South Carolina (23-6) vs. Georgia (15-12)
WATCH: ESPN2, 7:00 p.m. ET
We've all come to learn that Frank Martin is a classy individual. It didn't take very long into his four-year tenure to learn that - it was pretty evident from day one. Never about himself, always love, loyalty and dedication to his players.
Senior Night may bring out the best in Martin. It's a celebration of hard work and perseverance, two qualities Martin holds above all else. It's about his players, the very people that he promotes the most.
I don't know what the future holds for the marriage between Martin and South Carolina but it's almost guaranteed that Thursday night will hold a special place in his heart. It has been a long journey to find success in Columbia for Martin and his staff. They're finally finding out this year while in the midst of a conference championship run and on the cusp of an NCAA Tournament berth.
There's no doubt in my mind that as Michael Carrera, Laimonas Chatekvicius, Mindaugas Kacinas and Brian Steele are honored in Thursday's ceremony, Martin will be filled with emotion. These guys make up the first senior class at USC. They stuck with him through thick-and-thin, made the right decisions and stayed with the program. You hear the pride in Martin's voice when he discusses this group of men as they've left as much of an impression on him as he did on them. They've been the building blocks that first hitched their wagon to this tricky project.
In their last game inside Colonial Life Arena, these seniors will attempt to even the season series with rival Georgia. The Bulldogs upset USC, 69-56, a month ago in Athens. UGA's best player, guard J.J. Frazier, had as rough a start as South Carolina did in last month's outing. As usual on the road, the Gamecock offense was dead cold off the bus. Frazier was as well but he poured in 13 points after halftime, leading the Bulldogs to the win.
Georgia is coming off a home win over Ole Miss, which snapped a three-game losing streak.
South Carolina is playing its first game since last weekend's loss at Mississippi State. Those Bulldogs jumped on USC early as another poor offensive effort from the Gamecocks secured their fate. A comeback was never really a threat as Martin's club was unable to get no closer than eight away from MSU's lead.
A pair of juniors led the team in scoring on Saturday, Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice, contributing a combined 22 points. Thornwell, along with Carrera, have led the Gamecocks in scoring in all but two of their SEC games this season.
Notice only needs five points in Thursday's game to reach 1,000 for his career at South Carolina. He'd become the third player this season to achieve that mark as Thornwell accomplished it in January and Carrera broke the plateau last month.
USC will need all the offense it can get from their three* 1,000-point scorers (assuming Notice hits his mark) as Georgia boasts one of the conference's best defenses. They rank fourth in the league in scoring defense, allowing opponents to score 69.7 points per game. UGA also has the second best field goal percentage defense in the SEC, forcing opponents to shoot 38.7 percent from the field, second to only Kentucky's 38.2 percent clip.
With 23 wins on the year and two games left on the schedule, the Gamecocks can still tie the school record for wins in a season. The 1969-70 team posted a 25-3 record on their way to a 14-0 ACC mark and the ACC regular-season championship.
Martin's first group of seniors has helped him bring back this program's winning ways. His promotion, and emotion, concerning these guys is certainly warranted, but the journey isn't over yet.