Every team has a "burn the tape" game, a loss so lacking in redeeming value that it's better to forget it ever happened.
Frank Martin stopped short of that Thursday. When his team gathered for practice, Martin showed his players the highlights from their grisly, 75-36 loss to Florida.
He wasn't without temptation, though.
There was little rewinding of the tape from Carolina's game versus Florida.
"I tried to jump in that dumpster to burn myself along with the film, but I didn't fit in there," Martin joked on "Carolina Calls."
The Gamecocks hope for more pleasurable viewing Saturday when they host the resurgent Georgia Bulldogs (9-11, 3-4 SEC) at Colonial Life Arena. Georgia has won three of its last four, and even that lone loss wasn't shameful: the Bulldogs led Florida at halftime before falling 64-47. With young players rounding into form, and an All-SEC guard scoring in a variety of ways, the Bulldogs faintly resemble the team that lost 7 of 8 games in December.
What does the tape reveal about Georgia? Pre-tip reads before the Gamecocks and Bulldogs battle at Colonial Life Arena (1:00 p.m. EST airtime, Gamecock IMG Sports Network):
Untangling The Triangle: The triangle offense rose to fame with Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. But its roots trace back to a place Martin knows well: Tex Winter perfected and popularized the system as head coach of Kansas State in the 1950s. It lives on at Georgia thanks to head coach Mark Fox, who - no surprise - grew up in Garden City, Kan., and logged time as a K-State assistant.
The offense takes its name after its basic set-up: a triangle on the strong (ball) side, formed by a player on the low block, wing, and corner. The triangle relies on a series of "reads," with every player moving, cutting, and passing based on what the defense shows them.
The basic premise of the triangle offense: a triangle on the strong side of the ball.
A favorite play is the "flex screen," where a player cuts from the corner, uses a baseline screen, and runs to the opposite block. Both the screener and cutter then look for post-ups, hoping to duck in and "pin down" their defender. Georgia will also run plenty of action through the "pinch post," or the high post on the help side of the ball. With four players in the starting lineup measuring 6'5" or taller, Georgia's length only adds to the triangle's treachery.
Georgia Projected Starting Lineup
PG Vincent Williams 6'0"
-or- Charles Mann 6'4"
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 6'5"
SF Brandon Morris 6'7"
PF Donte Williams 6'9"
C John Florveus 6'11"
Martin talks often about disrupting a team's rhythm, and few teams rely on it more heavily than the Bulldogs: an SEC-leading 57.4% of their baskets are assisted. Martin says the Gamecocks must affect that rhythm by forcing long passes.
"They want to catch that ball somewhere between the top of the key and the foul line," he explained, referring to the pinch post. "You have to make the passer catch it above the top of the circle. Now that pass becomes a longer pass [inside], which makes it easier on your guys to guard that stuff inside."
Long passes may also provide relief to Carolina's guards, who could find themselves defending the post often Saturday.
Man to Stop: Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. A 6'5" sophomore from Greenville, Ga., Caldwell-Pope (17.5 ppg) has led Georgia in scoring in 18 of 20 games this year. No SEC team has a wider margin between its leading scorer and second-leading scorer than the Bulldogs - forward Nemanja Djurisic is next at 7.7 points per game - which only magnifies Caldwell-Pope's importance.
"You've got a lot of people right now who are saying he's the best pro prospect in the SEC. They use him in all kinds of different ways - off pick-and-rolls, they post him. He makes open shots. They're doing a great job of running their offense through him," Martin said.
Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ranks 2nd in the SEC in scoring (17.5 ppg)
"KCP" has played more shooting guard this year, after spending the majority of his time at small forward last season. Can the Gamecocks force him into uncomfortable catches, and make a second scorer emerge? Players like Lakeem Jackson and Brian Richardson need to use their length and toughness around screens.
Mann Alive: Georgia has also profited from the improved play of freshman point guard Charles Mann (6.1 ppg). The Alpharetta, Ga., native presents a tricky matchup for his ability to both distribute (a team-leading 2.9 assists/game) and reach the foul line (a team-leading 90 FTA). He's also not to be confused with Charles Mann, who started alongside former Gamecock Brad Edwards on the Super Bowl XXVI-winning Washington Redskins.
Monster Month: February may be the shortest month, but Frank Martin has turned it into a long, torturous one for opponents. In five seasons as a head coach, his teams have gone 25-6 (.806) in the month of February.
Chance To Strike? Martin doesn't believe in gambling for steals on defense. He prefers staying in position, denying gaps, and forcing teams to take contested shots.
An opportunity might present itself Saturday. Georgia, which plies a patient, precision triangle offense, ranked 7th in the nation last year in turnovers per game (10.4). This year, playing at a similar possessions-per-game pace, the Bulldogs have dropped off to 289th in the nation (15.4).
Let's look at South Carolina's "Points Per Turnover" averages, a crude measure of their efficiency in converting turnovers into points.
Points Per Turnover Forced
Overall: 1.10 PPTO (317 pts. off 286 turnovers)
SEC: 0.98 PPTO (108 pts. off 106 turnovers)
vs. Florida: 0.17 PPTO (2 pts. off 12 turnovers)
The Gamecocks forced 12 turnovers against Florida, but only managed a season-low 2 points off them. Can they do a better job converting turnovers into baskets against the Bulldogs? Martin said Georgia's size might demand it.
Can the Gamecocks duplicate their transition game against Arkansas (left), when they picked up easy baskets before the Razorbacks could set up their defense?
"We have to create an uptempo game where we utilize our speed, so those [smaller] guys can get easier looks in the open court rather than against them when they are set up. Now you have to crack a 6'7" guy with a 5'11" guy," Martin said.
Allergic to Fouls: If South Carolina draws a foul on Sherrard Brantley, look for confetti to rain from the sky. A reserve three-point specialist from Dublin, Ga., Brantley has played 369 minutes this year... and committed 7 fouls. His average of 0.8 Fouls Committed/40 Minutes makes him the most foul-allergic player in college basketball.
And Finally... RJ Slawson isn't the only member of his family with a busy winter at Colonial Life Arena. His older sister, Jackie, is a manager for Dawn Staley's women's basketball team. She plans on pursuing a coaching career in softball, her sport of choice in high school.
Our pre-game coverage begins at 1:00 p.m. EST on the Gamecock IMG Sports Network. We'll see you at CLA. -AD--