South Carolina basketball teams set tipoff event ... right in the middle of downtown

South Carolina men’s and women’s basketball teams will hold their second annual Gamecock Tipoff event on Friday, Oct. 18, in downtown Columbia to mark the unofficial start of basketball season.

The event, which took place in Colonial Life Arena last season and featured scrimmages and drills with both teams, will be a little different this year — it will happen on Hampton Street and Boyd Plaza in front of the Columbia Museum of Art just off Main Street.

Admission is free and fans will get an “up-close look at the Gamecocks,” as well as an autograph session with both teams and food and games, according to a school press release. More details will be announced at a later date, the press release said.

USC’s men’s team enters the 2019-2020 season with NCAA tournament hopes, led by potential NBA draft pick A.J. Lawson and redshirt sophomore Justin Minaya and senior Maik Kotsar. The Gamecocks and coach Frank Martin open their season on Nov. 6 against North Alabama at Colonial Life Arena.

NCAA.com’s Andy Katz recently projected USC to make the 2020 Big Dance.

“There’s a buzz right now,” Martin said Tuesday on 107.5 The Game. “And I feel it anywhere I go. I talked to our team about it, they feel it on campus. I’ve been having player meetings and and I’ve been talking to them about, ‘Whenever you create the buzz that exists right now, it’s hard to create. And when you get it, you got to take advantage of it to build.’

“And they say we feel it on campus. We feel it walking around, we feel that everywhere we go. And I was like, ‘Well, now the responsibility is when the games come, we gotta go win.’”

South Carolina’s women’s team is expected to be a top-10 team this season, in large part because of its highly-touted freshman class, considered one of the best recruiting classes in the past decade. With four five-star prospects, along with senior All-SEC point guard Tyasha Harris and senior forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, the Gamecocks and coach Dawn Staley are trying to advance to the program’s seventh consecutive Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.

Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.