As 2021 begins, it looks like South Carolina may finally get to play a game again.
After four cancellations or postponements over the past four weeks and a 20-day period without being able to practice due to COVID-19 outbreaks within the program, the Gamecocks are scheduled to return to action when they host Florida A&M on Saturday afternoon.
"They're excited because they get on the court, but there's this sense of doubt," South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. "Can we finally play a game? Can we practice more than one day without getting shut down again? Because that's what's happened to us since Dec. 7.
"As a coach, my job is to uplift and to get guys excited about the present day regardless of what happened yesterday. But when it comes to this, I'm limited to what I can do because it has nothing to do with a bad practice, a bad game, a win, a loss, a bad attitude ... it's got nothing to do with all that stuff."
South Carolina (1-2) hasn't played since suffering a 77-67 loss at then-No. 10 Houston on Dec. 5. The Gamecocks were forced to shut down activities two days later.
The Gamecocks couldn't pull off the upset largely due to 19 turnovers which led to 21 Houston points. Although it's a small sample size, South Carolina committed a combined 56 turnovers over those first three games and ranks 322nd in the nation in turnovers per game (18.7).
FAMU (1-5) has not played since a 74-64 loss to Georgia Tech on Dec. 18.
"Every day we test negative, can practice and now play, it's a blessing," FAMU coach Robert McCullum said earlier this season. "I think our guys are showing a greater sense of appreciation for the opportunity."
FAMU, which will play its final nonconference game before opening its MEAC slate, has also struggled to protect the basketball. The Rattlers are tied for 273rd in the nation in turnovers per game (16.0).
South Carolina has averaged 66.0 points per game this season, led by Jermaine Couisnard (13.3 points, 2.7 assists per game) and AJ Lawson (11.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists per game). Justin Minaya (8.7 points, 6.0 rebounds per game) leads South Carolina's frontcourt.
The Rattlers are led by MJ Randolph (16.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.0 steals per game), Kamron Reaves (8.0 points per game) and Johnny Brown (9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds per game).
--Field Level Media