It's Hoops Time in Tennessee: South Carolina Preview 2/25/23
Last Time Out: Tennessee lost at #25 Texas A&M 68-63, falling to 20-8 (9-6 SEC). South Carolina (10-18, 3-12) took Alabama to the limit in overtime but lost 78-76.
Previously on Vols vs. Gamecocks: Tennessee drubbed South Carolina 85-42 on January 2. UT is 58-21 in the series all-time, including a 30-9 record in Knoxville and winning 9 of the last 10 overall.
Who to Watch: Considering how bad South Carolina has been this season, I was surprised to see how statistically not awful they look at first glance. Four Gamecocks average 10 or more points per game this season, and three average five or more rebounds. Sophomore Meechie Johnson (6'2, 177) leads the team in assists (3.5/game) while also giving 13 points per. They even have an Annoying Headband Guy(tm), Hayden Brown (6'5, 225), a sixth-year senior who seems to have transferred to South Carolina from The Citadel for the express purpose of growing as much hair on his face and head as possible. He also averages 11 points and 5 rebounds.
Undoubtedly the star for Carolina is GG Jackson, who would've been a top player in the 2023 class, but reclassified to the 2022 class last summer to join South Carolina early. Projected as a late-lottery pick, Jackson shows incredible talent and confidence in his shot for a player his age, having just turned 18 in December. Jackson leads the SEC in shots taken by more than a game's worth of shots (407 to Brandon Miller's 380) but is just seventh in makes (157) and has an Effective Field Goal percentage of .448. GG has 39 points and is 6-16 from three in his last two games, including a mid-court shot before the half against Alabama on Wednesday. He's equally good with the catch-and-shoot as he is off the dribble, and has the ability to drive to the hoop to make things happen. The only shot he seems to struggle with is long twos--Tennessee will want to keep him out of the paint but inside the arc to limit Jackson's effectiveness.
Prediction: GG Jackson is a dangerous player. He will take a lot of shots and he'll make some. South Carolina has some other solid players too, but there's a reason they're 3-12 in SEC play. Tennessee routed this team once, on the road, and while it's true UT was playing better ball in January than they have over the last few weeks, look for the Vols to take out some of the frustration of the past month. As I am writing this, the line has not been announced, but I will even call for Tennessee to cover whatever the spread is and beat USC soundly.