When last we met, the Gamecocks were 17-1 and Kevin Punter dropped 36 in a Vol victory in Knoxville. South Carolina then went to 21-3 before losing by 27 at home to Kentucky and getting upset by five at Missouri. They bounced back in a bracket-boosting win over Florida on Saturday. Carolina sits a game behind Kentucky for the SEC lead and is holding as a seven seed in the Bracket Matrix.
The Vols probably won't have Kevin Punter this time, as he continues to recover from a stress fracture. He hit six of Tennessee's 10 threes in the initial meeting, as the Vols hit their first seven of the second half in pulling away. The Vols certainly looked great without Punter against LSU, but there's, you know, an LSU component to be considered there. The Tigers lost at Arkansas by 20 last night.
South Carolina continues to excel in those Frank Martin ways that would make Cuonzo Martin proud: first in the league in free throws made and attempted, first in the league in offensive rebounding. The Vols were good the first time around at limiting the Lithuanian connection of Mindaugas Kacinas and Laimonas Chatkevicius to just 3 of 11 shooting and 8 total rebounds. Tennessee also held Sindarius Thornwell to 1 of 8 from the floor.
The Vols aren't likely to see such low production from those three again and aren't likely to hit seven threes in a row again. Can they still find a way to win on the road? More than anything, I'm curious to see how the guys who will be here next year - Robert Hubbs, Detrick Mostella, and Shembari Phillips - can contribute at the guard position without Punter on the floor. I would expect Armani Moore to be productive again, but the more the Vols can get from the guys who represent the future, the better we'll feel about things going forward.
It's the late shift tonight, 9:00 PM on the SEC Network. With the Razorbacks beating LSU the Vols could find themselves alone in 11th with a loss, but a win would make the Vols one of six teams between 8-7 and 7-8 with three games to play, and keep their NIT hopes alive.