0
2
4
1
Gavin Ware
24
14
6
2-2
0-0
2-5
2
3
0
1
Colin Borchert
22
24
7
2-4
1-3
0-0
1
1
1
3
Trivante Bloodman
17
21
2
0-0
0-1
2-2
2
1
4
3
Roquez Johnson
33
22
12
3-4
0-0
6-9
1
2
0
5
Jalen Steele
25
30
17
4-8
2-5
3-3
2
2
0
1
Tyson Cunningham
19
5
0
0-0
0-1
0-0
1
5
2
0
Baxter Price
1
0
0-0
0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0
Team
0
1
1
TOTAL
200
72
17-27
7-20
17-28
9
19
14
20
1.04
63.0%
35.0%
60.7%
31.0%
70.4%
58.3%
29.0%
South Carolina
Name
Min
%Poss
Pts
2PM-A
3PM-A
FTM-A
OR
DR
A
TO
Bruce Ellington
33
23
9
0-2
1-3
6-9
0
1
6
4
Lakeem Jackson
33
14
9
4-6
0-0
1-2
3
5
1
1
Brian Steele
15
25
6
0-1
2-5
0-0
1
1
2
1
Michael Carrera
14
13
4
1-2
0-0
2-2
1
2
1
0
Shane Phillips
3
2
1-1
0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0
Brenton Williams
31
38
38
4-8
6-9
12-12
1
3
3
1
Eric Smith
24
22
6
0-2
0-2
6-8
0
2
3
2
Mindaugas Kacinas
22
5
1
0-0
0-0
1-2
0
3
0
1
Damien Leonard
11
29
2
1-1
0-3
0-0
0
1
2
2
RJ Slawson
8
2
1-1
0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0
Laimonas Chatkevicius
5
0
0-0
0-0
0-0
0
1
0
1
Brian Richardson
1
0
0-0
0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0
Team
2
1
0
TOTAL
200
79
12-24
9-22
28-35
8
20
18
13
1.14
50.0%
40.9%
80.0%
29.6%
69.0%
85.7%
18.8%

You don’t need the sheet above to know that Brenton Williams was the story of the evening, filling it up from everywhere he shot (50 percent or better from 2P, 3P, and FT).  Coupled with only one turnover and three assists, it was as good a game as Brenton has played all year, and hopefully gives him something to build upon going into our final few games.

Elsewhere, Bruce’s four turnovers were costly as they helped the Bulldogs get back into the game as it went along – he’s remaining “good enough” on offense, but he needs to bring more overall if he’s going to make that an impactful position.  Our friends at Rubber Chickens suggested in their recent podcast that Bruce may not be back next year, and if Tyrone Johnson ends up being as good as people are making him sound, that might not be as bad a thing as it’ll be made out to be in the mainstream press.

Lakeem had a fine night on senior night, going 4-6 from the field while grabbing eight rebounds (three offensive) with an assist to go with only one turnover.  He was the Lakeem we’ve come to know – someone who’ll use between 15-20 percent of our possessions effectively and play good defense, but is going to need help from the other guys.  He’s an outstanding role player on a team that never gave him the rest of the pieces he needed to be really successful, but he (much like Malik Cooke) gave us a lot in his time here.

Michael Carrera had another strong game in minutes that were limited due to foul trouble, though using far fewer possessions than he normally does (that said, Brenton was on fire last night and when he was on the court, he took up about double the possessions than you’d normally expect).  I found a great stat yesterday that I wanted to pass along about Carrera:

What a beast.

For State, we never did a great job of stopping them on the inside, as everyone but Fred Thomas hit 50 percent or better on the interior.  Fortunately for us, we forced four of their guys into three or more turnovers.  That was really the difference – as we noted above, when State didn’t turn the ball over, they killed us.  Luckily for us, they threw it away just enough to get us the victory.

Up Next

The Gamecocks finish SEC play at an improving Vanderbilt on Saturday before heading back to (or staying in) Nashville for the SEC tournament, which will begin for Carolina on Wednesday at 6:30pm on the SEC Network, as either the 12 or 13 seed playing either Auburn or Mississippi State.  I’m not sure how the previews/reviews will work for the tournament, but hopefully we’ll win a couple of games and make me work next week.

Posted in 2012-13 Basketball, Mississippi State, What Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Better Know An Opponent: Mississippi State (redux)

The Gamecocks wrap up their home schedule this Wednesday evening with a match-up against fellow cellar dwellers Mississippi State.  South Carolina comes into this game on a three-game skid, the most recent of which included some interesting roster decisions.  State enters the game on its first win since January 12th (remember, their win over Carolina was January 9th), doing extensive damage to Ole Miss’ chances of an NCAA tournament berth (of course, beating Ole Miss at home doesn’t differentiate these two teams from one another).

