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South Carolina’s Frank Martin has now led two teams to NCAA Tournament after decade-plus long absences

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He’s never lost in the first round. Can he carry that on tomorrow against Marquette?

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Florida Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

In his pre-NCAA Tournament press conference, Frank Martin brought up an interesting parallel. At his previous stop at Kansas State and now at South Carolina, he was able to lead his teams to the Big Dance after long absences. South Carolina went thirteen years between trips and Kansas State’s previous trip before his first year in 2008 came in 1996.

The 2008 Michael Beasley-led 11-seed Wildcats defeated sixth-seeded Southern Cal 80-67 before being dumped by Wisconsin in the second round. Martin’s never lost in the first round of the tournament - including an Elite Eight appearance in 2010. Can he carry on that trend this year as the Gamecocks take on Marquette?

Martin did express his gratitude to the university and towards past players toward the start of his presser. While it was unfortunate to see players like Michael Carrera and the Lithuanian duo of Kacinas/Chatkevicius never get to the tournament during his tenure, they had a hand in building the program that exists today.

Martin did stress the importance of the team’s perimeter defense stepping up tomorrow. Marquette is the country’s top three-point shooting team at 43.0%, but the Gamecocks allow 29.3% of their opponents’ long-distance shots to go down, good for fifth in Division 1. If the Golden Eagles can take a page from the book of teams like Mississippi State, they will make it a long night for the Gamecocks.

South Carolina enters the tournament having not won a contest in the regular bracket for a while. Their 90-76 loss in 1973 to Memphis State (now Memphis) was their last main bracket win - they won the Midwest region third place game against Southwest Louisiana (known as Louisiana-Lafayette today). Since then, they’ve lost five straight in the NCAAs, including as a two seed against fifteen-seed Coppin State and an upset loss to 14th seeded Richmond the next year. Does the streak affect their preparation at all?

What are your keys to victory against Marquette tomorrow? Are you optimistic that the Gamecocks will be able to advance to the second round against Duke or Troy?