“Ain’t that tough enough?”
---------- FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS
I sat down with Frank Martin a week ago to talk about his trip to Russia for the World University Games, and we chatted about the team and some other things. Of paramount importance to many people is when the schedule is going to be released; it’s been on repeat with “one more contract” or “one more game” for quite some time now.
Martin couldn’t say an ETA because he didn’t know. But he did promise me, without going into too-specific detail, that “it’s hard.”
When another game was announced on Monday, I got another clue to just how serious Martin was about upgrading his schedule. He agreed with SEC Commissioner Mike Slive that only getting three SEC teams into last year’s NCAA tournament was unacceptable and that USC, as part of the problem, was going to do its best to make sure it didn’t happen again. He’s doing that by aggressively scheduling – Monday’s announcement was that the Gamecocks will be playing at Baylor on Nov. 12 (Click).
It’s an ambitious and purposeful statement. Martin knows that taking a team with eight newcomers on it – and without Bruce Ellington and Ty Johnson – to play powerful Baylor on its home court, most likely as the season’s second or third game, may not have a pleasing result. But that game, along with a tournament in Hawaii and a game at Oklahoma State for the Big 12/SEC Challenge, is going to get South Carolina basketball known.
One of the first times I met with him, Martin expressed his interest in playing non-conference games at big-time schools. Playing away games at Wofford or Manhattan are OK, but what good do they do for major teams? Win, and you were supposed to. Lose, and everybody’s talking about you for the wrong reasons.
No, Martin understands what needs to be done to restore the luster of USC basketball. Winning games helps that. But until that starts to happen regularly, Martin can do what he can to ensure that it will happen eventually. That’s hitting the recruiting trail hard, and scheduling games that he knows that kids will see – they’ll be on national TV, which pleases his current roster and impresses what he hopes to be his future roster.
He’ll play Kansas in Allen. He’ll play UCLA in Pauley. He’ll play Duke in Cameron. Bring ’em on. Win or lose, it will only help in the long run.
The schedule, when it’s released, should have a few more of these kinds of games on it, and the rest of the non-conference ones will be at home. USC is only traveling to non-conference tilts at Baylor, Oklahoma State, Clemson and the Diamond Head Classic. Those are tough enough. The rest of it is designed to help a young squad get ready for the SEC – Martin figures that playing such a soft non-con schedule last year hurt the Gamecocks when they lost their initial SEC contest, and then realized that those wins wouldn’t come as easy as they had in November and December. This schedule will either prepare USC for the SEC, or result in a tough, experienced team next year.
USC BASKETBALL 2013-14
Nov. 12 at Baylor
Dec. 6 at Oklahoma State (Big 12/SEC Challenge)
TBA at Clemson
Dec. 17 MANHATTAN
*Diamond Head Classic, Honolulu, HI*
Dec. 22 St. Mary’s, 11 p.m.
Dec. 23 Boise State/Hawaii, 9 p.m./11:30 p.m.
Dec. 25 TBA
Dec. 28 AKRON
Home games in CAPS
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