Who: South Carolina (13-9, 4-5 SEC) at Texas A&M (14-8, 3-6)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Reed Arena
KenPom prediction: Texas A&M 70, South Carolina 62
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Radio: 107.5 The Game in Columbia area
Series: Tied 3-3
Last meeting: Jan. 7, 2017 – South Carolina won 79-68 in Columbia
Streak: South Carolina’s won two straight and three of four
Coach: Frank Martin (226-137 in 11 seasons overall; Sixth season at USC — 109-83). Martin, Kansas State’s coach from 2007-12, is 8-5 against Texas A&M.
Projected starters: G Wes Myers (7.9 ppg); G Evan Hinson (3.3); G Frank Booker (11.6); F Chris Silva (14.9); F Maik Kotsar (8.5)
Last game: Lost to Mississippi State on Wednesday 81-76 at home
Notes: The Gamecocks are seeking to avoid their first three-game losing streak since February of last season. … Since failing to reach the benchmark in nine game straight games, USC has shot 40 percent or better in two of the last three. … Myers’ five turnovers against Mississippi State ties for the second-most by a South Carolina player this season. Silva had six against Temple on Nov. 30 and David Beatty had six against Vanderbilt on Jan. 6.
Coach: Billy Kennedy (340-272 in 20 seasons overall; Seventh season at Texas A&M – 129-93). Kennedy is 3-3 against South Carolina.
Projected starters: G T.J. Starks (6.6), G Admon Gilder (11.5), F D.J. Hogg (12.1), F Robert Williams (10.4), F Tyler Davis (14.5)
Last game: Beat Arkansas 80-66 on Tuesday at home
Notes: The Aggies are second in the SEC in field goal percentage defense (39.5) and 3-point FG percentage defense (31.5). They’re first in the league in rebounding margin (plus-8) and fifth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. … Williams, voted SEC co-preseason player of the year in October, is averaging 14.6 points and 9.8 rebounds over A&M’s last five games. … The Aggies were ranked No. 5 nationally when they began SEC play in late December. They have wins over West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Southern Cal.
1. Silva vs. Williams
As spectacular as Silva has been for the Gamecocks this season, he has struggled some against good rim protectors. The USC junior on Wednesday had two of his shots swatted by Mississippi State’s Abdul Ado.
Ado is fifth in the SEC with two blocks per game. Williams is second in the league with 2.5 bpg.
The 6-10 Williams also leads the SEC in rebounding (9.6). Silva, at 7.8, is fourth.
2. Size on size
With Williams as the headliner, the Aggies start three players 6-9 or taller. Hence why A&M is one of the better rebounding teams in the country.
South Carolina can counter with the 6-9 Silva and 6-10 Kotsar, but could be down a versatile third forward if the 6-5 Justin Minaya sits again with a sprained ankle. This game might call for more glasswork from Booker and Hinson, plus Felipe Haase and Jason Cudd/Khadim Gueye off the bench.
USC is 1-3 this season when it’s lost the rebounding battle.
3. Welcome to February
Martin said earlier this week he doesn’t pay attention to bubble talk because it once burned him when he was an assistant coach at Kansas State. So perhaps the importance of this game won’t be noted in the USC locker room, but that doesn’t diminish what a win would do for the Gamecocks’ NCAA Tournament chances.
The Aggies have a top 30 RPI. They’re also a desperate team trying to make amends for a slow start in SEC play.
The push to March will be on in College Station.