South Carolina men's basketball kicked off its "8K In 8 Days" campaign on Tuesday when third-year head coach Frank Martin released the non-conference schedule for the 2014-15 season. The slate features 13 contests, including eight home games, which includes one exhibition (to be announced at a later date). Highlighting the non-conference schedule is the Gamecocks' participation in the 2014 Charleston Classic in late November.
In the non-conference portion of its schedule, the Gamecocks will face three NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago in Oklahoma State, Baylor and Iowa State, with the possibility of playing five postseason teams, including Akron and Penn State, during the slate. Both Baylor and Iowa State advanced to the Sweet 16.
"Once again we have put together a very challenging schedule," Martin said. "A schedule to prepare us to find success and be prepared in the SEC. We start with very tough home games, followed by a great tournament in Charleston, and a road game at Marshall, which is one of the most difficult facilities and places to play at. We're extremely excited about the challenges. Hopefully this schedule will harden our basketball team and prepare it for the unbelievable challenge of competing in the SEC."
South Carolina opens its 107th season of varsity basketball on Nov. 14 when North Florida visits Colonial Life Arena for the first-ever meeting between the Gamecocks and the Ospreys. UNF returns the reigning Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year in sophomore guard Dallas Moore. 2014 NCAA Tournament participant Baylor follows with a return trip to Columbia on Nov. 18. The Bears lead the all-time series between the two schools 3-2, after a 66-64 victory in Waco last season.
The Gamecocks travel to the low country later that week for play in the Charleston Classic, Nov. 20-23. The event features a bracket format with 12 games over three days. The bracket has not yet been released, but other participants in the event are, Akron, Charlotte, Cornell, Drexel, Miami (Fla.), Penn State and Southern California. Tickets for the event are currently on sale at CharlestonClassic.com and by calling 1-843-953-2632. 2014 marks the second time the Gamecocks have competed in the Charleston Classic. Carolina advanced to the finals of the 2009 event, but suffered an 85-70 loss to Miami (Fla.), who will also compete in the 2014 Classic.
UNC Asheville travels to Columbia on Nov. 26 before the Gamecocks head to Huntington, W.Va., on Dec. 1, to face Marshall in their first true road contest of the non-conference campaign. The UNCA Bulldogs return sophomore guard Andrew Rowsey, who was the 2014 Big South Rookie of the Year after averaging 20.3 points per game. This is a return trip to face the Thundering Herd, as Carolina posted a 92-65 win over Marshall in Columbia last December. The Herd, who returns sophomore forward Ryan Taylor, a 2014 Conference USA All-Freshman Team honoree, is led by head coach Dan D'Antoni in his first season.
Oklahoma State is next up on Dec. 6, as the Cowboys travel to Columbia as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The two squads met last season as part of the Challenge in Stillwater, with OSU earning a victory on their home court in early December.
Clemson visits Colonial Life Arena on Dec. 19 for the 165th meeting all-time between the archrivals. The Gamecocks lead that series, 88-76. South Carolina hosts Coker College on Dec. 21 before a nine-day break for the Christmas holiday.
Carolina returns to host North Carolina A&T on Dec. 30, before traveling to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., as BROOKLYN HOOPS presents the Gamecocks versus Iowa State on Jan. 3. The Cyclones won the Big 12 Tournament last season and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 before suffering a loss to eventual national champion UCONN. The squad returns junior forward Georges Niang, an All-Big 12 Third Team selection last season.
Season ticket prices for the upcoming season remain unchanged from the 2013-14 campaign, with full season packages starting at $90. Like last season, fans can purchase lower level season tickets for $260 (Gamecock Club membership required for sections 104-106, 113-115) and University faculty and staff can buy tickets for $210. The Coke Family Section is available for $600 (four tickets). Upper level tickets are available for $200 (no Gamecock Club membership required) and faculty and staff can purchase tickets in the upper bowl for $160. End zone seating in the upper level is priced at four seats for $360.
Gamecock fans who have already renewed their season tickets for the 2014-15 campaign and those fans who purchase new or renew their season tickets during the "8K In 8 Days" campaign, are eligible to win a prize each day of the initiative. Prizes include a game-worn jersey, an autographed basketball, a $100 gift card to Garnet and Black Traditions, and the grand prize, a VIP trip with the team for an away game to an exciting destination.
To place a deposit for season tickets, fans are encouraged to visit GamecocksOnline.com/Tickets, or all 1-800-4SC-FANS. Fans should stay tuned to GamecocksOnline.com for updates on the "8K In 8 Days" campaign.
Complete game times and television details for the non-conference schedule will be released soon.
Below is a brief note on each of Carolina's possible non-conference opponents for the 2014-15 campaign.
The Ospreys (16-16, 10-8 A-Sun) lost a key inside presence in All-ASun second teamer Travis Wallace who paced the team's effort on the glass with 7.3 boards per game while adding 12.3 points, but returning is sophomore point guard Dallas Moore. The A-Sun Freshman of the Year in 2013 led UNF with 12.5 points and 2.5 assists per contest.
