February 16, 2008

Scouting report: UA vs. South Carolina

What: Alabama (14-11) at South Carolina (11-12)
Where: Colonial Center, Columbia, S.C.
When: Saturday.
Time/TV: 6 p.m. CST/FSN.
Series record: Alabama leads 19-10.

The Coach

Dave Odom, one of the Southeastern Conference's most experienced coaches, carries a career record of 403-272 in 21-plus seasons into Saturday's game. Odom's Gamecocks teams have won two NIT championships in his six-plus seasons at USC, but have reached the NCAA tournament only once (2003-04). Odom had far better post-season fortune in the Atlantic Coast Conference, where he reached the NCAA tourney eight times in 12 years.

Last Season

South Carolina finished 14-16 last year with a 4-12 SEC mark, failing to reach a post-season tournament for the first time since 2002-03. Highlights included a road win at Southern Cal, spoiling the grand opening the Galen Center, and a win over Tennessee.

Last Five Games

@ Georgia - L, 82-64
Vanderbilt - L, 66-65
@ Ole Miss - W, 80-77
Georgia - W, 62-56
@ Kentucky - L, 78-70

Did You Know?

* The key number for USC appears to be 80. The Gamecocks are 6-1 when scoring 80-plus, and 1-6 when allowing 80-plus.

* At -4.5, South Carolina ranks at the bottom of the league in rebounding margin.

* Devan Downey is the leading scorer in the SEC East at 19.4 points per game.

All Eyes On…

G Devan Downey (5-9, 175) - The smallest player on the floor will also be the most explosive. Downey leads USC in scoring (19.4) and assists (5.3). He also leads the SEC by a wide margin in steals per game (3.3).

Scouting the Rebels

G Zam Fredrick (6-0, 200) - Fredrick has started every game and averages 15.9 points and 3.3 rebounds. He and Downey represent the league's best scoring guard tandem.
F Dominique Archie (6-7, 210) - Archie is USC's top rebounder (6.1 per game), yet can also step outside and hit the 3-pointer. He averages 10.7 points.
F Dwayne Day (6-5, 185) - Experienced but undersized, Day averages 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds.
F Evka Baniulis (6-7, 210) - The sharp-shooting Lithuanian makes his eighth start. He has nailed 26 of 58 3-pointers (.448), but hasn't been to the free-throw line in 334 minutes this year.

Bench Report

G Brandis Raley-Ross (6-2, 190) - Raley-Ross represents instant offense off the bench and has connected for a team-best clip of .571 on 3-pointers (32 of 56).
F/C Mike Holmes (6-7, 230) - The freshman has earned 17 minutes per game this season and is USC's No.2 rebounder at 4.3 per game.

Analysis and Prediction

The Crimson Tide looks to pick up its first SEC road win of the season, and the struggling Gamecocks could be ripe for it.

Alabama should have a major edge in the paint with Richard Hendrix, as South Carolina is small on the front line and frequently plays with four or even five guards. That could keep UA's emerging post reserves Yamene Coleman and Justin Knox off the floor, as they may be more of a defensive liability than an offensive threat in this matchup. Hendrix should have his way, but look for him to be UA's only big man for most of the game.

On the perimeter, USC is quicker than Alabama and dangerous from the 3-point line, though the Crimson Tide will again have a size edge and would be smart to attack the basket. Brandon Hollinger gets another firecracker point guard to defend: After frustrating Ole Miss shorty Chris Warren, he gets an even more dangerous dynamo in the 5-foot-9 Downey. If Hollinger can't handle him, defensive stopper Senario Hillman may get off the bench to give Downey a different look.

Prediction: Alabama 73, South Carolina 70.

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