South Carolina Gamecocks (12-3 SU, 6-5-1 ATS, 3-9 O/U) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (8-7 SU, 7-6 ATS, 4-7-1 O/U)
NCAAB: Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. EST
The Line: South Carolina Gamecocks -1.5. Total: 140.5
The Tennessee Volunteers will be hoping to halt a two-game losing streak when they host the South Carolina Gamecocks at Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday night. Tennessee is coming off consecutive setbacks at the hands of Arkansas and Florida. The Gamecocks, on the other hand, have won two in a row at the expense of Georgia and Texas A&M.
Thornwell is back
South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell missed six games at the end of the non-conference slate because of a suspension stemming from “a mental mistake.” The Gamecocks went 3-3 during Thornwell’s absence, with losses to Seton Hall, Clemson, and Memphis. Thornwell was reinstated for the beginning of SEC competition and South Carolina promptly reeled off wins over Georgia and Texas A&M. He announced his return with 19 points and 11 rebounds at the Bulldogs’ expense before scoring 16 points against the Aggies. Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said the ‘Cocks are a good team without Thornwell but “certainly” a better team with him. And why not? The 6-foot-5 senior averages 18.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.4 steals per game.
“(South Carolina head coach) Frank Martin is one of those guys I have great respect for, and the fact is when he went to South Carolina, there was no doubt in my mind he was gonna build a winning program,” Barnes commented. “You have to make decisions like [to suspend Thornwell]. We have to make decisions. You always have to make decisions based on your program and moving your program forward, and you always try to keep in mind what you can do to help young people grow and help ‘em as much as you can until there’s just that time it runs out.”
Like going to the dentist
After Tennessee beat the Gamecocks last season in Knoxville, Barnes said going up against Martin’s teams is “like going to the dang dentist with no novocaine.” And that was after a win. Things went much worse for the Volunteers when they had to go on the road to face Martin’s boys one month later. They went down by an alarming 84-58 score. Barnes says this season’s South Carolina squad is better than 10th nationally in points allowed per game, fifth in field-goal percentage defense, and seventh in three-point percentage defense.
“I think when you look at South Carolina, I don’t think there’s any question that they’re the best defensive team in the league,” Barnes said. “You look at the numbers—and I’ve known Frank Martin for a long time, and I have great respect for him, obviously from our days playing against each other in the Big 12 — you just know when you play against his teams they’re gonna guard you. They’re gonna challenge every pass, every cut and every play. They rebound the ball well.”
The South Carolina Gamecocks are:
- 1-3-1 ATS in their last five games following a win
- 2-5 ATS in their last seven games following an ATS win
- 9-2 Under in their last 11 overall
The Tennessee Volunteers are:
- 7-2 ATS in their last nine games against South Carolina
- 4-1 ATS in their last five games against South Carolina
- 7-3 Under in their last 10 overall
Added Barnes, referring to Thornwell: “He’s obviously a good player, and he is a guy that can change your team,” The Gamecocks are undefeated with him, but they were also far from dominant against both Georgia and Texas A&M. Facing Tennessee, a team that almost won at North Carolina, will be a much tougher test. An up-tempo Vols squad that has scored more than 80 points in five games this season may be able to negate their opponent’s physicality. South Carolina is 1-3-1 ATS in its last five following a win and 2-5 ATS in its last seven following an ATS win. The Volunteers are 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings between the two teams and 4-1 ATS in their last five at home against the Gamecocks. Expect those trends to continue.