South Carolina is now 6-0 under Frank Martin, but the Gamecocks could be an overlay giving this many points to an experienced Western Carolina team that defends the three well.
The undefeated home team might be an overlay Monday night vs. a team capable of neutralizing one of its strengths when the pesky and experienced Western Carolina Catamounts (2-3, 1-1 ATS) pay a visit to those unbeaten South Carolina Gamecocks (6-0, 4-0 ATS) at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC at 7:00 ET in a game televised nationally on the SEC Network.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Western Carolina as a very big underdog for this contest with the current line at +18 with odds of -106.
Paradise Jam Champions
South Carolina is off to a perfect 6-0 start, as the Gamecocks returned home from the Virgin Islands after winning the Paradise Jam and emerged triumphant for the sixth straight time here at Colonial Life Arena 92-76 Friday over Lipscomb. Thus the Cocks are off to their best start since beginning 8-0 in 2003-04 as they are now in their fourth season under Coach Frank Martin.
Western Carolina hails from the Southern Conference, so facing this SEC opponent is certainly a step up in class. Still, the Catamounts come off of a hard-fought, covering effort on the road at the College of Charleston, albeit as the losing NCAA Basketball picks straight up 57-56, and this is an experienced team that starts four seniors, so Western Carolina will probably not be in awe of visiting the Gamecocks here.
Three-Point Shooting Bigger Part of Cocks Game…
South Carolina comes off of a disappointing 17-16 season last year where it was done in by poor three-point shooting, where it ranked a dismal 320th in the country at 30.1 percent, which really hurt while losing six SEC games by single-digits including five of them by six points or less. It has been a different story this season however and the offense has been much more efficient as a result.
The Gamecocks have improved all the way to 63rd in the nation in the early going at 38.8 percent from beyond the arc, led by junior Duane Notice and his 50.0 percent shooting from downtown. As a result, South Carolina is now ranked 43rd in offensive efficiency while scoring at least 83 points in five of its six games after ranking 158th in offensive efficiency last season.
South Carolina is also 32nd in defensive efficiency, even though it is only 81st in two-point defense and a poor 260th in three-point defense at 37.6 percent. The key has been minimizing second chances for the opponents, as the Gamecocks are 35th in defensive rebounding percentage.
…But Catamounts Play Stiff Perimeter Defense
But as mentioned, Western Carolina starts four seniors and they can all play defense, as evidenced by holding the opposition to 40.7 percent shooting so far. More pertinent to this particular game though, the Catamounts are a rousing 32nd in three-point defense allowing just a 27.6 percent success rate beyond the arc, so they are quite capable of at least limiting the much improved South Carolina perimeter game.
The Catamounts are undersized though as they play nobody taller than 6-foot-7, but while the natural inclination would be to thus dismiss their chances of getting many second looks vs. an excellent defensive rebounding team like the Gamecocks, WCU is actually nicely above average in offensive rebounding percentage at 34.6 percent vs. a national average of 30.4 percent, actually grabbing more offensive rebounds per game (15.4) than South Carolina (15.0).
Not Always at its Best vs. Lesser Teams
Finally, South Carolina has not always been at its best when facing seemingly inferior teams, as the Gamecocks are 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 home games vs. teams with a road winning percentage of less than .400.
With Western Carolina an experienced team capable of taking away a major South Carolina strength, look for that pattern to continue with the Gamecocks most likely winning the game but not blowing the Catamounts out of the building in Columbia on Monday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Western Carolina +18 (-106)