We’re two days from Gamecocks football, but the men’s basketball team took the headlines (somewhat) as they released their non-conference schedule. Here’s five games on the list to look forward to (besides the annual game against Clemson) as Frank Martin looks to end his fifth season at the helm in the NCAA Tournament.
November 23 vs. Michigan
While the Wolverines are a few years removed from their national championship game appearance, they still usually find themselves in the middle of the Big Ten discussion. John Beilein will have Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin at his disposal as they look to rebound from a first-round exit in last year’s Big Dance.
November 26 vs. Syracuse (in Brooklyn)
You won’t have to look much farther ahead to find another big-ticket contest for the Gamecocks. Despite a postseason ban and a cloud of allegations surrounding the team, the Orange still managed to advance to a surprising Final Four appearance. It’s Jim Boeheim’s penultimate season as he announced that the 2017-18 season will be his last before giving way to longtime assistant Mike Hopkins.
December 12 vs. Seton Hall (at Madison Square Garden)
Seton Hall advanced to its first NCAA appearance in a decade last season when they succumbed to tournament mainstay Gonzaga, but it certainly looks like Kevin Willard has the program trending back in the right direction after a series of average seasons. However, they’ll need to navigate their way through the 2016-17 campaign without star guard Isaiah Whitehead, a second-round draft pick after declaring after his sophomore season on the strength of an All-Big East first team selection.
December 21 vs. Clemson
We can’t leave the rivalry game off the list. It looked like Brad Brownell was on the verge of leading the Tigers to its first tournament bid since 2011 with wins against Lousiville, Duke, Miami and Pitt, but, like the Gamecocks, they couldn’t seal the deal down the stretch. Not only that, but they didn’t even make the NIT! Ouch.
December 30 at Memphis
Ironically, it was former Memphis head man Josh Pastner’s current employer, Georgia Tech, that booted the Gamecocks from the NIT last year. The Tigers enter the season with a new coach - Tubby Smith - who is hoping to replicate the magic touch he’s had at previous programs and get the American Athletic team back to the national prominence they enjoyed several years ago.