This game should have seeding implications for the SEC tournament.  If State wins, they’ll move a game up on USC, and the Gamecocks will be locked into at least the 13th seed in the SEC tournament (by virtue of being unable to win a tiebreaker against State), and most likely the 14th seed unless it can both beat Vanderbilt on the road and Auburn loses both at home to Tennessee and in Starkville on Saturday.  The team who holds the 14th seed will most likely see Texas A&M in the opening round of the SEC tournament, while the winner is likely to face Auburn.

Given the new format, the winner is looking at a much easier opening round SEC tournament game, with a chance to progress to a match-up with the number five seed.  It seems likely that will end up being Ole Miss, a team that South Carolina obviously has shown it can beat on the right afternoon.

Of course, no matter the draw, it’s incredibly unlikely the Gamecocks will make any run of note in the SEC tournament, but it’s always better to end the season on the upswing rather than the opposite.  The team who wins on Wednesday will have taken a big step toward that just by virtue of winning, and will have positioned itself to have a shot at getting one or two more positive outcomes to end the  year.  The loser will likely have two games to go in its season.

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Posted in 2012-13 Basketball, Better Know An Opponent, Mississippi State | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What I’m reading: March 5, 2013

The Rockets Reach for Greatness, by Zach Lowe.  A look at a team using advanced analytics somewhat successfully, and including a discussion of the limitations of how far it has taken them thus far.

John Lanchaster rides the London Underground, by John Lanchaster. If you like public transportation, interesting stories, London, or simly good writing, I think you’ll enjoy this piece.  Some interesting tidbits – people starting commuting because of sex; shortening one’s commute is one of the few ways someone can make themselves happier; and five times as many people travel on the tube each day as live in Columbia.

History sucks: Dennis Rodman’s unwitting turn as an incompetent diplomat, by Matt Ufford.  A look at The Worm’s trip to North Korea, which includes some points on how sports can bring together (in a sense) two people who otherwise would never be associated with one another.  It’s rather amazing that, despite all the differences between them as people, let alone their two countries, both Barack Obama and Kim Jong-Un are both Bulls fans, right?

Back on the Trail, by Jason Zengerle.  Many of you may be interested to read this piece on the political resurgence of former governor Mark Sanford.  I, for one, was very taken aback by this one anecdote though, and wonder if it might not show that he really can’t recover from what he put the state (and his wife) through:

His infidelity notwithstanding, it seems he never considered ending the marriage. Even after Jenny discovered the affair, he tried to find some middle ground that would allow him to preserve both relationships, begging for his wife’s permission to have visits—albeit non-conjugal ones—with his mistress. (On one occasion, for a trip to New York, Jenny granted it, on the condition that a friend serve as chaperone. “Sleep well,” the friend texted Jenny at the end of the evening. “He played by the rules.”)

Stats, storytelling, and Sloan: How to make advanced stats in basketball a more engaging conversation, by Paul Flannery.  Interestingly he notes one of the best ways to do this is to inform the local broadcast team.  Here, we’re in excellent shape thanks to the stat-heavy tones of Gamecock radio frontman, Andy Demetra.

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A&M wins by 18, Martin shows only he and Bruce have job security

So, that was interesting.

On Saturday night, freshman Brian Steele got his first start of his career in place of senior Lakeem Jackson, and quintupled his playing time on the season (going from 5 minutes to 30 minutes).  Shane Phillips more than doubled his total playing time this season, as he saw 13 minutes of playing time.  At the end, fellow walk-on Austin Constable got a minute of playing time.

And the Gamecocks, after going into halftime tied, couldn’t adjust to the zone that A&M presented them in the second half, but more importantly, couldn’t stop them defensively to save their collective lives in the final 10 minutes, and ultimately fell by a final score of 74-56.

This was, suffice to say, an incredibly weird game – 11 Gamecocks saw time on the floor, and they did not include either Brian Richardson or Laimonas Chatkevicius.  Chatkevicius had started the last four games and averaged 23.5 minutes over those outings, so it makes sense that Martin thought he needed a rest (he also played his best offensive game of the season thus far against Missouri).  Richardson got his first DNP of the season after eight straight games of playing 15 or more minutes and coming off back-to-back excellent offensive performances against Georgia and Missouri.

And yet, the Gamecocks went into the half tied and were only down four going into the final 10 minutes, before A&M reeled off 34 points in the last quarter of the game to seal the victory.  While the focus will be on the shift to the zone (and somewhat fairly – the increase in turnovers gave A&M a lot of their buckets), the Gamecocks woes once again shifted back to the defensive end, a frustrating reversal given that one of the positives that seemed to be coming out of this season was that our defense steadily improved throughout the year (though mostly at the expense of our offense).  At this point, I don’t know what the hell to think, and it seems Martin doesn’t either.  What an odd, odd game.

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