By LARRY VAUGHT
NASHVILLE — South Carolina won 11 Southeastern Conference games last year to finish third in the league and also won 24 games overall. However, the Gamecocks did not get a NCAA Tournament bid.
Coach Frank Martin still is not happy about that — and made it clear at SEC Media Day here Wednesday — but he also is not about to complain about Kentucky overshadowing other SEC programs because of its success.
“I think it is great Kentucky is in our conference. Having them as an ally to represent the SEC — are you kidding me? We get to compete with what is as good as any program in the history of college basketball,” Martin said.
“It is our job to elevate our program to put ourselves to where we can be … See, when I got to South Carolina we were not even in the same book as Kentucky. I think we now are in chapter 15 of the book. We are trying to get to where we can be in the same paragraph as Kentucky.
“It is not my job to bring them down. They win at the highest level. It is my job to build a program to where we can be in a conversation with the University of Kentucky. That is my challenge. That is what I have to do and what our players have to aspire to do every day.
“Having them as an ally to kind of gauge yourself against and compete with them prepares your team to have success nationally. To me, that is a plus, not a minus.”