By Josh Hyber | Photo by Jenny Dilworth
As he often says, Frank Martin doesn’t pay attention to NCAA Tournament bracketology or projections. He doesn’t care about what so-called analysts have to say.
But the South Carolina head coach does care about his team. He does care about respect.
After the Gamecocks’ beat Georgia on Saturday, Martin stuck up for his team and took exception to some recent commentary — or lack thereof — surrounding his team and its chances of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
Here’s an excerpt from what the coach said. The statement has been edited for clarity and brevity.
“These kids have always been at the top of the league. Do you know what’s embarrassing? … I had just finished watching Indiana and Illinois. … And when the Indiana game was over, I saw their record. And all the talking heads said, ‘This puts Indiana right in the middle of this whole thing.’ I saw their record [17-14, 8-12 Big 10], and I said I have to look at this thing because I thought they’d lost like nine in a row and 12 of 13. … So I called [South Carolina assistant coach] Chuck [Martin]. And I said, ‘Chuck, help me out here.’
“You know what’s embarrassing? The SEC Now show listed the team’s in the league and the NCAA Tournament possibilities. I didn’t see the show, but everyone’s confirming this is what happened. They listed number one, number two, number three and then had a blank space on number four and then they listen five, six, seven, eight and nine. And they created an argument why all those teams belong in the NCAA Tournament. That’s awesome, but what happened to number four? I got pissed when I heard that.
“We’ve got more quadrant one and quadrant two wins than 13 of the 15 teams they’ve put on the bubble. Why do I have to do that research? I signed up to be a basketball coach, not a promoter. We’ve played five non-conference home games. Some of the teams that have two or three more wins than us, they’ve played a lot of [easier] games at home. I could have done that. I could have said no to Virginia. I could have said no to Wyoming.
“… Why don’t we start speaking about this league evenly and fairly for all the teams that belong and don’t belong? When I do watch, the people who cover the other leagues, they’ve got you convinced that the 12th-place team is better than the second-place team in [the SEC]. This league is unbelievably hard. For a team to be 11-7 in this conference with a winning record…
“Our strength of schedule is 20. Our non-conference strength of schedule, I think, is about 100 or something. But if you take two games off that, Wyoming, which has lost seven players to injuries after we played them, and [USC] Upstate, off our schedule, our non-conference is Top 10. Top 10. But we lost those games. I get it.
“I’m not here to tell you that we belong. But what I’m telling you is that I’m willing to put our team up against any other on the bubble. … Heck, if I scheduled like we used to schedule around here, we’d have 22, 23 wins. This team would have 23 wins this year.
“I’d like someone to point out the facts. We’re not just some scrub team that doesn’t belong.”