USC Men's Basketball

Why USC's 2018-19 basketball schedule is the toughest in the Frank Martin era

Frank Martin: South Carolina’s schedule done, and there could be a double date with Wolverines

South Carolina Gamecocks men's basketball coach Frank Martin talks about his team setting its 2018-19 schedule, which could include a double-date with NCAA Tournament runner-up Michigan
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South Carolina Gamecocks men's basketball coach Frank Martin talks about his team setting its 2018-19 schedule, which could include a double-date with NCAA Tournament runner-up Michigan

It wasn’t the response a reporter was looking for, but Frank Martin used the question to push something off his chest.

“I'm going to answer your question in a second,” said the South Carolina basketball coach, “but you said something that triggered something in my head.”

This was late October 2017 and Martin, coming off a Final Four run, wasn’t happy with a narrative he saw circulating about his program. The Gamecocks, in his mind, were NOT set up with a soft nonconference schedule.

South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin is adamant about what insults him and his team.

“I'm just telling you, that insults me,” Martin said defiantly. “When people say I'm soft, or I like soft, that insults me. That insults my players.”

If such a topic rises to the surface again this fall, Martin won’t have to be so defensive. Instead of his signature stare, he might just grin at a reporter — or tear up.

USC’s 2018-19 schedule is about finished — and there’s nothing soft about it. In fact, it might be the hardest Martin’s faced in his seven years in Columbia.

The SEC on Wednesday announced each school’s league opponents for the upcoming season. South Carolina has home-and-homes with Georgia, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Missouri and Texas A&M. It hosts Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and Ole Miss and it travels to Florida, Kentucky, LSU and Vanderbilt. (Dates, times and television information will be released later.)

These 18 games are now added to the known portion of the nonconference slate. South Carolina will host Stony Book (Nov. 9), Norfolk State (Nov. 13), Virginia (Dec. 19), Clemson (Dec. 22), Coastal Carolina, travel to Michigan (Dec. 8), Wyoming and Oklahoma State (Jan. 26) and take on Providence (Nov. 16) and Michigan or George Washington (Nov. 18) at a neutral site in Connecticut.

Of the 23 opponents listed above, 12 appeared in the NCAA tournament last year. They play Sweet 16 participant Texas A&M twice, second round finisher Tennessee twice and get first round finisher Missouri twice. There’s a chance, too, that they twice face national runner-up Michigan.

Previous Martin teams never faced more than seven opponents in the regular season that appeared in the Big Dance the year before.

Gary Parrish on Tuesday released his way-too-early Top 25 on CBSSports.com. Eight upcoming USC opponents are listed, including Tennessee (No. 3), Kentucky (4), Virginia (7), Auburn (10), Mississippi State (15), LSU (19), Michigan (21) and Clemson (24).

Joe Lunardi lists 10 upcoming USC opponents in his latest 2019 NCAA tournament bracket projection on ESPN.com — Virginia (2-seed), Kentucky (2), Tennessee (2), Auburn (3), Michigan (4), Clemson (6), Florida (7), Mississippi State (7), LSU (8) and Oklahoma State (11).

The Gamecocks (17-16 overall) beat three eventual Big Dance teams last season — Kentucky, Florida (away) and Auburn. Carolina is returning four starters, including All-SEC forward Chris Silva.

South Carolina 2018-19 basketball schedule

2017-18 NCAA tournament teams are in BOLD

Nov. 9 – Stony Brook

Nov. 13 – Norfolk State

Nov. 16 – Providence (in Connecticut)

Nov. 18 – Michigan OR George Washington (in Connecticut)

Dec. 8 – AT Michigan

Dec. 19 – Virginia

Dec. 22 – Clemson

Jan. 26 – AT Oklahoma State

TBA – Coastal Carolina

TBA – AT Wyoming

TBA – Georgia

TBA – Mississippi State

TBA – Tennessee

TBA – Missouri

TBA – Texas A&M

TBA – Alabama

TBA – Arkansas

TBA – Auburn

TBA – Ole Miss

TBA – AT Georgia

TBA – AT Mississippi State

TBA – AT Tennessee

TBA – AT Missouri

TBA – AT Texas A&M

TBA – AT Florida

TBA – AT Kentucky

TBA – AT LSU

TBA – AT Vanderbilt

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