A holiday season tradition under Frank Martin might be coming to an end.
Speaking to The State’s Josh Kendall this week at SEC meetings in Destin, Florida, the South Carolina basketball coach said the Gamecocks are exploring the possibility of no longer playing an in-state Division II opponent. The reason seems to be connected to recent postseason shortcomings.
USC’s 5-0 run against Coker, Francis Marion, Lander, Limestone and North Greenville the last five years — all played around Christmas time — didn’t count toward Carolina’s NCAA tournament or NIT résumé because those selection committees don’t acknowledge wins over D-II foes.
South Carolina has missed the NIT the last two seasons with records against Division I competition of 16-16 and 15-16. Though it’s no longer a requirement for an at-large bid, no team with a below .500 record has ever made the NIT and only three .500 teams have made the 32-team field.
“I got internal conversations with the people I work with that playing a non-DI doesn’t allow us to fill the résumé to the top,” Martin said. “My whole thing is the strength of schedule that we play, whether we play 30 or 31 games, what’s the difference? We are who we are. Thirty-one’s not going to make us better than 30.
“So when I get home, I gotta debate whether or not to schedule a small in-state (D-II) school and do what’s right or do what’s selfish and try to schedule another (Division I) team that we can play at home to try and get one more win that counts on our résumé.”
Martin has said in the past he schedules in-state D-II foes because it “keeps the money in the state, which to me is huge. These smaller schools, the reason they’re small is because their budgets are small. So giving them the opportunity to collect that kind of money is something they’re not afforded very often.”
Deciding what to do what that game is one of Martin’s two holdups with a final release of USC’s 2019-20 schedule. The other is Carolina’s opponent in a tournament associated with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Gamecocks played in the “Hall of Fame Tip-Off” last season in Connecticut, splitting games with Providence and George Washington.
Though it was previously reported by NJ.com that USC was to face Rutgers in Toronto on Nov. 16, Martin said that’s not the case. (Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweeted this week that Rutgers will play St. Bonaventure instead.)
“We were never scheduled to play Rutgers in Toronto,” Martin said. “I have no idea why that was released that way. But we’re still contractually tied to that event. ... We got a signed contract, but they’re still trying to find an opponent for us.”
The SEC on Wednesday released conference opponents for each school. The Gamecocks have home-and-homes with Tennessee, Texas A&M, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. Kentucky, LSU, Florida and Missouri will come to Colonial Life Arena. USC will travel to Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and Ole Miss. Tip times, dates and television information will be released in the fall.
South Carolina’s 2019-20 schedule
Nov. 19 — Boston University
Nov. 22 — Gardner-Webb
Nov. 26 — Wichita State (Cancun Challenge in Mexico)
Nov. 27 — West Virginia or Northern Iowa (Cancun Challenge in Mexico)
Dec. 18 — at Virginia
TBA — at Coastal Carolina
TBA — at Clemson
TBA — Houston
TBA — Tennessee
TBA — at Tennessee
TBA — Texas A&M
TBA — at Texas A&M
TBA — Georgia
TBA — at Georgia
TBA — Vanderbilt
TBA — at Vanderbilt
TBA — Mississippi State
TBA — at Mississippi State
TBA — Kentucky
TBA — LSU
TBA — Missouri
TBA — Florida
TBA — at Alabama
TBA — at Arkansas
TBA — at Auburn
TBA — at Ole Miss