Sunday, February 8, 2015

No. 2 UConn vs No. 1 South Carolina PreGame Report

UCONN vs South Carolina
Day: Monday
Date: February 9th, 2015
Location: Storrs, Ct   
Time: 8:00
 UConn 22-1
South Carolina 22-0

Head to Head

12/17/07 W 97-39 H
12/28/08 W 77-48 A

Well, here we go. The big matchup of the year. No. 1 South Carolina vs No. 2 UConn. ESPN has been building this up for the last several weeks, mentioning it at every game they broadcast. As Geno said, it's the "biggest game in history". The fans have taken their positions firmly behind their teams. The war of words has been going on in the message board world but it's finally time to just play the damn game.

South Carolina come into this game undefeated at 22-0. Their OOC schedule was pretty weak with only two games against ranked teams, defeating No. 22 (at the time) Syracuse 67-63 and No. 9 Duke 51-50. They also had a tough outing against the real USC winning 69-61. They have met a few ranked teams in their conference schedule, beating No. 10 Kentucky 68-60, No.12 Texas A&M 79-61, and now No. 22 Georgia 58-35 in their last game.

UConn comes into this game on a 21 game winning streak after beating Memphis. UConn played (and lost) to No. 6 Stanford, No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 25 DePaul, and No.10 Duke. While the conference is weak, South Florida is a top 25 RPI team.   

Both Geno and Dawn are doing their best to motivate their players. Dawn sat one of her stars for breaking what was probably a nothing team rule. She used it to show she will sit you so "don't screw up". And she wants Coates to play angry. 

Geno, after watching his team play poorly in a few spurts against Temple and Cincinnati and then play poorly without much energy against Memphis decided to bench Tuck, Stewart and Stokes. But as Kara said in the half time show, it's all for the South Carolina game. You can be sure both teams will be ready.

South Carolina

Who's hot
Bianca Cuevas last 5 games - 11.6 PPG, 21-41 FG (51%), 5-13 3PT FG (38%), 11-14 FT (79%)
Elem Ibiam last 4 games - 12-19 FG (63%)

Who's not
Tiffany Mitchell last 4 games - 13 PPG, 18-43 FG (42%), 4-10 3PT FG (40%)
Asia Dozier last 4 games - 1.2 PPG, 1-9 FG (11%), 0-1 3PT FG    

Who's hot
Saniya Chong last 5 games - 11.2 ppg, 19-28 FG (67.8%), 11-14 3PT FG (78.6%), 7-8 FT (87.5%)
Gabby Williams last 5 games - 12.2 PPG, 34-50 FG (68%)
KML last 9 games - 26-47 3PT FG (55%)
Who's not
Moriah Jefferson last 5 games - 8.6 PPG 16-38 FG (42%), 3-10 3PT FG (30%)
Morgan Tuck last 9 games - 1-15 3PT FG
Stewart her last 9 games - 4-17 3PT FG

Team Stat Comparison with NCAA rank in parenthesis 

Points per Game - UConn 89.9 (1), South Carolina 79.0 (11)
Assist/Turnover - UConn 1.67 (2), South Carolina 1.30 (11)
Assists per Game - UConn 21.4 (1), South Carolina 17.9 (10)
Blocks per Game - UConn 8.3 (1), South Carolina 6.2 (8)
Defensive rebounds per Game - UConn 31 (2), South Carolina 28 (NR)
Field Goal Percentage - UConn 53.9 (1), South Carolina 49.1 (4)
Field Goal Percentage Defense - UConn 29.6 (1), South Carolina 33.6 (6)
Free Throw Percentage - UConn 71.2 (89), South Carolina 66.1 (217)
Offensive Rebounds per Game - UConn 13.4 (NR) South Carolina 14.7 (NR)
Fouls Committed per Game- UConn 12 (2), South Carolina 14.5 (14)
Rebounding Margin - UConn 32.5 (6), South Carolina 31.5 (7)
Scoring Defense - UConn 48.6 (1), South Carolina 50.7 (4)
  Scoring Margin - UConn 41.3 (1), South Carolina 28.3 (2)
Steals per Game - UConn 11 (26), South Carolina 9.4 (74)
Three Point FG Defense - UConn 27.2 (23), South Carolina 25.9 (13)
Three Point Field Goals per Game - UConn 8.5 (10), South Carolina 5.0 (179)
Three Point Field Goal Percentage - UConn 40.9 (2), South Carolina 34.9 (59)
Turnover Margin - UConn 6.05 (17), South Carolina 4.29 (35)
Turnovers per Game - UConn 12.8 (19), South Carolina 13.8 (38)

