It has been a long wait for Marquette fans. But after three years of wandering in the desert, Wojo has led the Blue and Gold back to the promised land. To be back analyzing the tournament is exciting for us at Paint Touches, but that pales into comparison for what it means to the players. If you haven’t yet, go find some of the videos of the team’s reaction to having their name called on Selection Sunday. Marquette’s first opponent on the dance card is a team that just ended an even longer desert wandering. Both teams will be hungry to extend their season for at least one more game.
1: Sindarius Thornwell: 6-5 211 lb SR SG: 34.1 mpg, 21.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2.2 spg, 0.9 bpg, .439 FG%, .832 FT%, .388 3P%
2: Duane Notice: 6-2 225 lb SR SG: 32.8 mpg, 10.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.4 tpg, .382 FG%, .670 FT%, .339 3P%
3: PJ Dozier: 6-6 205 lb SO SG: 28.8 mpg, 13.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.3 bpg, 2.1 tpg, .391 FG%, .602 FT%, .312 3P%
4: Chris Silva: 6-9 223 lb SO PF: 20.1 mpg, 9.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.3 bpg, 2.0 tpg, .550 FG%, .730 FT%, .000 3P%
5: Malik Kotsar: 6-10 245 lb FR PF: 23.8 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0. 7spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.3 tpg, .494 FG%, .408 FT%, .000 3P%
Hassani Gravett: 6-1 183 lb RSSO PG: 18.1 minutes per game
Justin McKie: 6-4 204 lb SR SG: 17.5 minutes per game
Rakym Felder: 5-10 210 lb FR PG: 14.0 minutes per game
Sedee Keita: 6-9 240 lb FR C: 10.4 minutes per game
Khadem Gueye: 7-0 235 lb FR C: 7.3 minutes per game
TeMarcus Blanton: 6-5 206 lb RSSO SG: Appeared in 20 games
Jarrell Holliman: 6-7 206 lb RSJR SF: Appeared in 15 games
Ran Tut: 6-9 210 lb JR PF: Appeared in 13 games
Evan Hinson: 6-4 238 lb FR SF: Appeared in 7 games
Tommy Corchiani: 6-1 173 lb FR PG: Appeared in 6 games
Christian Schmitt: 6-0 175 lb FR PG: Appeared in 5 games
Kory Holden: 6-1 181 lb JR PG: Appeared in 0 games (Redshirtting)
John Ragin: 6-2 177 lb SO SG: Appeared in 0 games (Redshirtting)
• As just about every talking head has pointed out by now, this is a battle of complete opposites. South Carolina ranks 3rd in adjusted defense but 149th in adjusted offense (worst at large bid, 9th worst including AQs). Marquette on the other hand ranks 7th in adjusted offense and 153rd in adjusted defense (2nd worst at large, 11th worst including AQs). It will be a battle of strength on strength, weakness on weakness.
• The real crux of this battle will be at the 3P line. South Carolina brings in the 5th best 3P% defense in the country, only allowing opponents to make 29.3% of their deep balls. Marquette of course features the top 3P% in the country. Unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
• Make no mistake, South Carolina has good 3P defense. But it is a little exaggerated thanks to the conference they play in. The SEC is the worst 3P shooting high major conference and one of the worst in Division I. The top three point shooting team is Vanderbilt who shoots a decent but not amazing 37% from range. Most of the teams shoot less than 34%. South Carolina has only kept conference opponents below their average 3P% in 10/18 conference games. So still very good, but not as good as #5 in the nation might lead you to believe.
• South Carolina’s defense also excels at creating turnovers. They are top 5 in the country with 17.3 turnovers forced a contest. 7.8 of those are off of steals, which is also a top 5 rank in the country.
• A disproportionate amount of South Carolina’s points come in transition. They really struggle in the half court, ranking in the bottom 50 teams in the country for FG%.
• Their most effective weapon in the half court is drawing fouls. They are one of the top 70 teams at getting to the line, though they struggle to convert there, making only 69% from the charity stripe.
• The Gamecocks are an interesting team on the glass. They are top 40 in the country at grabbing offensive boards…..with as many shots as they miss there are plenty of opportunities. But they are in the bottom 75 teams in defensive rebounding. They force a lot misses by their opponents but have hard time corralling them sometimes.
