Chances are, you probably don’t know much about the South Carolina Gamecocks other then they are the Gamecocks and their coach is Frank Martin, who you might remember stalking the sidelines of Kansas State a few years ago.
So to help all of us out, we reached out to Garnet and Black Attack to get to the bottom of who this team is, and thankfully Chris Stanley had some answers for us.
1) There is most likely a 95 percent chance the average Gonzaga fan doesn't know much about South Carolina other than Frank Martin and defense. If you had to sum up this team, where would you start?
There's a cliche that says a team takes on the personality of their coach, but it holds true when you talk about South Carolina. Frank Martin grew up in a rough Miami neighborhood in a single parent household and worked as a bouncer in the Miami nightclub scene while he was getting a coaching career off the ground.
So imagine this is seven nightclub bouncers taking the court against your team. Frank Martin is a defensive minded coach who values attitude over technique, which is present in guys like Chris Silva and Rakym Felder. The team lives and dies by its star player Sindarius Thornwell, who might be the best two-way player in the country. Thornwell will lock you down on D while averaging 20 points a game. Throw in some tenacious defenders around him who can get you ten points a night, and that's South Carolina in a nutshell.
2) Congratulations on The Slipper Still Fitting! Now, how the hell did you guys get to where you are as a No. 7 seed?
The defense has been stellar from the get go. South Carolina plays both their man sets and their 3-2 zone to near perfection, they're disciplined on their switches, quick to break out of double teams to close out on open shooters and will make you pay with great transition offense off turnovers -- which they can force in bunches.
Martin's offense is a little archaic, so it has a tendency to disappear at times. You saw that during the end of the regular season when the Gamecocks went 3-6 and were one-and-done in the SEC Tournament. PJ Dozier, Duane Notice and Chris Silva are all talented players, but during the regular season the lot of them couldn't play consistently two games in a row. However so far during the NCAA Tournament, Dozier and Silva have been very good to compliment Thornwell.
3) Sindarius Thornwell has been unreal this tournament. What are some of the other offensive options in South Carolina's arsenal?
As mentioned earlier, Dozier and Silva have been the other two potions. Dozier is a lanky, six-foot-six guard who can drive into the lane and have a nice floater he can raise up to keep big men off balance. He's decent enough from three where you can't leave him wide open, but he's had plenty of 3-12 type games this year. Silva is an explosive center who can throw down an ally-oop and every once and a while use a post move or two to get easy buckets. His issue is getting in foul trouble, which limits his minutes. Notice can knock down three's, put his offense has been kind of limited during the run. Maik Kotsar is a good post scorer when he's on, and Felder -- as wild as he can be -- is a nice heat-check guy to have coming off the bench.
4) South Carolina gives up a few inches in the frontcourt. How do you see them dealing with the height of Gonzaga's post game?
Normally I'd say South Carolina would try to play small to throw the other team off balance, but much like Florida had Justin Leon to counter a small lineup -- Gonzaga has Jonathan Williams. This is going to force South Carolina to play Kotsar and Silva at the same time a lot to counter Karnowski and Collins. Both of South Carolina's big men are sustainable to getting in quick foul trouble, so what worries me is Karnowski attacking Silva early and often to try and draw those fouls.
As simple and answer as this is, it's just going to take Silva and Kotsar to both have very good games defensively and stay out of foul trouble. Simply put Gonzaga is a bad match up for South Carolina, and it's going to take some extraordinary performances to push the Gamecocks over the top.
5) You guys are most definitely the underdogs coming into the game. What needs to go right for South Carolina to pull off yet another upset?
The first thing that absolutely has to happen is Thornwell having another 20-plus point game while taking away one of Gonzaga's stud guards -- either Nigel Williams-Gross or Jordan Matthews. Dozier or Notice have to be able to contribute 15, while Felder comes off the bench and at least gets two three's.
More importantly, Silva and Kotsar have to play the best games they've had in their careers at the same time while staying out of foul trouble. It sounds like a lot to ask, but that's what you need if you're playing the best team in the country -- which I believe Gonzaga is.
6) Finally, game prediction if you don't mind!
As much as I hate to say it, I think this is just a bad matchup for South Carolina. I see Silva getting in foul trouble, which means Karnowski and Collins should have no trouble going inside and winning battles at the rim. Considering South Carolina is an average shooting team at best, when you take away the inside shot like I think Gonzaga will -- SC's offense will fall flat.
My prediction? Gonzaga 68, South Carolina 59