Around noon Wednesday, the South Carolina men’s basketball Instagram account posted a short video from the Columbia airport.
“Wheels up to NYC!!” read the caption.
Six games in and the Gamecocks have gotten plenty comfortable with planes and buses. USC (5-1) takes on Temple (3-1) at 9 p.m. Thursday inside New York’s Madison Square Garden. It’ll mark Carolina’s sixth game this season away from their familiar confines of Colonial Life Arena.
Coach Frank Martin admitted Tuesday night during his weekly “Carolina Calls” radio show that he initially reacted to USC’s 2017-18 schedule by saying: “Wow, that stinks.”
The early slate – which included trips to Wofford, Florida International and a tournament originally placed in Puerto Rico – wasn’t specifically designed for this team, a bunch highlighted by eight new players.
“Some of these games have been scheduled for over a year,” Martin said. “As we started getting closer, we had to complete the schedule to fit some of the games we had to fit in. It’s just one of those things. It just kind of fell that way.”
Mississippi State (5-0) doesn’t travel outside Starkville until Dec. 12. That contest at Cincinnati will be the Bulldogs’ ninth game of the season.
The unique scenario has been beneficial for Carolina, Martin said.
“You can sit around and play and make excuses and create safety nets so that you can be protected from failure,” he said. “Or you can just go about it to say, ‘This is what’s in front of us, let’s work, let’s get it done.’ And that’s what we choose to do, and the guys have been great.”
After the Gamecocks wrapped their stay in Conway with a 79-66 win over Western Michigan on Nov. 19, senior guard Wes Myers spoke to USC’s developing chemistry. The Maine transfer, like Florida Atlantic transfer Frank Booker and the five freshmen, has only been with the program since the summer.
“You kind of learn tendencies as you play and you compete against each other,” Myers said. “I know when Hassani (Gravett) likes to switch off (screens) when I’m better guarding somebody or he’s better guarding somebody. That’s kind of like the communication we have so far.”
It’s all evolving with Carolina fans watching from afar.
“I think what’s happened – because we have so many new faces – by us being away from home, we’ve had to spend a lot of time on a bus, in hotels, where it’s just about us going into gyms where we don’t have 15,000 people that expect us to win,” Martin said, “which is the way it should be. But it’s forced us to learn how to depend on one another, to grow with one another.”
The Gamecocks went 11-8 last season in road and neutral site games. No win was bigger, of course, than the 77-70 Elite Eight triumph over Florida at MSG.
South Carolina returns Thursday.
“That place has been good to us,” Martin said.
The Gamecocks are back in CLA on Saturday against Massachusetts.
Who: Temple (3-1) vs. South Carolina (5-1)
When: 9 p.m. Thursday
Where: Madison Square Garden in New York