USC Men's Basketball

Gamecocks left out of Big 12/SEC Challenge

tglantz@thestate.com

Frank Martin recently said that South Carolina’s scheduling for the 2015-16 season is behind.

It took a tiny step forward on Thursday.

The Gamecocks know two dates where they will and won’t be playing after the SEC released its matchups for the 2016 Big 12/SEC Challenge. USC was one of the four SEC teams left out of the event (with 10 Big 12 teams, four of the 14 SEC schools are dropped), which will have all 10 games played on Jan. 30.

SEC Director of Communications Craig Pinkerton confirmed that the four teams not in the Big 12/SEC Challenge (USC, Missouri, Mississippi State and Alabama) will play one of the others in an SEC game on Jan. 30. Matchups are not yet available. Pinkerton also confirmed that since those four teams are playing a league game while the other 10 aren’t, the four left out will have a bye date at the beginning of the league schedule to make the 18-game SEC slate balance out.

Since expanding to an 18-game league schedule, SEC teams didn’t have a bye week from January to March. This year, the 10 teams in the Challenge will begin the SEC season on the first available date in January while USC, Mizzou, MSU and Alabama will begin on the second date in January.

The positive side of being left out of the Challenge means USC has the opportunity to schedule a strong non-conference game in January – if it can find a willing opponent. The Gamecocks played Iowa State on Jan. 3 last season in their final non-conference game and pulled off a big upset.

The negative side is the Challenge almost assuredly would have given the Gamecocks an RPI-strengthening opponent in a game guaranteed to be on one of ESPN’s stations.

USC, Mizzou, MSU and Alabama will also not participate in the 2017 Big 12/SEC Challenge.

The Gamecocks’ only known games for 2015-16 are from Nov. 20-23 in the Paradise Jam (USC will open the tournament against DePaul at 10 p.m. on Nov. 20) and its annual rivalry game with Clemson. The Clemson game hasn’t had a date released but it will be at Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena because Littlejohn Coliseum is being renovated.

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