UVA vs South Carolina

South Carolina is 7-4, with losses to BU, Wichita State, UNI, and Houston. They’re coming off a 67-54 win over Clemson. South Carolina has been really inconsistent so far this season: they were picked 10th in the preseason SEC rankings, but they’ve had moments when they look like a Tournament team. And moments when they look like a middle school squad.

Player to Watch: Canadian AJ Lawson. Lawson is a 6’7” combo guard who flirted with the NBA last summer. He will have the ball in his hands on every possession. He’s a stat-sheet-stuffer who thrives in the open floor; Virginia needs to slow him down and make him play in the half court. But even then, he’s effortlessly quick (if that makes sense).

Lawson also plays great individual defense. Whoever Lawson is guarding won’t be scoring much, not that Virginia has a problem with that because no one is scoring much.

And Kihei needs to watch those lazy passes – Lawson will jump the passing lane and take it back in a hurry.

Deep Ball: Virginia’s Achilles Heel is someone getting hot from three point range (of course, that’s probably every team’s Achilles Heel). About 30% of South Carolina’s shots are three pointers, and they make about 29% of them, making five per game. They have five guys who attempt three pointers, and two guys who can make them: the aforementioned AJ Lawson (36% from deep) and Jair Bolden (39%).

Strengths : South Carolina is a solid defensive squad, allowing opponents a meager 37.9% field goal percentage, good enough for 28th in the nation (Virginia is, of course, first). They generate over seven steals per game, and score on the break. They want to play fast.

Weaknesses : They’re not very good playing halfcourt basketball, which is exactly what Virginia will force them to do. South Carolina plays smallish, with only Maik Kotsar, an Estonian senior big man, with any mass up front, so Virginia’s size should give them trouble. They’re also crap from the free throw line; Lawson’s their best and he’s only 80%.

Matchup to Watch: Lawson is the primary ballhandler, but he towers over Kihei and he’s also their primary scorer. With no real backup, Kihei can’t foul, and Lawson is a threat to score from anywhere. So Lawson will attack the basket and dare Kihei to risk fouling him. So far this season, Kihei has guarded the opposing point guard, but Lawson, while the primary ballhandler, isn’t a great matchup for Kihei.

I’d like to see Kihei defending Jair Bolden, their best three point shooter. Bolden’s favorite shot is the uncontested three pointer at the top of the key with his feet set. Kihei would make him uncomfortable. But that would give Morsell his greatest challenge of the young season: defending AJ Lawson. Lawson is long (6’7”) but skinny; he won’t bully Morsell.

But Kihei has defied expectations since he arrived; maybe he shuts Lawson down too.


Might be a good game to play Key a bit more, if only for his defensive skills to negate this 6’7 primary ball handler.


Sounds like the formula for an upset. Cant afford those lazy passes

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Any word today on why McKoy didn’t play last night? Hopefully Braxton will feel more comfortable on Sunday and be able to give a little more.


I was wondering the same thing

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Preview of our blog post.

This is an odd matchup. South Carolina is known as a gritty power five conference team, but has lost to Boston University. Virginia is ranked ninth in the country, but has lost by twenty-nine points to an unranked team. It’s hard to know what either of these teams will be by season’s end.

So far this season, #102 (via KenPom) South Carolina is 7-4 with losses to Wichita State (#32 on KenPom), Northern Iowa (#73 KenPom), and Houston (#35 KenPom) in addition to Boston (#219 KenPom). While outside of the Boston game, those games are ones you’d expect South Carolina to drop, but both the Wichita State and Houston games were 20-point defeats. That said, the Gamecocks bounced back from the tough Houston loss with a solid 13-point win over Clemson (#91 KenPom). Other than that contest though, South Carolina is yet to beat a team in the top #190 (via KenPom).

South Carolina is led by sophomore guard AJ Lawson and senior big man Malik Kotsar, their two players averaging double figures in points at 16.1 PPG and 10.1 PPG. The Gamecocks boast what has been roughly an eleven-man rotation, with each of those eleven playing ten plus minutes per contest. Recently, the eleven has shrunken down closer to eight, with those last few guys rotating off game by game who gets the short end of the stick.

