Horn: No easy games this year

South Carolina men's basketball coach Darrin Horn spoke to the media on Wednesday morning for the first time since the non-conference schedule for his 2009-10 Gamecocks had been released. He expressed his delight with the new schedule and says that he looks forward to the challenge of playing competitive teams night in and night out.

South Carolina's non-conference basketball schedule was released earlier this week (Details here), and the slate includes contests against six teams who competed in postseason play last year, including road games at ACC foes Clemson and Boston College.

Horn opened Wednesday's news conference by explaining the strategy that he used when putting together the non-conference lineup for this year's Gamecock team.

"Our philosophy is that we always want to schedule in a way that gives us the best opportunity to do a few things," said Horn. "One is, obviously, to prepare our team for SEC play. Another is to have success with our team, depending on the make-up of our team. And finally, we look at NCAA tournament considerations."

Horn says he believes that this schedule does a good job of accomplishing each of the tasks that he and his staff kept in mind while scheduling the non-conference games.

"We believe that this schedule gives us the opportunity to do all those things relative to where our team and our program is," he stated.

Several of the teams would seem to be considered as less than formidable opponents by some Carolina fans who see a Gamecock team that returns all of its starters with the exception of guard Zam Fredrick. However, one of the most important things to consider with this schedule, Horn claims, is the success that each of the non-conference foes will have within their own respective conferences.

"I think the highlights are not the names that will jump out to fans," Horn noted. "The important thing to understand about the strength of (the schedule) is you've got teams like Jacksonville, Richmond, Western Kentucky, Wofford and other teams that will be at the top of their leagues and compete for championships in their league this year."

Horn believes that the research and work done by his staff in finding some of these underrated teams will be extremely beneficial to the Gamecock basketball team this year.

"Through all of our research and over the years of talking to people and dealing with the league office, that's really where your schedule takes a big jump and can really help you," said Horn, who is entering his second season at the helm of the South Carolina program. "It's not necessarily what people would view as marquee games, but those games are like the ones I just mentioned (that will help us this season)."

The coach then gave a run-down of the tough stretch of games that the Gamecocks will face during the early portion of the season.

"You are looking at a stretch where we go to a tournament and play Lasalle, who's again going to be one of the top two, three or four teams in a very tough league. We're going to play Davidson or a Big East team, and potentially going to play another conference team (at the Charleston Classic). Then we'll come home and play Jacksonville who'll be near the top of their leagu," Horn explained. "Western Kentucky will be at the top of their league. (We'll) go to Clemson, then come home after the break for finals and play Richmond. So I think when you look at it that way, really the whole thing is a tough stretch for us because there aren't any games where you can just show up (and expect to win.)"

Horn proclaimed that RPI was a factor in determining who the Gamecocks chose to play this season, but that RPI isn't everything when it comes to making your team attractive for an NCAA tournament bid.

"It may not be about yours (RPI), but it is about RPI," stated Horn as he continued to express the importance of considering the make-up and status of your team when scheduling non-conference games. "So I think that you do the best that you can to again take those considerations that we talked about relative to where your team is and where you want your program to go."

Perhaps the most notable addition to the Gamecocks' non-conference schedule for the 2009 season is a trip north to take on Boston College. Although the Eagles should present a tough challenge for South Carolina, Horn believes that he and his staff have found what they were looking for in another BCS school opponent.

"It was going to be somebody like (Boston College) - A school that we thought was a top 50 caliber team that is going to be an NCAA tournament team. We know that's going to be a very difficult game, but we chose to do that the same way we chose to go to Baylor last year," he said. "I think that it will be good for our team, it'll be a good test."

South Carolina's up tempo style of play is something that Horn brought with him from Western Kentucky, and he believes that it doesn't matter who matches up well with the Gamecocks. He thinks that getting the experience of playing opponents who differ in their styles of play during the beginning of the season is the most important factor.

"(Style of play) isn't a big factor, but it does come into consideration (when we make our schedule)," Horn noted. "We've got some different styles that we're going to face this season. Boston College's style is very different from Clemson's, as Richmond's is as well."

The South Carolina head coach believes that facing these varying different styles will help the Gamecocks get ready for the challenging SEC regular season schedule.

"One of the things that I think we did was to have the opportunity to play against a bunch of different styles so that we'll get work and preparation in playing against different looks to prepare us for league play," Horn stated.


- Horn said that guard Robert Wilder, a former walk-on, will once again be on scholarship this season.

- The new freshmen have done well in the classroom, according to the coach: "They seem to be adjusting well to college," Horn said. "We're pleased with them and our returning guys who have made a considerable effort to get better during the summer with all the time that they've spent in the gym."

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