After a season in which the Bears went 26-12 (9-9 Big 12), reached the Big 12 Tournament championship and the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, the squad lost more than half of its offensive production with the graduation of Cory Jefferson, Brady Heslip, Gary Franklin and the departure of Isaiah Austin. All-Big 12 honorable mention point guard Kenny Chery will be the main cog in Baylor's offense after averaging 11.5 points and 4.7 assists during his first season in Waco.
Akron (21-13, 12-6 MAC) will welcome back All-MAC performer Demetrius Treadwell after he posted 15.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. The Zips standout struggled against the Gamecocks' defense last season as South Carolina won back-to-back games over Akron last season in December (Diamond Head Classic, Dec. 25; at South Carolina, Dec. 28).
The 49ers bring back the core from a team that was 17-14 (7-9 C-USA) last season and only had one senior. The group is led by third team all-conference performer Pierria Henry (12.3 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.1 spg). Including Henry, Charlotte returns its top five scorers, four of which averaged double figures. Included in that group is 6-9 forward Willie Clayton who averaged a near double-double at 10.8 points and 8.9 rebounds.
The Big Red recorded its lowest win total in more than 100 years last season as Cornell posted a 2-26 record and went 1-13 in the Ivy League after the team was riddled with early season injuries. Back is senior point guard Devin Cherry who recorded 12.3 points and 3.5 assists per game, but gone are the services of last year's leading scorer Nolan Cressler (16.8 ppg).
Early injuries have plagued key players for Drexel (16-4, 8-8 CAA) the past two seasons with Chris Fouch in 2013 and Damion Lee in 2014. Fouch (18.3 ppg) and Frantz Messenat (17.5 ppg) graduated last year so the Dragons will need to make up for more than half of the team's points from 2014. Lee returning will be a start, as the guard was the 2012 CAA Rookie of the Year and a 2013 second team All-CAA selection in 2013.
Miami (17-16, 8-8 ACC) lost 70 percent of its team's scoring from a season ago, with only three of nine players returning. Top returner Manu Lecomte from Belgium started half of the team's games last year, averaging 7.7 points and 2.4 assists.
The Nittany Lions finished 16-18 in 2014, going 6-12 in the Big Ten. With 71 percent of their scoring and 72 percent of their rebounding back in the fold, experience could be a difference this season as eight of Penn State's losses last year were by five points or less. Though without one of the Big Ten's top point guards in Tim Frazier, senior D.J. Newbill returns after being the second-highest scorer in the conference at 17.8 points per game.
Head coach Andy Enfield enters his second season at USC with a young roster that includes three juniors and no seniors. The Trojans went 11-21 and 2-16 in the Pac-12 last season and lost their top four scorers with Serbian Nikola Jovanovic being their top returner at 8.0 points per game.
After a 17-15 (7-9 Big South) finish in 2014, promise is on the rise for the Bulldogs in the form of All-Big South first team selection and Freshman of the Year Andrew Rowsey. The 5-10 guard became the first freshman to ever lead the conference in scoring as he averaged 20.3 per game while dishing 2.9 assists. Also added to his list of accomplishments was a 41-point performance in February to become the conference's first freshman ever to score more than 40 points in a game.
Led by first-year head coach Dan D'Antonio, the older brother of former NBA head coach Mike D'Antonio and a 1970 graduate and former player at Marshall, the Thundering Herd (11-22, 4-12 C-USA) will rely on sophomore Ryan Taylor, the teams top returning scorer (12.8 ppg) and leading rebounder (7.2 rpg) from last season. A day before New Year's Eve last year, South Carolina recorded a 27-point win in Columbia in which the Gamecocks held the Herd to 65 points and didn't allow a Marshall player to score in double figures.
The Cowboys are coming off a 21-13 (8-10 Big 12) season and a second round appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but have since lost the services of recent NBA draftees Marcus Smart and Markel Brown. Three-time Big 12 honorable mention selection Le'Bryan Nash (13.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg) will be joined by fellow returning starter Michael Cobbins. Also back in the fold is Big 12 Co-Sixth Man of the Year Phil Forte who scored 13.3 points per contest and connected from 3 at a 44.1 percent clip.
Clemson returns four starters after a 23-13 (10-8 ACC) season in which the Tigers reached the NIT semifinals, including point guard Rod Hall who averaged 9.7 points and 4.0 assists per game. Clemson's key loss though comes in the form of K.J. McDaniels who declared early for the NBA after leading the Tigers with 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per contest.
Coker finished 15-13 in 2014 and 11-11 in the South Atlantic Conference, but return three of its top five scorers from an offense that averaged just over 80 points a game. Back for the Cobras is a trio of guards that were all in double figures last year in seniors Errick Bethel (12.1 ppg), Larry Felder (11.7 ppg) and junior Trey Marshall (10.1).
North Carolina A&T
The Aggies are coming off of a 9-23 (5-11 MEAC) season, but return the inside presence of Bruce Beckford. The junior averaged 11.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per contest.
Despite losing a pair of 17-plus point players in Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane, the Cyclones (28-8, 11-7 Big 12) return key pieces in Georges Niang (16.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.6 apg) and Dustin Hogue (11.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg) from a high-powered offense that reached the Sweet 16, falling to eventual national Champion UCONN, and captured the program's second Big 12 Tournament Championship. Running the point will be sophomore Monté Morris who took over starting duties midway through last season and broke the NCAA record for assist-to-turnover ratio at 4.79.