• The heart and soul of this SC squad is senior wing Sindarius Thornwell. He is top two on the team in just about every major category: points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, FT%, and 3P%. His 21 points a game and 2.2 steals per game both led the SEC. He loves getting out in transition but is often stymied in the half court, resulting in hero ball with mixed results. In the half court he loves to try and get to the line. His FTAs per game led the SEC and were near the top in the nation. In his 26 games, he has attempted double digit free throws 9 times. Included in that was a 33 attempt performance against Alabama. The game went to quadruple overtime, but that is still ridiculous.
• The other notable senior is 2 guard Duane Notice. The native Canadian had a huge sophomore year, averaging 11.8 points, 2.7 assists and shooting 36% from range. Unfortunately, he was never able to truly build from that and he’s seen those numbers regress every year. He leads in the team in 3Ps and 3PAs, though he’s not the best at hitting them. He only shoots 33.9% from beyond the arc but has the ability to go off on any given night. He has gone for 27 points with 6 three pointers in two separate games, once against FIU and once against Auburn. But he has also been held to a goose egg in some games, including their last game out against Alabama. His last 9 games have been rough from beyond the arc, going 13/45 (28.8%).
• PJ Dozier might have been the highest rated recruit in Gamecock basketball history. Certainly, the most highly rated of the modern era. The former 5 star didn’t make the impression many thought he would as a freshman, but he has made himself into a solid contributor as a sophomore. He is second on the team in points per game, though it takes him a lot of attempts to get there. His defense is what makes him valuable. His long and lean 6’6″ frame allows him to guard any position on the floor. His 1.7 steals per game is behind only SEC leading thief Sindarius Thornwell.
• Two young giants man the post for Frank Martin. Chris Silva was almost a Seton Hall Pirate before picking the Gamecocks. Silva’s game will remind Marquette fans of Seton Hall. He is an aggressive banger who lives on the boards and gets a lot of second chance points. Malik Kotsar is a true freshman who was rated a lot lower than fellow freshmen bigs Sedee Keita and Khadem Gueye. He is defensively sound and does a good job on the glass. He will never wow you with his scoring. Both Silva and Kotsar don’t have much use offensively more than 5 feet from the basket. They also both struggle with fouls, Silva specifically. Silva has picked up 4 or more fouls in 19 of his last 25 games and 23 out of 32 games overall. South Carolina will have no scoring from the post if Silva gets into early foul trouble.
This game will be decided by the team that can exert its will over the other one. Will Marquette’s unstoppable offense carry the day or will South Carolina’s immovable defense stand firm? The amount of points scored will go a long way towards predicting which team is the victor. If the high scorer has a point total in the 50s or 60s, the Gamecocks likely won. If the game gets into the 70s, it likely means that Marquette is running away with it. Key for Marquette will be building an early lead. South Carolina can certainly play from behind but even an 8 point deficit could take them a quarter of the game to catch up to because of how inefficient their offense is. They have only eclipsed 1.0 point per possession three times in the last 9 games, meaning that even if they stop a Marquette run, it could take ages to catch up. Fouls will have an abnormally high effect on the outcome of this game. South Carolina loves to get to the line but they also put opponents on the line at a very high rate. Given Marquette’s great depth and shooting ability, a tightly called game will benefit Marquette. Silva is arguably the Gamecocks 2nd best offensive option, early foul trouble for him could spell disaster for Frank Martin’s squad. Katin Reinhardt might be key here. A few rotations to make sure Silva is guarding Reinhardt and he can use his superior speed to get Silva in a position where he needs to foul. On defense, Marquette will need to find a way to contain Thornwell. He’s the only one that can truly create his own shoot and he carries the South Carolina offense. If Cheatham could break out of his offensive slump, this would be the ideal game to do it. His ability to defend without fouling could go a long way towards slowing down Thornwell. Duane Wilson could also be an option on Thornwell but he is foul prone and Thornwell loves to get to the line more than anything else. When a shot goes up, it is likely going to miss, keeping Silva and Kotsar off the offensive glass and limiting them to 1 possession per trip will be key. South Carolina will introduce doses of heavy pressure throughout the game. Marquette does a poor job breaking presses but they don’t turn it over against them that often. Reinhardt again might be the answer as his ability to handle the ball with size has saved Marquette more than once under pressure. To no one’s surprise, Thornwell is the focal point to South Carolina’s defense as well as it’s offense. Andrei from Paint Touches did a fantastic job breaking down why that is in one of his patented twitter storms:
Expect whoever Thornwell is guarding to get a lot of screens and be moving constantly in an effort to wear the superstar down. Even if the shots aren’t there in the first half, they will be there in the second as the defense starts to wear down.
South Carolina 69