Preview: South Carolina

UNC will be battling an old foe in an unfamiliar territory Friday night when it takes on South Carolina in Las Vegas as part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational [ed: Continental Ties sure does love UNC, don’t they?].

The Heels lead the all-time series between the lesser of the Carolinas and former Southern Conference and ACC rival 57-21 but the two have not met since the 1996-1997 season. Both teams have played Tennessee State and Mississippi Valley State as part of the Invitational with UNC getting two wins by an average margin of about 29.5 points. South Carolina has not had the same results, beating MVSU by 4 and losing to TSU by 1. Both those games were played in Columbia, S.C.

  • South Carolina is paced by senior forward Malik Cooke, right. Cooke is a Charlotte native and Nevada transfer who leads the team in scoring with 11.8 points per and is second on the team with 5.5 rebounds a game. Cooke  also has the ability to get to  and convert at the line free throw line.
  • Point guard Eric Smith has stepped up early in the Gamecocks’ season. The sophomore earned his first start against MVSU and had a career night against Tennessee State with 18 points on 5-7 shooting from behind the arc.
  •  There’s been a lot of talk about Kendall Marshall assist number so far this season. Here’s maybe the best fact so far, courtesy of InsideCarolina: Kendall Marshall has more assists (43) than the entire South Carolina roster (42) in the same number of games (4) this season.
  • If it is possible, between John Henson’s offensive renaissance and Marshall’s numbers, Harrison Barnes’ name hasn’t been the talk of the squad. Why would it be? It’s not like he’s leading the #1 team in the nation in scoring or anything at 17 ppg.
  • Speaking of #1, South Carolina does have a recent history of knocking off the top team in the country. This past January, for the first time in school history, South Carolina knocked off a #1 ranked team in Kentucky. The Gamecocks had lost their previous seven games against top-ranked teams.
  • UNC is currently ranked 1st in the nation in assists per game, 3rd in points scored and 6th in rebounds and FG percentage. South Carolina is 288th, 267th, 160th and 259th, respectively, in those same statistical categories.
Looking at how this team is constructed and how they’ve faired against the same opponents, UNC should overmatch and outclass the Gamecocks easily out in the desert. It is of course Las Vegas and crazier things than a UNC upset have happened. I just wouldn’t bet the house on it. *gambling wordplay*

Prediction: UNC 89, South Carolina 64