Memphis-South Carolina Preview
South Carolina coach Frank Martin acknowledges that his program's recent lackluster seasons have made it difficult to get high-profile teams to come to his arena.
The 24th-ranked Gamecocks will have one visiting Saturday night when they attempt to finish nonconference play unbeaten against Memphis, which might not have its leading scorer.
South Carolina has won 20-plus games just once since 2005-06 and Martin said that kind of record doesn't entice teams to schedule matchups.
"Our program hasn't been good enough to expect good teams to want to come here and play. For the elite level teams to want to Columbia to play a game here, it's got to be good for them," he said. "We're trying to build our program to make it attractive to people to want to play us."
Martin said South Carolina (12-0) is getting a chance to play Memphis (9-3) in part because of a relationship with Tigers coach Josh Pastner that dates back to their AAU coaching days.
"I'm trying to think back to when Memphis wasn't relevant in the nation. I don't know what year that was. Maybe (John Calipari's) first couple seasons rebuilding the program. Ever since then, they've been a fixture," Martin said. "I know playing (Memphis) is going to make us a better team so it makes a lot of sense."
South Carolina will try to remain one of the nation's three unbeaten teams while adding to its best start since going 17-0 in 1933-34.
The Gamecocks could use a better start than they had in a 78-56 win against Division II Francis Marion on Wednesday. They led just 12-9 after nine minutes but found a groove, allowing Martin to play 15 players.
Chris Silva had a season-high 13 points in his 19 minutes off the bench.
The Gamecocks will take a big step up in class before starting SEC play Tuesday at Auburn. Memphis made 14 consecutive postseason visits until finishing 18-14 in 2014-15 and having a string of four NCAA Tournament appearances snapped.
The Tigers have lost to Mississippi and Texas-Arlington and also missed a great chance to build their resume by falling to unbeaten Oklahoma. They could face the third remaining unbeaten if SMU is still perfect Jan. 30.
Senior swingman Trahson Burrell led the way with a season-high 21 points and a career-best 13 rebounds, helping make up for leading scorer Dedric Lawson's absence. The freshman, averaging 15.5 points, has an abdominal injury.
"I'm hoping he's back for Saturday," Pastner said.
South Carolina has lost eight in a row to its former Metro Conference rival dating back to February 1989.