COLUMBIA, S.C. – Frank Martin and the South Carolina men’s basketball team have spent the last two months preparing for their SEC schedule, which starts against Georgia on Wednesday night.
Martin and the players believe that their 13 non-conference games have them adequately prepared.
“At the end of the day, when that game is over, there are 17 more of them dudes to play,” Martin said. “And you can’t get wrapped up over that one game or that one day, but I’m excited for where we’re at right now.”
Unfortunately, for the Gamecocks, they had to learn a little bit extra about themselves over the last six games, the stretch that Sindarius Thornwell sat out while on suspension. South Carolina went 3-3 with the star guard sitting on the bench, after starting 7-0 and earning a spot in the Top 25.
“You can argue that the three teams that beat us have a chance at the NCAA Tournament,” Martin said, “So that means they’re good teams. … we lost to three pretty good teams, two of which were away from home.”
According to ESPN’s Daily RPI, Seton Hall (23) and Clemson (39) are rated higher than South Carolina (45). Memphis, the third team to beat the Gamecocks, checks in at 122.
South Carolina’s best RPI wins were against Michigan (70), Vermont (81) and Monmouth (82). Syracuse has dropped to 211, falling below South Carolina State (157) and Holy Cross (183).
“I think it was pretty good,” guard Justin McKie said of South Carolina’s non-conference schedule.
“We played some tough opponents during that time: Syracuse, Michigan, Monmouth, to name a few – Seton Hall, Clemson. We played some tough opponents that will really help us when we get into conference play, so we’ll be ready.”
“It helped us a lot, because our ultimate goal is always to make the NCAA every year, so our non-conference scheduled helped us,” he said, “Because a majority of the teams we played in our non-conference schedule are either an NCAA Tournament team or have the potential to make the tournament.
“For us to play them and get some wins from a couple of those teams, it just helps us, knowing that we have a chance. And we know that we’re capable of playing in the tournament.”
Now, it’s a matter of wading through the SEC, which includes eight teams with an RPI that ranks among the top 64 in the country. And there are also eight teams with a strength of schedule that’s among the 64-toughest in the country.
“The SEC is the youngest conference out of all the Power 5 conferences,” Martin said. “We’ve played more road games than all the Power 5 conferences, so if you go strictly by records … you’re going to say some of those teams aren’t very good. Not true, not true.”
He added, “I think the league is good. I think the league is really good. I really do.”
South Carolina basketball vs. Georgia
Date: Wednesday, Jan. 4
Time: 7 p.m.
Line: South Carolina +1.5