In his weekly mailbag column, Seth Davis takes questions from Twitter and discusses college basketball. This week, he received a question from a reader about whether Frank Martin fits in at South Carolina. Davis responded, in part, that he thought Martin could succeed if he stayed at the job long enough, but also added:
It's worth also remembering that Martin didn't take this job because he was excited about coaching at South Carolina. He had a great thing going at Kansas State. The reason Martin came was because he hated his athletic director.
Davis' answer wasn't entirely negative. He fully conceded that Martin "can coach" and has a "good eye for talent," but thinks the Gamecocks woeful 2012-13 season, coupled with the slow start to this year's conference slate, means there's no reason to suspect "a dramatic turnaround is in the offing."
Davis doesn't say anything wrong in his answer, but it's incomplete all the same. He notes that Martin brought in two top 100 recruits this year (Demetrius Henry and Sindarius Thornwell), though omits the fact he also brought in former top 100 recruit Tyrone Johnson as a transfer from Villanova, and has top 200 recruits Marcus Stroman and TeMarcus Blanton in the fold for next season. At that point, when combined with Laimonas Chatkevicius, the Gamecocks will have six top 200 recruits (according to 247Sports.com composite rankings) in the program, along with upperclassmen contributors Mindaugas Kacinas and Michael Carrera.
It's not unreasonable to say that the Gamecocks will likely struggle through the rest of this season - particularly with the recent injury to Tyrone Johnson - but there's also no reason to suggest it will take the "long LONG run" for Martin to succeed in Columbia. He inherited a program bereft of talent that lost what little it had through transfers (Damontre Harris and Anthony Gill) and to odd circumstances (how many basketball coaches lose their senior point guard to the NFL draft?).
Ultimately, this year's team is significantly better than last year's, and despite it's record, is probably the best team the Gamecocks have fielded since 2010, the ill-fated squad that lost Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes in rapid succession after beginning the season 4-0 (ultimately finishing 15-16 against a very challenging schedule). It only loses Brenton Williams (a notable loss, to be sure), but includes seven freshmen that will improve and two incoming players who should contribute to next year's squad.
It's true the program bottomed out in Frank Martin's first year. But there's no reason to suggest that it hasn't already improved rapidly in his second year, and there's no reason to believe it won't continue to do so going forward.