South Carolina was better in 2012-13 than exactly three teams on its 2013-14 schedule

Brenton Williams, one of the few returning players from last year's squad, leads the Gamecocks against a formidable schedule in 2013-14. - USA TODAY Sports

The Gamecocks finalized their basketball schedule last week, and it will provide an incredible challenge for Frank Martin's young squad.

Though most of the games and dates had trickled out in the weeks leading up to the announcement, South Carolina finally released its 2013-14 basketball schedule.  The Gamecocks will add a relatively challenging non-conference schedule to its already challenging (given the depth of the conference) SEC slate.  The result may be an improved basketball team that struggles to match last season's win totals overall.

There were a few major takeaways from this release, aside from finally answering the question of when and where Carolina plays every game this season.  For one, we learned that the Gamecocks will handle the issue of not having a true point guard who has played a minute of college basketball (as they await Ty Johnson's December 16 eligibility date and Bruce's return from the gridiron) by simply delaying as many games as they can.  Frank Martin and company will only play five games before Johnson returns, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that Bruce could make the trip to Stillwater, depending on how quickly he can get in shape, and assuming the Gamecock football program isn't busy in Atlanta around that time.

However, those five games include two of the most challenging the Gamecocks play - road contests against Baylor and Oklahoma State were always going to be challenging, but the added issue of not taking an experienced ball handler out there means that turnovers may remain a huge issue for this team.  Of course, those same freshmen will have to find a way to handle a rivalry atmosphere in Littlejohn Coliseum.  It's a schedule where a 3-2 start seems the absolute best case, and that's before you consider the fact that FIU was no pushover last season, and will return four of five starters (though they lose coach Richard Pitino to Minnesota).

After those three road contests, the Gamecocks don't play another true road game until the SEC schedule, though they will play three neutral site contests.  The only guaranteed match-up in Hawaii is against St. Mary's, who made the NCAA Tournament last season.  They do lose three key seniors - including all-conferece player Matthew Dellavedova - but should remain formidable.  The next game is either against another NCAA team - Boise State - or the host, Hawaii.

Aside from two other relatively challenging non-conference games against Manhattan and Akron, the rest of the home out-of-conference schedule continues to include teams that were not significantly worse than the Gamecocks were last season.  Having those games at home helps, but Carolina won't be able to afford nights off, as there is no Presbyterian or SC State this time around.

In the SEC, the schedule is one that could lead to a highly variable win/loss record, based on how much the Gamecocks improve.  If they can compete like a top 100 team, they should be able to bank a couple of road wins against lesser SEC foes (Auburn, Mississippi State) and also take some losses on the road against teams they likely couldn't beat at home (Florida, Missouri).  On the other hand, a top 150 team may struggle to win those road games, and there are very few gimme games left in the SEC after Auburn and Mississippi State (and, frankly, us).  Getting Auburn twice helps, and we could've done worse than drawing rebuilding A&M and Ole Miss squads.

Overall, you would worry about a team that ranked 212th in the nation (according to Ken Pomeroy) facing this schedule if the teams on it played as well as they did last year.  There's no overarching signs that all of these teams should regress, so that's a reasonable expectation applied across the schedule.  Accordingly, the Gamecocks need to improve as a basketball team quickly, or else it'll be a long second season for Frank Martin.

Date At Opponent KP 2012
11/7/2013 v Longwood 334
11/12/2013 @ Baylor 26
11/17/2013 @ Clemson 114
11/24/2013 v Florida International 182
12/6/2013 @ Oklahoma State 24
12/17/2013 v Manhattan 143
12/19/2013 v USC Upstate 193
12/22/2013 N St. Mary's 21
12/23/2013 N Boise / Hawai'i 59 / 215
12/25/2013 N IaSt / Mason / OrSt / Akron 28 / 131 / 97 / 72
12/28/2013 v Akron 72
12/30/2013 v Marshall 217
1/8/2014 @ Florida 2
1/11/2014 v LSU 95
1/15/2014 @ Texas A&M 100
1/18/2014 v Ole Miss 32
1/22/2014 @ Georgia 99
1/25/2014 @ Missouri 22
1/29/2014 v Texas A&M 100
2/1/2014 @ Ole Miss 32
2/5/2014 v Auburn 194
2/8/2014 @ Tennessee 75
2/12/2014 v Vanderbilt 85
2/15/2014 v Alabama 57
2/19/2014 @ Arkansas 71
2/22/2014 v Georgia 99
2/26/2014 @ Auburn 194
3/1/2014 v Kentucky 48
3/4/2014 v Florida 2
3/8/2014 @ Mississippi St. 259
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