Ratings and SOS

NCAA RPI - UConn 6, South Carolina 4
RealTime RPI - UConn 10, South Carolina 6
RealTime SOS - UConn 52, South Carolina 48
Massey Rating - UConn 1, South Carolina 2
Massey SOS - UConn 2, South Carolina 30
Sagarin Rating - UConn 1, South Carolina 2
Sagarins SOS - UConn 31, South Carolina 43
Nolan RPI -  UConn 7, South Carolina 4,
 Nolan SOS - UConn 43, South Carolina 40

UConn Starters
11 Kia Nurse 6' Freshman Guard
 Kia is coming off a great game at Memphis. She was aggressive, getting to the line nine times and making them all. If there is a freshman in the country ready for this big game, it's Nurse. I don't think there is a tougher player than Kia. In any class, not just among freshman.
2014-15: MPG 25.1, FG% .533, 3PT% .466, PPG 11.8, RPG 3.4, APG 3.3, 40 steals, 0 blocks

4 Moriah Jefferson 5'7" Junior Guard
Jefferson did not incur the wrath of Geno against Memphis. I'm just always puts in 100% effort. Her outside shot has seemed to taken a little vacation. There is no player in WCBB that has the dribble moves that she does. I mentioned that between leg crossover dribble in the lane as something you just don't see I the women's game very often. Can she finish against the tree's of South Carolina?      
2014-15: MPG 26.0, FG% .549, 3PT% .483, PPG 11.3, RPG 2.6, APG 4.65 55 steals, 3 block

23 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis 5'11" Senior Forward

The Rock. My nickname for her isn't going viral. In fact, I'm probably the only person calling her that. But that is what she is. She, along with Jefferson, are clearly the true leaders on this team. As all great shooters, she doesn't let a slow start keep her from shooting. 0-4 to start that game. 3-3 to end it. You can be sure she will hit several against South Carolina.
2014-15: MPG 28.0, FG% .526, 3PT% .504, PPG 14.0, RPG 4.5, APG 2.6, 24 steals, 3 blocks
3 Morgan Tuck 6'2" Sophomore Forward

Tuck (until the Memphis Game) has been as steady as anyone on the UConn roster. She has the most double digit scoring games on the team and has slowly but surely improved her shooting percentage as the season has progressed, creeping up on the 60% mark. Can she get off the shots when defended by one of the Gamecocks 6'4" players? She is long enough and shifty enough to do just that. 
2014-15: MPG 24.5, FG% .581, 3PT% .167, PPG 13.8, RPG 5.1, APG 2.8, 19 steals, 9 blocks
30 Breanna Stewart 6'4" Junior Forward

I'm sure Stewart is just flat out embarrassed. Geno called her out big time. I'm sure the comments about treating the players the same NPOY or not stung. The big question is how will she react?
Before the Memphis debacle, Stewart was playing great (according to me, not Geno). She had expanded her offensive game, averaging over 4 assists a game in her last 8 games. She has been in a deep freeze from long range over that same timeframe, going 4-17 on three point shots. But she has to take them to be a threat. She is due to have a hot game.     

 2014-15: MPG 26.5, FG% .527, 3PT% .333, PPG 16.1, RPG 6.5, APG 3.1, 40 steals, 48 blocks

 UConn Bench
41 Kiah Stokes 6'3"  Senior Center
 So, what the heck happened? She was put in the game early when Geno sat Tuck and Stewart. And then 8 minutes later she was done for the rest of the game. In reviewing the game again, she just didn't seem very aggressive, exactly the opposite of what I expected from her. Yeah, she blocked two shots, but her hustle was lacking. Putting that game behind her, this is a great game for her to play against players her size. We all remember how she did against Elizabeth Williams her sophomore season. UConn needs her to     
2014-15: MPG 20.2, FG% .527, 3PT% .500, PPG 5.3, RPG 7.7, APG .9, 13 steals, 108 blocks
12 Saniya Chong 5'8" Sophomore Guard
 Ok, who is this player? She looks a lot like the player that dominated HS basketball averaging 30 points and 10 assists per game. UConn would have still won against Memphis, but her outside shooting was the only offense they had for a while. She is not only taking open three's, but she took 2 or 3 contested three's as well. And when the defense broke down for Memphis, she took the ball to the basket. She is really confident and will definitely see minutes against South Carolina. Check out her recent stats in the "who's hot" area earlier in this post. Amazing.
2014-15: MPG 20.3, FG% .487, 3PT% .424, PPG 6.7, RPG 2.3, APG 1.8, 13 steals, 6 blocks

