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.

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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, Mississippi State, SEC Tournament and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Better Know Mississippi State (yet again)

  1. Gary says:

    An SEC Tournament victory would be welcome. We have had very few of those lately. Kacinas and Carrera need to look for a shot much more when they are in the high post. Chatkevicius as well. Those guys can make those shots around the FT line. Hope Brenton Williams has another good game. We need his scoring. We can win this game. Let’s do it.

  2. Walter says:

    I love Chickenhoops! Best thing ever to happen for us poor unfortunate people who are Gamecock Basketball fans because now we have a comprehensive understanding why we suck at basketball. But thank God for Frank Martin – I do believe he’s got the roadmap to lead us out of the quagmire we find ourselves in!

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