Ranking USC men’s basketball’s non-conference schedule from easiest to hardest

·7 min read

Last season, South Carolina didn’t have this opportunity.

Due to COVID-19 postponements and cancellations, the majority of USC’s non-conference schedule was wiped away, and Frank Martin’s Gamecocks had just four games in two months before jumping into the heart of SEC play.

This year, USC boasts a healthy slate of non-conference games, giving the Gamecocks at least a little bit of time to figure out how the team’s nine new faces fit on the roster. As always, there are a handful games that USC should win fairly easily, but there a few key early-season challenges as well.

“We’re playing some powerful opponents, and that’s the way it should be,” Martin said. “It’s about playing against winning programs and hardening your team and preparing your team, so it can be as as united and as good as it can be come March.”

South Carolina basketball schedule breakdown

Below is a ranking of USC’s non-conference schedule from easiest to hardest.

S.C. State (Dec. 29 at Colonial Life Arena)

The Bulldogs are coming off a 1-17 season and should provide a final tuneup before SEC play begins.

Rider (Nov. 28 at Colonial Life Arena)

The Broncs (6-17) ranked 294th out of 340 teams in scoring margin last season as one of the worst defensive teams in the country.

USC Upstate (Nov. 9 at Colonial Life Arena)

Coming off a 5-18 season, the Spartans shouldn’t pose too much of a challenge in USC’s season opener at Colonial Life Arena. The matchup will be a reunion for Martin’s son Brandon Martin, who transferred to the Gamecocks from the Spartans this summer.

Coastal Carolina (Dec. 1 at Coastal)

The Chanticleers (18-8, 9-5 Sun Belt) were a middle-of-the-road Sun Belt team last year that lost conference player of the year Devante’ Jones to Michigan. The Gamecocks are playing the Chanticleers for the first time since 2018 and are 2-0 against them all-time.

Army (Dec. 22 at Colonial Life Arena)

Army is coming off a middling season (12-10, 8-7 Patriot League), but Jimmy Allen’s team is defensively sound and was one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the Patriot League last season.

Wofford (Nov. 23 at Colonial Life Arena)

Coming off a 15-9 season, the Terriers could make some noise in the Southern Conference this year but should be an opponent the Gamecocks can dispatch. The one wild card: Wofford ranked seventh in the country last year in 3-pointers made per game. The Terriers shoot from deep often, and if they get hot from outside, there’s upset potential.

Asheville Championship (Nov. 12 vs. Princeton, Nov. 14 vs. Western Kentucky/Minnesota)

The inaugural Asheville Championship could provide an early test for the Gamecocks on a neutral court, although the proximity to Columbia could steer the crowd advantage in USC’s favor. Martin has talked up Princeton as a “very good team” and one that has a generated a handful of upsets over the past nine seasons under Mitch Henderson. The Ivy League didn’t compete last season, making scouting the Tigers a more difficult task. Western Kentucky (21-8) advanced to the NIT quarterfinals a year ago and could be the favorite on the other side of the bracket over a Minnesota team with a whole new roster and head coach.

UAB (Nov. 18 at Colonial Life Arena)

A clash with the Blazers should make for an intriguing collision course between Martin and Andy Kennedy, whom Martin coached with at Cincinnati under Bob Huggins. Kennedy steered UAB to a 22-7 record in his first season with the program and has added six transfers this offseason, including Tulane guard Jordan Walker. Picked to win Conference USA in the league’s preseason poll, the Blazers are by no means an easy win.

Georgetown (Dec. 5 at Colonial Life Arena)

An NCAA tournament team a year ago, Patrick Ewing’s Hoyas made the big dance by virtue of winning the Big East tournament as a No. 8 seed, but Georgetown (13-13) was shredded by Colorado in the first round. The Hoyas are bringing in a strong recruiting class this season, highlighted by Big East preseason freshman of the year Amniu Mohammed, and a revamped squad could provide a challenge for the Gamecocks.

Clemson (Dec. 18 at Clemson)

Last year’s rivalry bout between the Gamecocks and Tigers was one of the casualties of the many COVID-19 cancellations USC experienced. The rivalry returns this season, and it represents one of the toughest matchups the Gamecocks will face on the non-conference docket. Brad Brownell’s Clemson squad lost leading scorer Aamir Simms to the NBA but returns a trio of regulars in Al-Amir Dawes, Hunter Tyson and Nick Honor on a team that finished in the Top 50 in both RPI and NET a year ago.

Florida State (Dec. 12 at Rock Hill)

The Gamecocks will travel to nearby Rock Hill for a unique inaugural No Room for Racism Classic that will also feature several HBCUs. The USC-FSU matchup is the clear marquee matchup of the event, and the Seminoles will almost assuredly be viewed as a favorite after advancing to the Sweet 16 last season. Head coach Leonard Hamilton, 73, was a mentor for Martin early in his career and one of the more widely respected coaches in the game, turning FSU into a national power.

“Obviously, Florida State has established itself as a top 15, top 10 caliber program over the last five, six, seven years,” Martin said when the tournament was announced. “Leonard has been unbelievably influential in my career and one of the guys I respect the most in the business.”

South Carolina 2021-22 basketball schedule

Times and TV listed if available

Nov. 4: home vs. Benedict/exhibition, 7 p.m.

Nov. 9: home vs. USC Upstate, 7 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)

Nov. 12, vs. Princeton, 9 p.m. at Asheville Championship (ESPN News)

Nov. 14, vs. Western Kentucky/Minnesota, time TBD at Asheville Championship (ESPN2 or ESPNU, TBD)

Nov. 18: home vs. UAB, 7 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)

Nov. 23: home vs. Wofford, 7 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)

Nov. 28: home vs. Rider, 2 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)

Dec. 1: at Coastal Carolina, 7 p.m. (ESPN Plus)

Dec. 5: home vs. Georgetown, 2 p.m. (SEC Network)

Dec. 12: vs. Florida State, time TBD at Rock Hill (ESPN2 or ESPNU, TBD)

Dec. 14: home vs. Allen, 7 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)

Dec. 18: at Clemson, 8 p.m. (ACC Network)

Dec. 22: home vs. Army, 3 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)

Dec. 29: home vs. SC State, 3 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)

Jan. 4: home vs. Auburn, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network)

Jan. 8: at Vanderbilt, noon (ESPNU)

Jan. 11: at Tennessee, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network)

Jan. 15: home vs. Florida, 1 p.m. (SEC Network)

Jan. 18: at Arkansas, 7 p.m. (SEC Network)

Jan. 22: home vs. Georgia, 3:30 p.m. (SEC Network)

Jan. 26: home vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)

Jan. 29: at Texas A&M, 8:30 p.m. (SEC Network)

Feb. 1: at Mississippi State, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)

Feb. 5: home vs. Tennessee, 1 p.m. (CBS)

Feb. 8: home vs. Kentucky, 7 p.m. (ESPN or ESPN2, TBD)

Feb. 12: at Georgia, 1 p.m. (SEC Network)

Feb. 15: at Ole Miss, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)

Feb. 19: home vs. LSU, 3:30 p.m. (SEC Network)

Feb. 23: home vs. Mississippi State, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network)

Feb. 26: at Alabama, 6 p.m. (SEC Network)

March 1: home vs. Missouri, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)

March 5: at Auburn, 1 p.m. (SEC Network)

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