They are generally a smaller team down low, with Kotsar and freshman Wildens Leveque (who was essentially benched from the starting lineup last game against Clemson following a disappointing performance against Houston) the only rotational players taller than 6’7”. That said, Kotsar is a force on the interior and will take some stopping from Virginia. More on that later. The 6’7” Alanzo Frick is a bulky 260 pounds and can tough it out down low, especially on the boards. Like Virginia, outside of their star big Kotsar, the minutes down low are very matchup dependent. The guards for the Gamecocks are in fact a bit lengthier. Namely, Lawson is 6’6” and could leave the Virginia guards susceptible to drives against the bigger player. I’d like Morsell to start on him and to perhaps let the first year see if he can stick with the more experienced, bigger player. It’s unclear how much of a role Braxton Key will play, but he could be a good matchup for Lawson as well.

South Carolina currently holds a 101.4 offensive rating (151st via KenPom), along with a 95.1 defensive rating (83rd via KenPom).

Explaining Ken Pom Ratings and Rankings

On defense for the ‘Hoos, it’ll be interesting to see how they decide to guard Kotsar. Despite an encouraging performance against Stony Brook, Jay Huff may start this game on the bench as Caffaro seems like the more natural defender to the 270-pound Kotsar. I expect Virginia to double Kotsar in the post from the get go and try to force South Carolina’s shooters to beat them. The good news for the Wahoos is that the Gamecocks have struggled from distance, shooting a lowly 28.8% from three so far this season. This means that when Kotsar kicks to his guards from the post, it should be difficult for South Carolina to take advantage of the space the Virginia double provides. Lawson and Jair Bolden can both make shots from the outside, shooting 35.6% and 38.9%, so they’ll likely hit a few. But, with only two legitamite shooters, South Carolina should struggle against the pack line.

It’ll also be important that Virginia keeps the Gamecocks off the offensive boards, as South Carolina rebounds 33.9% of their misses. Frick in particular is thirty sixth in the nation in this regard, rebounding 14.6% of his teammates’ misses when he’s on the floor.

When the Cavaliers are on offense, they’ll need to limit turnovers as best they can as South Carolina’s defense is predicated on going for steals, and then, accordingly, when the defense breaks, blocking shots. They’ve posted a 10.5% steal rate (87th in the country) while also blocking 14.9% of their opponents’ shots (23rd nationwide). What’s the caveat? South Carolina fouls at a ridiculous 44.1% rate since they are so often reaching and swatting at the ball. Virginia needs to attack the inside to try and exploit that weakness. Getting Kotsar, a player who averages four fouls per forty minutes, in early foul trouble could give the ‘Hoos a chance to get out to a comfortable lead in the first half.

Virginia will win if: They take care of the ball and can limit Kotsar’s post points. They’ll want to curb those easy baskets that Kotsar can produce, so look for him to be the focal point of the defense’s attention. The offense will be what it is. As long as Kihei can keep a tight grip on the ball, I don’t see things getting out of hand.

South Carolina will win if: Kotsar can get the Virginia big men into foul trouble and the Gamecocks can nail a few threes. They’d also love to take advantage of some of Virginia’s inexperience in the backcourt to generate turnovers, and as a result a few easy baskets in transition.

Score Prediction: Virginia 52 – South Carolina 41

I just don’t think South Carolina can produce enough points to win this game. Yeah, Virginia’s offense hasn’t been pretty so far this season, but given how critical it is to shoot well against the Virginia defense, and how poorly South Carolina shoots, this should be another game in the win column for the Wahoos.


I’m less worried about Lawson than others, maybe I’m underestimating him. But against Wichcita State and Houston (two best teams they’ve played) he was a combined 4-16 for 15 points. Don’t think he’s an elite enough scorer to really torch us but we’ll see.


Same starters Clark Morsell Kody Mamadi Caffaro


I have a good feeling about today’s offense, but we’ll see

That 3’s a good start!

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Bad start so far, but I think it will improve, just need to allow less opportunities for them

Uggh. Bennett’s not a happy guy right now. Bad turnovers, allowing offensive rebounds, not getting back in transition. Breaking all the non negotiables

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We need to wake up. Very early and looks like SC is just playing harder. Dont like when Mamadi feels like he has to take it on himself to get a bucket but thats where we are early


The playing is simply sloppy, need to step up our game indeed

Offense is stagnant. Expect to see some continuity ball screen offense shortly. Been all mover blocker so far

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Way too much dribbling right now. Quicker passes necessary in mover blocker.

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USC Still making very tough shots, just need to keep up our defense and improve our offense, wait for our strike when they cool off

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Exactly. Way too much dribbling. Need quicker ball movement. SC is shooting well but frankly defensive effort is lacking.

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One possession of continuity ball screen and that happens. Turnovers bad

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I don’t like Key at guard while he’s in the cast. Also hate Tomas guarding the hot shooter while Morsell is in the game. Edit: Casey’s not in but still. Key in the cast is fine defensively.