#3 Baylor vs. #7 South Carolina
Storyline: I picked Duke to win this game
Real Storyline: South Carolina is legit with Sindarius Thornwell
Wow! In the upset of the weekend South Carolina knocked off one of the title favorites in the Duke Blue Devils. The team that was pegged to go undefeated and then pegged to be “back” at least 10 times didn’t make it to the second weekend. This will be one of the least talked about games because so many brackets had Duke in this game and winning it. Don’t be that person and talk about this game because these are two legit teams.
If you have not heard of senior guard Sindarius Thornwell, you should keep reading this because the senior guard is very talented. He was suspended for 6 games early in the season that costed his team 3 wins. South Carolina was undefeated in games that Thornwell played in until a late January loss to Kentucky. South Carolina relies heavily on Thornwell and high school All-American PJ Dozier. The Gamecocks are known for their defense ranking 4th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency stat. Looking back at the stats for the Duke game, some of the stats don’t line up for me. South Carolina scored 88 points by shooting only 32% from deep. They also gave up 81 points which is high for a top ranked defense. They will want to play an up tempo game to tire out the Baylor bigs.
Baylor has had a roller coaster season from being ranked number one in a number of polls for a few weeks. Down the stretch, they suffered losses to Texas Tech and two losses to Kansas State. The Bears then returned to form beating both New Mexico State and USC to advance to the Sweet 16. Jonathan Motley and Manu Lecomte struggled at times through the first weekend with Motley struggling with foul trouble and Lecomte only making one deep shot in two games.
Picking this game is such a toss-up for me. South Carolina just beat a title favorite without a top notch game from PJ Dozier. They are also much closer to home at Madison Square Garden. Baylor beat two double digit seeds to advance to the Sweet 16 but they have the talent and quality wins that South Carolina doesn’t. Ultimately, I am giving the nod to Baylor due to their size and Manu Lecomte’s track record. Duke was a perimeter oriented team which matched up perfectly with South Carolina’s strengths. Baylor has multiple post players that can exploit the interior weakness. Look for Jonathan Motley to have a 20-10 double double with Manu Lecomte knocked down a few triples late to push them over the edge.
Prediction: Baylor 72, South Carolina 69