15 Gabby Williams 5'11" Freshman Guard
 She is coming into this game playing her best basketball of the season. I keep hearing how she will struggle against South Carolina due to their size. But I'm thinking that South Carolina will struggle with Gabby due to her talent. She reminds me of another small power forward in Nina Davis of Baylor. Both are 5'11" and play much bigger than their size would indicate. Her quickness off the floor, unique elevation ability and the skill to finish around the basket with either hand makes her a tough matchup for any opponent.  
2014-15: MPG 17.5 FG% .624, 3PT% .000, PPG 9.2, RPG 6.6, APG 1.4, 33 steals, 11 blocks

22 Courtney Ekmark 6' Freshman Guard

  I don't think she will see much time in this game. She really isn't ready for this level of competition. She plays hard. That is the best I can say right now. But I love her competitiveness and her willingness to take shots. No fear.
2014-15: MPG 13.4 FG% .300, 3PT% .227, PPG 1.9, RPG 1.9, APG 1.0, 5 steals, 0 blocks

UConn Complete Stats

South Carolina Starters

 25 Tiffany Mitchell 5'9" Junior Guard

Mitchell is the star of this team. She leads by example. Not much of a talker, but her skills speak for themselves. Her sling shot three pointer from the shoulder is really accurate. She was leading the country for quite a while in that category. A smart player, she just has the knack of taking and making big shots. She loves to drive the right side of the lane and when confronted with the defense, spin to the middle and hit a little fade away in the lane or a pass to a big in the post.        
2014-15: MPG 28.0, FG% .516, 3PT% .472, PPG 14.8, RPG 2.9, APG 2.8, 40 steals, 3 blocks

5 Kadisha Sessions 5'8" Junior Guard
Sessions starts at point guard and does a decent job in facilitating the offense. She is fortunate that she has such a dynamic partner in the back court with Mitchell. She is not an offensive threat. I did see her hit a big three pointer against Kentucky. But when I looked up the stats, it's clear that she is just not a good shooter. Sessions will drive the lane and either try to get to the basket of dish off to a big.  She does play excellent defense. She likes to get in the face of the offensive player.   
2014-15: MPG 21.6, FG% .365, 3PT% .211, PPG 4.0, RPG 2.7, APG 3.0, 3 steals, 44 blocks
31 Asia Dozier 6' Junior Forward
She has nice length when she is playing the 2 guard, but she starts at the small forward position and at times is undersized there. She started 32 of 34 games last year and has started 16 of 22 games this year. She does a little bit of everything but doesn't do anything really well.
Dozier has had only 3 double digit scoring games and in her last seven games she has had a high of five points and has been scoreless in three of her last four game.    
    2014-15: MPG 16.5, FG% .395 3PT% .328, PPG 4.1, RPG 1.0, APG 2.0, 11 steals, 3 blocks
33 Elem Ibiam 6'4" Senior Center
I've been told that Staley rewards seniors with starting positions and that is why she starts over Coates as center. From what I've seen, she brings a steadiness to the position to start the game. She plays great position defense and sets nice screens for Mitchell.
She is not a great scorer, not a great rebounder, not a great passer. But she plays hard, defends well and give you solid minutes. She has only had 1 double digit scoring game in her last nine outings. And her highest rebounding game over that time is four.     
2014-15: MPG 17.9, FG% .589, 3PT% .000, PPG 7.2, RPG 4.1 APG 0.4, 5 steals, 23 blocks
24 Aleighsa Welsh 6' Sophomore Forward

Her demeanor and passion on the court reminds me of a former UConn forward, Jamelle Elliott. Welsh is tough as nails. She is definitely the on the court emotional lead, but there are times where I've seen her emotions get the best of her.

