Show Me My Opponent: South Carolina (#2)

LINEUP NOTES

South Carolina:

  • Different starting lineup than last time, partially due to Justin Minaya being out with an injured thumb. I *think* it’ll be Couisnard/Lawson/Bryant/Frink/Kotsar but Leveque could start as well.
  • As you can tell, Frank Martin is giving a lot of minutes to his bench to compensate for injuries/various offensive issues. Over the last three games without Minaya, the starting lineup combined for just 61.5% of all minutes, which would equate to the 25th-lowest starters’ minutes percentage in the nation. All of Trae Hannibal, Jair Bolden, TJ Moss, Jalyn McCreary, and even Wildens Leveque (ABSOLUTE GOD STATUS NAME) figure to get serious minutes. The best* lineup looks like Couisnard/Bolden/Lawson/Frink/Kotsar to my eyes but it doesn’t seem to currently exist.

Tennessee:

  • A new lineup!!! And the one I’ve wanted for three weeks!!! Vescovi, Bowden, Johnson, Pons, Fulkerson.
  • Who knows if Josiah-Jordan James will be back or not, but I’d bring him off the bench to start regardless. I’m curious to see how it would work, him running the second-string as point.
  • Again, I never know what Barnes is going to do with lineups or rotations, as evidenced by Davonte Gaines getting 26 minutes immediately after a 5-minute outing against Kentucky. That said: a clear trend is developing where, if Uros Plavsic doesn’t immediately impress, Olivier Nkamhoua takes all of his minutes. It happened against Arkansas most recently, but I thought it happened against both Kansas and Texas A&M as well. I’m not totally against it, given Plavsic’s immobility, but it’s curious.

KEY MATCHUPS

Jordan Bowden/Jalen Johnson vs. AJ Lawson. As the last remaining true shot creator on the roster, Lawson will probably use up a bunch of possessions in this one. Tennessee needs to force him into less optimal shots, starting with long twos and potentially even progressing to threes. I’d rather give up a Lawson three (xPPP of 1.07) than a Lawson drive to the basket (xPPP 1.18) or, worse, a foul.

John Fulkerson vs. Maik Kotsar. This was the key matchup last time, and while Kotsar won it very slightly, Fulkerson was impressive in his own right, posting 15 & 10 and making the game-winning play by drawing a charge that may or may not have been a charge. Anyway, Fulkerson needs to be similarly impressive in this one.

PREDICTION

South Carolina 69, Tennessee 66. Hoping to be wrong, obviously, but road SEC games are tough, and Tennessee’s efficiency numbers don’t feel high enough to project an outright win. BUT: they can do it, sure.

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