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South Carolina @ Baylor

by: Rich Salvatori @dickiesalvatori - posted on: 11-Nov-2013

The Gamecocks finished twelfth in the SEC during  Frank Martin’s first season at the helm. While Martin made the conscious decision to leave a budding program in K-State to come to S.C., he may have regretted it at times given the limitations in both size and talent they had to work with in 2012.

Tyrone Johnson, a Villanova transfer who will be eligible in January, is an important start to Martin’s rebuilding. He is a bigger guard with a good feel for the game who understands how to distribute. He provides stability for a lineup that lacked it one season ago and really symbolizes the beginning Martin's attempt to put his own stamp on this program.

But the biggest challenge in this game for the Gamecocks will be twofold: They will need to match Baylor’s size on the inside while also figuring out a way to put up points against what looks to be a potentially dynamic Bears defense.

Baylor really limited a good team in Colorado in their first game. They did it with excellent on ball defense and good help side communication. They appear to be a team more committed to the defensive end, and that should spell trouble for Martin’s bunch here.

The absence of Pierre Jackson forces Baylor to have a more team-oriented approach to everything. It starts on offense, where Jackson used to be a black hole of sorts, despite his immense talent.

You could tell in the colorado game that there was a more concerted effort to get the ball into the low block. Kory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin got a lot of touches, and that led to increased energy on the defensive end. 

For South Carolina, Sindarius Thornwell is a 6’5 freshman who figures to get major minutes for the Gamecocks. He is a serious athlete who loves to get to the rim, but that will be difficult given his opponent here.

Not only will Thornwell have to deal with a likely one on one matchup with Ish Smith, but he’ll also struggle to score at the basket given that Jefferson and Austin are protecting it.

I have the Bears as sizable favorites at about 13.5/14 points. But the key to the game and their ability to cover likely hinges on South Carolina as a defensive group. Should they prove that they can keep Baylor off the glass and their scoring in check, we should have a somewhat interesting game. I don't believe that is likely to happen, but still have trouble pulling the trigger on Baylor.

While they have figured out their defense, their scoring is still going to be sporadic in the wake of Jackson's departure. I look for the Gamecocks to be much more disciplined defensively here, and that should aide them in a big way in at least keeping this reasonably tight.