They’re going to New York, but the ticker-tape parade’s on hold.
South Carolina whipped No. 25 Michigan on Wednesday, but as coach Frank Martin said, the season doesn’t end because of it. It was an outstanding win, one that should come in handy in March … but the Gamecocks (5-0) have to get to March first.
The road continues Saturday in Brooklyn against No. 18 Syracuse (4-0), a game on a neutral court, but c’mon. The Orange are “New York’s College Team” and while USC will have some fans there – Martin’s sister lives close by and his wife is a New Yorker, while Mason Jar NYC is a Gamecock Club stronghold – Barclays Center is going to be mostly clad in orange.
So the Gamecocks enjoyed the Michigan win as much as they could – about three hours, because they departed Columbia after the game for New York.
“I just know we got Syracuse next,” Martin said. “And my job is to get these guys prepared to go figure out a way to play a little bit better than Syracuse.”
The Gamecocks have done well at Barclays, sporting a 2-0 record and beating then-No. 9 Iowa State the last time they were there. Martin loves to play in New York, not only for the family and TV aspects, but it’s a fertile recruiting ground.
Syracuse is coming off a Final Four season (they were one of the teams that squeaked into the tournament ahead of USC). Jim Boeheim served with Martin on a Team USA staff and has known Martin for years.
“He’s a guy that I respect tremendously for the coaching job he’s done, the passion he has for our game,” Boeheim said.
Martin has the same respect for Boeheim, and the concern for how tough the game will be. Martin’s final game at Kansas State was an NCAA Tournament loss to Syracuse and Boeheim’s notorious 2-3 zone defense, which had Martin still shaking his head five years later.
“Their zone morphs into what you try to attack it through,” Martin said. “They just don’t give you opportunities.”
Practicing in New York on Thursday and Friday was designed to get the players acclimated to the atmosphere. Now there’s another objective – congratulate them on Michigan, and get them to forget it.
The resume-booster is only relevant with a lot more wins.
“We have to go deal with these environments, with these teams and hopefully, we’re good enough that we keep getting better so it’s all relevant when you put the whole thing together at the end of the year,” Martin said.
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NO. 18 SYRACUSE (4-0) vs. SOUTH CAROLINA (5-0)
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Radio: 107.5 FM
South Carolina’s probable starters: G P.J. Dozier 6-6 So. (9.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg); G Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Sr. (20.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg); G Duane Notice 6-2 Sr. (11.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg); F Maik Kotsar 6-10 Fr. (7.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg); F Chris Silva 6-9 So. (10.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
Syracuse’s probable starters: G Frank Howard 6-5 So. (9.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg); G Andrew White 6-7 Sr. (17.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg); F Tyler Lydon 6-9 So. (9.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg); F Tyler Roberson 6-8 Sr. (12.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg); C DaJuan Coleman 6-9 Sr. (5.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
Next game: South Carolina hosts Vermont at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.