The South Carolina Gamecocks begin their season with an exhibition game against the USC-Aiken Pacers at 2pm on Sunday afternoon at the Colonial Life Arena. Admittance is free of charge.
The USC-Aiken Pacers will look to build on their successes last season, when they won both the regular season and conference tournament crowns in the Peach Belt Conference, as well as the Southeast Region of the NCAA Division II Tournament, where they ultimately lost in the Elite 8.
The Pacers return nearly every contributor from last year's team, with the sole exception of Re'Mon Nelson, who averaged 13.9 points per game last season. While he'll be missed, the other six members of the Pacers that played meaningful minutes last season return, all of whom are seniors. This is an experience-laden group that will pose an interesting match-up to the woefully inexperienced Gamecocks.
For the Gamecocks, this game marks the likely debut for the seven Carolina recruits that comprised the class of 2013, which includes top 50 recruit Sindarius Thornwell, who will likely start for Carolina at either the 2 or the 3. Also expected to contribute will be Duane Notice, who may hold down point guard duties until the return of either Bruce Ellington or transfer Tyrone Johnson.
Of course, it'll also be nice to see how last year's freshmen have grown as players, especially Mindaugas Kacinas and Laimonas Chatkevicius, who spent time this summer with the Lithuanian national team's U-20 squad in the European Championships. And of course, it'll be nice to welcome back Michael Carrera, whose hip has been on the mend since last season, where it hobbled him throughout the year.
While the results of the game do not matter (this is a critical thing to remember - in 2011 Tennessee made the NCAA Tournament despite an opening loss to Division II Indianapolis), it'll be interesting to see the starting lineup that Martin puts on the floor, as he refused to announce in an interview earlier this week who would lead off for the team. Fans should also watch for how the team performs defensively, as Martin wondered aloud in an interview recently if the team wouldn't set the record for points conceded in November games (given we only play four such games, whatever the record is, I think it's safe).
For those not in the Columbia area who want to watch the game, it's not on TV, but will be available at this link on GamecocksOnline.com.