Today Syracuse (4-0) faces off against South Carolina (5-0) in a battle of undefeateds at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. Our friends over at Garnet and Black Attack were kind enough to answer some of our preview questions. Let’s dive in, shall we?
TNIAAM: I personally think Frank Martin is one of college basketball's underrated coaches. How is he viewed among the fan base?
Sydney Hunte: Frank needed a big year last season after three straight sub.-500 seasons in conference play to start his tenure at South Carolina. Even with that, I think that the fan base was willing to give him a little more rope after the damage done to the program by Darrin Horn, and It certainly paid off last year as they won 25 games and found themselves in the NIT for their first postseason appearance since 2006. I'm in the camp that they should have been in the NCAA Tournament even with a few untimely losses sprinkled in the mix. I suppose that if fans want to knock Frank, it's that he hasn't been able to close the deal on strong local talent (Seventh Woods, Devontae Shuler come to mind), but he has done a good job recruiting-wise, I think, and all in all, the fan base appreciates how he's been able to shape this program into his image and set it on a better trajectory than it has been before his arrival.
TNIAAM: Are Notice and Thornwell the two de facto leaders on the court? Who's the leader of this team?
SH: I'd say without question it's Thornwell. While Notice is transitioning from his sixth man/first off the bench role last year into a nightly starter this year, everything flows through Sindarius. Frank showed trust in Sindarius from day one as he's started every single game since stepping onto campus in 2013, and throughout that time, he's developed into one of the most dependable players in the SEC and maybe the country. He obviously won't be confused with an Isaiah Briscoe at Kentucky, but he is the heart and soul of this team.
TNIAAM: Who might be the biggest threat on this South Carolina team? Any shooters/zone busters we should be worried about?
SH: Certainly as far as high scorers on this team, you'd have to go with Thornwell, but as far as pure shooters, I'd keep an eye on PJ Dozier. Dozier's listed as a point guard with SG tendencies, and so far it's worked as he's 7 for 16 from behind the arc thus far. Thornwell and Notice have combined to go 22-53 from three in the early going, and thus far, the team's averaging about 20 attempts from deep (sitting at about 38.5% right now). I know Boeheim leans on the 2-3, so the opportunity is there for the Gamecocks to shoot them out of it.
TNIAAM: South Carolina wins if...
SH: They make their shots. Probably a simplistic projection, but for a zone-oriented team like Syracuse, you're looking to force them out of it by relying on your shooters. However, I wouldn't rely too much on the 3 if I'm the Gamecocks (they were 4-15 from three against Michigan despite a win - for what it's worth, Michigan was 2-26) and look to create inside and maybe look to get to the line. Related: make free throws. They were just 11-18 from the stripe against the Wolverines, 17-25 against Monmouth and 16-26 against La. Tech, so while it hasn't really hurt them (yet), if they dont get things sewn up here, they could see a close game slip away.
TNIAAM: Syracuse wins if...
SH: They force the Gamecocks into foul trouble. Frank Martin has preached constantly to his bigs (namely Chris Sliva and freshman Maik Kotsar) to not take cheap fouls. If the Orange can work it inside and force the big men to foul, they can take them out of the picture and stand a strong chance of winning this game.
TNIAAM: Barclays has been good to you guys, what's your official prediction?
SH: I'd have to give this one to Syracuse 85-68. The Gamecocks might keep it close for a while, but I think the Orange has the talent (and the expertise) to pull this one off in the end.
What do you think, Orange Nation? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to check to http://www.garnetandblackattack.com/ for our preview and also give Sydney a follow on twitter.