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Sleeping with the Enemy: The Spartans of USC-Upstate

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Your Fighting Hoyas of Georgetown take the first step towards putting the Season of Suck behind them with a Saturday afternoon affair against the mighty Spartans of USC-Upstate. Here now to shed some light on all things Spartans are our trusty blog bros at Mid-Major Madness. Let’s do this, bad hombres!

College hoops is back! Scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most amped and really the only acceptable answer, how excited are you for the upcoming season?

College hoops probably is the sport I have the most passion about just because every night you may see something magical across the entire country. You could argue competition has never been better across the board, particularly in the mid-major conferences. It makes the sport so fun to be around, and this year should be no different. There’s going to be head-scratchers. Double takes. And the hottest of hot takes across social media. So yeah, 10 out of 10. Let’s get it on!

Tell us something about USC-Upstate that we might find interesting.

The Spartans play their home games in the smallest venue in college basketball, the Hodge Center. Capacity is set at 838. Yes, that’s correct. Obviously they can sneak in some more, but when you’ve got maybe 1,000 people watching a game, it’s a unique atmosphere. All-time, USC Upstate wins at around a 70% clip in the Hodge Center, so the players probably get a kick out playing there, and for visiting teams, it certainly seems like an odd place to play and they don’t have too much luck on the Spartans’ home floor.

Which guys on the Spartans should the Hoyas watch out for?

For me, it all starts with their big boy Michael Buchanan. 7’0, 285 pounds and he is a load in the paint. The senior has good touch around the basket, and when he gets good position, he loves to use his right hand hook shot. Deion Holmes as a freshman last year really came in and was given leeway to put up shots at will. Scored in double figures 21 times last year, but I think with a year under his belt probably will look to take smarter shots and get his teammates a bit more involved. Josh Cuthbertson is a nice player, does a bit of everything offensively and usually takes the opposition’s best player on defense.

Away teams have a 1-game streak in Georgetown home openers, with Radford pulling off a stunning but ultimately prophetic upset in last year's season opener. Does USC-Upstate plan to follow suit and, if so, how?

Make it a track meet. The Spartans usually don’t fare too well grinding out games defensively. Now, with Buchanan in the middle, they probably won’t turn to this style for the majority of the game, but the Spartans have a lot of athletes across their regular rotation players that are strong finishers at the rim. Radford last year knocked down 10 threes, including the game-winner by Rashun Davis. The Spartans probably need around that same number, and shot the three-ball relatively well last year at 34%.

The Spartans won 24 games 2 seasons ago, fell back to Earth at 10-22 last year, and now appear to return almost everyone from last season. Where do you see Upstate finishing this year? And how do you like to pass the time during sub-.500 seasons, other than by drinking?

At first glance, I did not realize the Spartans were returning just about everybody from last year’s team. Continuity will be there, and the players know each other’s strengths. I would expect a much better season for USC Upstate this season, and I think a top half of the league finish is certainly attainable. In A-Sun play last year, USC Upstate had five of their ten losses come by seven points or less, and in total had 12 losses come by that same margin. They were in most games a year ago, and you’d expect some of those closer games to go their way more often this year with such an experienced team knowing how to handle those situations a bit differently.

Most of my teams I root for tend to not have those kinds of seasons, so not really sure how I’d handle it. Although I’d imagine maybe a few nights here or there waking up in a cold sweat thinking about a corner three rimming in and out, or a bang-bang play at first not being indisputable to overturn that costs the Giants a W.

Speaking of drinking, let's say you and I are hanging out a a bar and watching this game. Take me through your 2 hours+ of drink orders.

You’ll find this interesting, but I am not a drinker whatsoever. So I guess maybe, drinks on me if you like? Just not too many please!

(Casual Note: I respect this and will drink all of the drinks.)

Upstate appeared to have a pretty good thing going in Division II, appearing in consecutive NCAA appearances in 2005 and 2006. The Spartans have had 3 winning seasons in the 10 years since they've moved to Division I, appearing in the CIT in each of those winning seasons. Do you think the move has been successful? Why or why not?

Well, I think obviously anytime a mid-major program makes the jump up to D-1, even if they had success at a lower level, it takes time. They’ve certainly had good teams in the past five years that have come up short.

In 2014-2015, they held a four-point lead with ten minutes to play in the A-Sun final against UNF and couldn’t hang on. That team was led by Ty Greene, the conference player of the year who was a phenomenal shooter.

The Spartans have fallen short in the conference tournament when it matters the most, and as well-thought of a coach that Eddie Payne has been, they’ve lost games that they simply should not have for whatever reason. They’ve had teams very capable of winning the A-Sun, and just haven’t been able to get the job done under the pressure of being the better team and expecting to win.

This season, it would not shock me at all if they enter the conference tournament as a 4 or 5 seed and make it to the final and upset a top seed along the way. The potential for this team is there to do so.

Would you consider LJ Peak to be a great South Carolinian or the greatest South Carolinian?

A fine South Carolinian. There’s a lot of good ones from South Carolina. Ray Allen, Alex English, Kevin Garnett of course. AJ Green. Jesse Jackson! Darius Rucker! Vanna White! James Brown! Smokin’ Joe Frazier!

What is your perception of this Hoyas team?

It’s time for them to do something big. Rodney Pryor coming in from Robert Morris should be a huge addition. Issac Copeland is extremely talented. Peak can really shoot it. Bradley Hayes is a nice player who returns after getting a waiver for another year. They’ve got a nice rotation going. I think they’ve got a chance to be better than people think. I could see 24 wins and a Top 3 finish in the Big East. A bounce back year really is a must for John Thompson III or I think it’s time for new blood on the bench.

Looking back, what would you say was the song of the summer?

Tough one. Can’t go wrong with Adele-Send My Love.

(Casual Note: Yes, you can go wrong with Adele’s ‘Send My Love’)

Final score prediction?

I see this one as being fairly tight after 30 minutes. Maybe a six-eight point spread. Hoyas pull away to win, let’s say 76-63.

Thanks for having me on! I know it was tough asking an FGCU grad to compile all of this for you!