Welsh is as one dimensional a player that I have seen this year. She doesn't have much of an outside shot, at least from what I have seen in the 6-7 games I have watched. She only drives to her left even if she starts driving right. Stopping her is another issue. She is really strong with the ball, and carves out space in the lane and under the basket.

Her strength is her defense. She is brutal with her one-on-one physicality. And intimidation is one of her weapons. You can always count on a few plays where she will stare down the opponent.
 2014-15: MPG 25.0, FG% .574, 3PT% .000, PPG 7.2, RPG 5.9, APG 1.8, 8 steals, 29 blocks
South Carolina Bench
  22 A'ja Wilson 6'4" Freshman Guard/Forward
Yes, I listed her as a guard. It's what she wants and it's how the South Carolina site has her listed. In her last game she only played 9 minutes before fouling out. A couple of tough calls but she played like a freshman playing in her first game. That is not the true Wilson.  
She is very left hand strong like Welsh but she will go to her right and occasionally use her off hand. She likes to shoot the mid-range jumper, but I would bet she only shoots around 40% on those shots. She loves the ball at the foul line and then either use a screen or just strides past the defender, getting to the basket in only 2 dribbles. She is LONG. And while she doesn't like the physicality of the game, she definitely is a good rebounder. I've also been impressed with her shot blocking ability. She is a quick jumper for someone her size.     
2014-15: MPG 20.6, FG% .514, 3PT% .000, PPG 13.2, RPG 7.0, APG 1.0, 27 steals, 35 blocks
41 Alana Coates 6'4" Sophomore Center
So, what did she do? That is the question about her benching against Georgia. She broke team rules. But that being said, Coates is a terrific player. She was FOY in the SEC last season and is the third leading scorer on this team. She leads the team in rebounds averaging almost 9 rebounds a game in only 20 minutes. Big and strong and with an attitude, she does have a little bit of Tennessee's Harrison in her, where she lets the play frustrate her and impact her decision making.      
She has disappeared in too many games against the better teams for it to be a coincidence. She scored six points against Florida, three against Kentucky, seven against LSU, seven against Duke and she was scoreless against Syracuse. Not a good track record. On the other hand, she has been absolutely dominant in some games with 10 double-doubles and three straight before the suspension.          
2014-15: MPG 20.9, FG% .553, 3PT% .000, PPG 11.2, RPG 8.7, APG .9, 12 steals, 35 blocks
1 Bianca Cuevas 5'6" Freshman Guard
If Moriah Jefferson looks 12 years old, Cuevas looks like she is eight. But don't let those cupie doll looks fool you. She is one tough cookie. Most freshman point guards will struggle early on, and Cuevas is not different, but she has been a different player the last 4 games. 
I do believe she is almost as quick as Jefferson and it's really close. She must be watching Moriah play as Bianca has borrowed the halfback move to the hoop, cradling the ball with two hands before laying it in. She has been shooting better from three and you can see she has the form to be a good shooter. Her defense is erratic but her quickness allows her to disrupt slow moving offenses. And she always is fun to watch!    
2014-15: MPG 15.3, FG% .406, 3PT% .264, PPG 6.6, RPG 1.6, APG 1.9, 29 steals, 3 blocks
23 Tina Roy 5'11" Junior Guard
Roy comes off the bench and always gives SC solid minutes. She is not a scorer off the bench, but is their three point specialist. She has taken 85 shots ad 63 of them have been three pointers. In every game I have watched, Roy always hits one three point shot and it always seems to be at a big part of the game. Defensively, she is strong but not particularly quick and might have trouble keeping any of the UConn guards in front of her.      
2014-15: MPG 15.6, FG% .405, 3PT% .381, PPG 4.4, RPG 2.0, APG 2.4, 6 steals, 2 blocks

4 Jatarie White 6'4" Junior Forward
White has been in and out of the lineup all year. She missed several games with a stress fracture in her foot. Then she was out with the flu. I finally got to see her against Georgia for extended minutes and I liked what I saw. Still rusty, but she moves well for her size. With Coates back from her "suspension", White won't see more than a few minutes against UConn unless there is foul trouble for 2 of the SC bigs.    
2014-15: MPG 11.8, FG% .457, 3PT% .000, PPG 3.7, RPG 3.2, APG .3, 3 steals, 3 blocks
 Game Analysis

When South Carolina has the ball

There is only one double digit scorers in the starting lineup for South Carolina, Tiffany Mitchell. We have all seen what UConn can do when they need to shut down one player. They are usually successful. Is Mitchell that much better than USF's Courtey Williams? UCF's Zykira Lewis? I don't believe so. All three are great players. UConn was able to take them out of their games. Mitchell will get her shots, but they will be under duress. UCon can't afford to give her any space on the perimeter. She has a very quick release on her three point shot.

