Better Know an Opponent: Presbyterian

The Gamecocks welcome their I-26 rivals from Clinton, SC on Saturday night as the Presbyterian Blue Hose come to Columbia for an intrastate battle.  PC hasn’t beaten a D-1 team thus far this season, and the only two teams they’ve stayed within 10 points of were Appalachian State (an 8 point loss on the road) and Jacksonville State (an overtime loss at home).  PC is bad, folks.  This is a game that a good team wins in a walk.  Given the way the Gamecocks have played this season, it’s still a game they should easily win, but the team has been weak enough on enough nights that I won’t say it’s an absolute certainty.  Let’s look at the matchup below.


The Four Factors

USC O PC D PC O USC D
eFG% 51.6
(66)
56.4
(341)
46.5
(230)
48.9
(189)
TO% 26.9
(339)
14.9
(342)
22.6
(253)
19.0
(258)
OReb% 45.5
(2)
35.8
(279)
18.9
(345)
31.5
(146)
FTR 41.0
(72)
28.0
(56)
24.3
(338)
41.5
(273)
Pace 66.4
(208)
62.7
(327)

PC is atrocious on both sides of the ball, which means their offense and our defense will be fast friends.  They, much like us defensively, do not excel at a single thing offensively.  The best thing they do well is make FTAs, but given their woeful FTR, it’s not a strength they really take advantage of much.  They don’t take a particularly aggressive number of 3PAs, which you would think a bad team might do to try to up their variance.  That said, they are so bad elsewhere they get a greater-than-average number of points from the 3PA, simply based on their inability to shoot from 2PA (44.4%) and their inability to get to the free throw line to take advantage of that FT%.

To compensate for their woefulness, PC typically plays at a slow pace in order to limit possessions and increase the variance of the games they play.  Basically, the fewer possessions there are, the higher the odds that something random happens and PC comes out with a shock upset.  They can do this by both slowing the ball down on offense, hustling back on defense (their lack of ORebs means they have plenty of bodies available to get back on defense), and by playing a zone defense that can’t be quickly and easily broken down for easy 2PAs by the opposition.  It’s a reasonable underdog strategy.

Defensively, South Carolina is who they’ve been – a team that doesn’t defend the 2PA particularly well or prevent 3PAs as much as you’d hope, given that 2PA%.  The team is average at keeping the opposition off the glass (grabbing 68.5% of the rebounds, compared to an NCAA average of 67.8%), and does an average job of defending the 2PA (opponent’s shoot 48.1% from 2PA, against an NCAA average of 47.3%), but nothing special.  The ability to force turnovers remains at 19%, about two percent below the national average, and they continue to give up a lot of FTAs.

On the other side, South Carolina should score a lot of points against the Blue Hose.  The only thing PC does reasonably well is keep teams off the foul line (and even there, they’ve had bad luck – teams are shooting 72.7% from FTA against them).  Otherwise, PC’s a mess. South Carolina should be able to effectively bury 2PAs against them, despite the zone.  Because of the zone defense, lots of shots are scored on assists, so the Gamecocks will need Eric Smith to continue distributing the ball effectively, as it’ll be hard to create shots on the dribble.

The Gamecocks don’t shoot a lot of 3PAs relative to other teams (32% of their shots), and since PC doesn’t send teams to the line terribly often, moving the ball on offense and creating good 2PAs will be important. However, PC opponents shoot 42.3% of their shots from 3PA, so the major focus of the evening will be having the guys on the floor who can hit these shots, because there will be plenty of them on the offer (that’s 340th in the nation, and quite ahead of the national average of 33%).  PC allows 38.4% of the points scored against it from beyond the arc, which is the highest percentage in all of NCAA (the average team gives up 27.3% of its points from 3PAs).  This could lead to interesting lineup construction, as Jackson and Carrera might not be as well-suited to this sort of game, whereas Kacinas may thrive.

Normally I’d be a little worried about counting on our offensive ball movement, but given that PC only steals the ball on 6.5% of possessions, as long as we avoid the unforced turnover, we should be OK.

While there’s nothing new to say about offensive rebounding from our perspective, Andy Demetra did drop this bit of knowledge on Twitter yesterday:

Lastly, on an interesting note, most of PC’s offensive and defensive efficiency thus far this season has been determined by eFG% (in fact, their opponents’ eFG% has a 0.96 correlation with their points per possession allowed).

Personnel

Presbyterian

%Poss
OR%
DR%
ARate
TORate
FT%
2P%
3P%
Khalid Mutakabbir
25.4
1.8
8.2
20.9
22.7
25-33 (76%)
50-100 (50%)
17-46 (37%)
Joshua Clyburn
25.5
10.2
14.5
5.6
23.6
21-33 (64%)
40-75 (53%)
1-1 (100%)
Jordan Downing
23.3
0.7
13
11.4
18
16-22 (73%)
30-76 (40%)
23-65 (35%)
Eric Washington
20.2
2.4
8.3
44.2
29.9
5-6 (83%)
12-23 (52%)
2-10 (20%)
William Truss
17.1
6.4
21.5
2.3
24.7
15-19 (79%)
30-54 (56%)
2-4 (50%)
Ryan Hargrave
19.5
2
7.1
3.5
4.7
5-6 (83%)
7-13 (54%)
3-9 (33%)
Ryan McTavish
13.6
2.6
15.6
5.1
21
6-8 (75%)
21-33 (64%)
13-39 (33%)
Austin Anderson
11.4
0
9.5
12.9
21.5
6-7 (86%)
10-19 (53%)
8-26 (31%)

Study Khalid Mutakabbir and Jordan Downing now, because you’ll get to know them both quite well on Saturday.  What’s amazing about their minutes is that they’ve been going over 30 minutes in blowouts (despite five losses by over 23 points, they’ve each played over 30 minutes in every game but one, when Downing only played 19 in a 97-38 PC victory over Toccoa Falls).

