South Carolina is certainly doing its part to help the SEC’s image.
The Gamecocks released their non-conference basketball schedule on Tuesday morning, and it features a bevy of “name” teams that will play at Colonial Life Arena. USC will also only play one true road game during the slate, with one tournament in Charleston and another neutral-court game in Brooklyn.
Translation – there will be some high-quality matchups at CLA this season, and Frank Martin is hoping all of USC’s fans take notice. The release of the schedule coincides with the program’s “8K in 8 Days” campaign, designed at selling 8,000 season tickets for the coming year.
“We respect everybody but we fear nobody,” Martin said on Tuesday. “We feel good about who we are.”
The Gamecocks will take on three NCAA tournament teams from a year ago (Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State) and could play Akron and Penn State, which each entered a pay-for-play postseason tournament last year. Baylor returns a game that USC lost in Waco last year as part of ESPN’s “24 Hours of Basketball,” Oklahoma State rematches with USC in the Big 12/SEC Challenge and USC will travel to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for a January match with Iowa State.
The Gamecocks will also play first-time games against four opponents – North Florida, Iowa State, N.C. A&T and Coker, a Division II school in Hartsville. The Cobras are the only in-state team beside rival Clemson on the schedule.
USC will also play at the Charleston Classic (bracket TBA) from Nov. 20-23. The only true road game is a return game at Marshall, after USC beat the Thundering Herd in Columbia last season.
Iowa State, a Sweet 16 team from last year, stands out as probably the toughest game, but Martin lobbied for it. He beat Manhattan at Barclays during his first season at USC and was always hoping for the chance to get back and play a major opponent on a major network.
“I just thought it was a home-run opportunity in an area that we would recruit,” Martin said. “It gets Ty Johnson (Plainfield, N.J.) home. Great opportunities to play quality, quality basketball early in the year to challenge your team and to make your team prepared.”
The SEC’s restriction on scheduling was never a concern. Martin has set up a schedule that rivals his days at Kansas State, and the league office had no problems with it. Martin also avoided the problem he faced last year.
“When you play in an exempt tourney, you play three extra games, so the number of extra windows you have are fewer,” he said. “Trying to fit fewer schools in fewer windows is hard. Last year, I had no more windows, so I had to pick USC Upstate on a one-day turn after playing Manhattan.”
The Gamecocks lost both of those games. This year, he was able to avoid any short-rest gaps between big opponents, and still keep a slate designed to give USC fans quality games.
“We need to start preparing for what it’s going to be like to be a good basketball team,” Martin said.
Men’s basketball non-conference schedule, 2014-15
Frank Martin is scheduled to talk about the schedule at 11 a.m. This story will be updated.