A game with contrasting styles will forever be intriguing.
The South Carolina Gamecocks (22-10) earned their way to the NCAA Tournament with stingy defense and a fiery head coach in Frank Martin. It is the first time since 2004 that the Gamecocks have reach the madness in March. However, don’t tell this group of ballplayers. They’re refusing to listen to the outside noise.
While South Carolina is known for the defensive end of the floor, the Marquette Golden Eagles (19-12) are mainly known for their ability to put the ball in the bucket. The first round presents us with two gritty teams who are polar opposites. It’s time to dive into their interesting NCAA first round matchup in Greenville, South Carolina.
What To Know About South Carolina
The Gamecocks feature a trio in the backcourt that leads their team in scoring as well as leadership. The combination of shooting guard Sindarius Thornwell, point guard PJ Dozier, and shooting guard Duane Notice equal 44.7 points per game on average. The three are the only players to average double figures in points on the team. Outside of the three, points are somewhat hard to come by. However, that is where a polished defense comes into play.
One that is 27th in the country in scoring defense (64.5 ppg). Impressively, South Carolina has held opponents to 60 points or less 12 times this season. They are also 17th in the country in opposing field goal percentage (39.8). So while they are not a juggernaut on offense, the defense has won them games this season. Wins over Michigan, Vermont, and Florida (all Tournament teams) proves that they can be productive against capable competition.
What To Know About Marquette
The record says one story but the balance within Marquette’s offense makes the team who they are. Five players score in double-figures led by freshman guard Markus Howard. Howard pours in 13.2 points per game and hits 88.9% of his free throws. The team as a whole hits 77.9% from the free throw stripe, good for sixth in the country. When Marquette is on from behind the arc, they are ON. The Eagles lead the NCAA in 3-point percentage with an average of 43% per game. Shooting guard JuJuan Johnson can get to the bucket and is second on the team in points per game with 11.8. Everything (and I mean everything) is predicated off the production on offense.
The contrasting of styles is quite evident in this one. Even the temperament of both coaches is completely different. Martin is a fireball on the sidelines for the Gamecocks. Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski is a little calmer, a testament of being a player and assistant coach under Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
It’s simple for both teams. If the Gamecocks play lights out on defense, they can absolutely walk away as the victor. If Marquette can make it rain, you can advance them to the second round.
So who prevails? While it’s easy to see Marquette get hot with their jumper, it is just as easy for the Gamecocks to make things difficult throughout the night. One thing in South Carolina’s favor is having the SEC Player of The Year in their corner in Thornwell. Even with his talent, others are needed to step up. Look for Marquette to not only make it a shooting contest but they will try to make their way to the free-throw line. The ability to be the seventh best free-throwing shooting team in the country can play in their favor.
In this one, defense can be key. Marquette is not quite reliable on the defensive end. Even if they were to make it a shootout, all the Gamecocks need to do is make a few timely defensive stops to ultimately prevail.
South Carolina 70 Marquette 61