Mutakabbir is the workhorse, as he either shoots, assists, or turns the ball over on a terrific number of PC’s possessions.  Downing is the other primary shooter, though he hits at a slightly lower clip and takes slightly more shots from 3PA.  To make sure they stay on the court, PC really does avoid fouling at all costs – Mutakabbir commits 1.3 fouls per 40 minutes, and Downing checks in at 1.4 fouls/40, both in the top 50 in the nation.  This allows PC to derive only 21.6% of its minutes played from bench players, which is 333rd out of 347 D-1 teams (the average is 31.5%, and for context, USC’s bench plays 36.4% of its minutes).

Joshua Clyburn is the only player on the Blue Hose who does much work on the offensive glass, though the work he does is impressive, especially given how outmatched he must be down there based on his teammate’s OReb%.  William Truss, who also plays about half the minutes available, is a similarly good rebounder on one side of the floor, but he does his best work on the defensive glass.

The other two main players are Ryan McTavish, who shoots rarely, but effectively when he does.  Austin Anderson plays around 25 minutes a game, and yet is virtually invisible on the offensive end.  He doesn’t show up on the stat sheet in any meaningful way on either side of the ball, and PC doesn’t strike me as a team who can afford this sort of black hole on its team.  However, they do strike me as a team that doesn’t have anyone else who can step in and do better, so this is where they’re left.

Eric Washington has returned for PC and has really changed their offensive look (their three best offensive games on a point per possession basis have been their last three games, not counting non-D-1 opponents).  He’s assisting on 44% of the baskets that are made by PC players other than him while he’s on the court.  Four out of the nine buckets his teammates make while he’s playing come from his passes.  That’s impressive, and important.  He’s still ending 30% of the possessions he accounts for with turnovers, so hopefully Eric Smith or whoever is tasked with guarding him can step up the steals.

South Carolina

%Poss
OR%
DR%
ARate
TORate
FT%
2P%
3P%
Michael Carrera
27.6
17.7
26.2
8.3
24.2
29-37 (78%)
24-52 (46%)
2-2 (100%)
Brenton Williams
20.9
1.9
7.4
13.5
20.1
34-40 (85%)
25-40 (63%)
21-44 (48%)
LaShay Page*
23.3
2.3
13.6
7.7
16
27-31 (87%)
18-48 (38%)
14-45 (31%)
Bruce Ellington*
22
2.4
10.7
7.4
27.1
11-17 (65%)
11-24 (46%)
2-9 (22%)
Laimonas Chatkevicius
22.3
12.7
11.5
21.7
36.7
1-4 (25%)
7-11 (64%)
1-1 (100%)
Lakeem Jackson
17.4
11
18
15.1
30.1
7-21 (33%)
50-78 (64%)
0-0 (N/A)
Eric Smith
19.3
1.7
7.5
27
34.3
17-25 (68%)
17-43 (40%)
5-22 (23%)
Mindaugas Kacinas
16.8
12.4
13.3
7.5
30.4
21-31 (68%)
28-43 (65%)
3-11 (27%)
Brian Richardson
19
4.7
10.1
14.9
21.3
14-16 (88%)
11-30 (37%)
16-39 (41%)
RJ Slawson
18.2
16.1
12.1
8.9
25.4
16-25 (64%)
16-36 (44%)
1-5 (20%)
Damien Leonard
18.2
2.8
7.7
6.1
43
2-2 (100%)
3-7 (43%)
4-16 (25%)

*Not expected to play

Given the openness of the 3PA that should be available against PC, I’d look for Brenton Williams (21-44, 48% from 3PA) and Brian Richardson (16-39, 41%) to play big roles in the offense.  This might be a game where we see less Lakeem Jackson than we normally would so as to allow other guys who can shoot on the floor, though we honestly don’t have other players who put it up from outside all that often (Smith is 5-22 this season, and while LaShay Page has shot quite a good number of 3PAs, I don’t anticipate him playing).  So keep an eye on how well the three guards shoot from outside.  This could also be a game where Damien Leonard could excel.  He’s always had a nice-looking shot, but needs to increase his 3PA% from both this year’s 25% and last year’s 32% to really make it a weapon.

If we don’t go small with Smith, Richardson, and Williams on the court, it’ll be interesting to see how the Gamecocks go about breaking down the zone.  Chatkevicius has done a good job dishing assists in his limited playing time thus far, so we may see more of him than normal.

This seems like a game where lots of guys can show how well they grasp the offense and boost their assist totals, especially with the high-low and inside-outside game we should be playing against the zone.  It’ll be interesting to see how the team does moving the ball around in the zone, and if they can avoid turnovers while creating assists.

Prediction

KenPom:  76-58 (94%)
TeamRankings: 78-59 (97%)
Vegas: TBD

Again, this is a game that South Carolina should win going away, but the Gamecocks haven’t played well enough this season to warrant a blanket “we’ll win” statement.  That said, South Carolina is far better than PC.  While I’ll of course be watching to see if we can grab the W, I’ll also be focusing on whether the team can show improvement on the defensive end, and score the ball successfully against a team that’ll play heavy zone, something we haven’t seen a ton of this season.

Give me the Gamecocks by 20, in a game that will hopefully be salted away by halftime.

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About marvinnedick

Blogging from the mid-Atlantic on Gamecock sports, as well as general musings on sports theory otherwise.
This entry was posted in 2012-13 Basketball, Better Know An Opponent, Presbyterian and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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