South Carolina vs Auburn
When: 7:00 PM ET, Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Where: Georgia Dome , Atlanta, Georgia
South Carolina will have its fiery head coach back on the sidelines when it faces Auburn in the first round of the SEC tournament on Wednesday. Frank Martin was suspended for the Gamecocks' regular-season finale - a 74-62 win at Mississippi State - after a video of his profanity-laden tirade directed at freshman guard Duane Notice went viral following a 72-46 loss to top-ranked Florida last week. He returns in search of his first win in four meetings with the Tigers, who closed the regular season with a 69-64 win at Texas A&M.
Martin apologized Monday and vowed to change, though his players say that intensity is part of what attracted them to play for Martin. "I personally don't think he needs to change," freshman Sindarius Thornwell told reporters. "I came here because of who he is and what kind of coach he is and what gets me going. We like the way is now. … You can't really get mad at a guy for showing that much passion." The Tigers won both regular-season meetings, 79-74 at South Carolina on Feb. 5 and 83-67 at Auburn on Feb. 26.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, SECTV, ESPN3
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA (12-19): The 13th-seeded Gamecocks aren't much of a threat to run through the SEC tournament, but they have played better of late by winning two of their last three, including a 72-67 upset of then-No. 15 Kentucky. South Carolina boasts strong guard play with leading scorer Brenton Williams (15.2 points) and Thornwell (13.5 points, 4.2 rebounds), who was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team on Tuesday. The Gamecocks have struggled away from home, as their win at Mississippi State was their first outside Colonial Life Arena since beating Akron on Christmas Day in Hawaii.
ABOUT AUBURN (14-15): The Tigers hope first-team All-SEC guard Chris Denson's 19 points against Texas A&M mean his shooting slump is over after he scored a total of nine points in the previous two games. The Tigers don't have a lot of offensive prowess when Denson isn't scoring - they scored 54 and 57 in his back-to-back single-digit games, both of which were lopsided losses. The SEC's No. 2 scorer at 19.2 points per game, Denson put up 47 points on 16-of-23 shooting in two meetings with South Carolina this season.
1. The winner faces No. 5 seed Arkansas on Thursday afternoon.
2. South Carolina has not won a game in the SEC tournament since 2008, a streak of six straight losses.
3. Denson (1,176) needs eight points to move past Charles Barkley for 23rd on Auburn's all-time scoring list.
PREDICTION: South Carolina 67, Auburn 65
Stats and Records