For the first 5-7 minutes, while there are no other scorers on the floor, UConn's defense should dominate. Dozier and Ibiam's offense is too weak for them to get many minutes.

Staley might have to bring in Coates and Wilson sooner than she usually does if UConn gets out to a quick double digit lead. Those two bring a different challenge to the UConn defense and they can bang hard on the boards along with Welsh and score off the offensive boards. They will have to. They are not going to get a lot of open looks in their half court offense. The issue with both Coates and Wilson is possible foul trouble. Wilson loves the spin move in the paint. don't be surprised to see a UConn defender taking a charge. I'd look for Stokes to enter the game when Coates does. That will be a great matchup. Like every other team that plays UConn, they haven't seen a shot blocker like her. She changes everything.

When UConn has the ball
Just like in the SC offense vs UConn defense analysis, this will be a tail of two teams for South Carolina. When the starters on in, I don't see how they can match up with UConn. The guard matchups are clear. Sessions will guard Jefferson and Mitchell will guard Nurse. But you have 6' Dozier, 6'4" Ibiam and 6' Welsh. Who covers Stewart, Tuck and Lewis? It's pick your poison for Staley. If she puts Ibiam on Stewart, UConn will bring her on the perimeter. There is no way Ibiam can cover her out there. If she puts Welch or Dozier on her, Stewart will just post either one of them up. UConn will give them the same problems as they do with other teams. Too much versatility across the front court.
Once Coates and Wilson enter the game, thing change. They now have the size to defend the paint. But the question will be, can South Carolina defend Stewart, Tuck and KML on the perimeter. South Carolina's guards cheat a lot on defense, looking for steals as players drive to the basket. UConn will have to watch for that and hit the player that the South Carolina player left to go for the steal. There could be a lot of open threes.
South Carolina will be the biggest team by far that UConn has faced. This will impact UConn's ability to score. No doubt about it. But they only play two bigs at a time, so the depth doesn't impact the result in one game as it might over a full season.
Additional Thoughts
There are going to be some fantastic match ups in this game.
I'm looking forwards to seeing Welsh against KML and Welsh against Tuck. Welsh is just a maniac out there on defense and watching her against Tuck in the paint and KML on the perimeter will be a treat. 
I can't wait to see Stokes and Coates go at it in the paint. They both play defense like they own it.
How about Stewart going against Wilson? ESPN's dream match up? They might not play more than 10 minutes head to head, but ESPN will have plenty of footage of that confrontation.     

South Carolina is big, but they don't start big. Their starting lineup goes 5'8, 5'9, 6', 6', 6'4". And they play them together for at least 10 minutes of the game. This lineup is not a good matchup for them against UConn. Will Staley have a quick trigger and bring in either Coates or Wilson early off the bench.
Final Prediction

Let me first say that anyone uses the Memphis game as a barometer for how this game will go just doesn't understand the game. It's the same for using just the Georgia game in predicting South Carolina's performance.

Massey has UConn an 13 point favorite and an 89% chance of winning.
Sagarin has UConn as a 14 point favorite.

I would expect South Carolina to hold UConn below their 89.6 ppg average. By how much? Well, only 5 teams have scored 60 or more points against SC. And the most was 63. Impressive numbers. But as we all know, there is not much offense in the SEC and the OOC teams were weak offensively as well.  My guess is around 10-15 points. So I'd put UConn's range at 75-80 points.

Conversely, I can't see South Carolina reaching their season average of 79 points. Again by how much? If they only scored 67 against Syracuse, 69 against Hampton, 51 against Duke, 68 against Kentucky, 60 against Missouri and 58 against Georgia, I don't see them doing more than that against UConn. My guess here is 15-20 points. I'd put their range at 60-65.

Final Prediction? UConn by 15+.


1 comment:

  1. Always appreciate your outstanding analysis of our team & the opponent, DD! Thanks for sharing :)