You may say, “Well that’s not biblical,” but the Gamecocks have to, or they don’t get to play. No, seriously, if a player doesn’t show up angry, he sits the bench. “If you’re not matching his intensity, you’re not going to be on the floor,” said freshman guard Tommy Corchiani, while describing coach Frank Martin. That intensity? It ain’t no joke. I remember first noticing Martin when he coached Kansas State in the NCAA tourney a few years back. On a court full of very large, physically imposing people, he stood out to me as (by far) the most ominous presence, and he’s just a coach! Bobby Knight is infamous for his ever-present scowl on the sideline, but no one (coach or player) has ever instilled more fear in refs, players, fans, etc. than University of South Carolina coach Frank Martin.

The Gamecocks didn’t need another reason to be angry, but in March last year, the USC Gamecocks were notified by the NCAA basketball committee that they had made the 2016 NCAA tournament, only to be notified moments later “never mind, we made a mistake, you barely missed, sorry for the mix-up”. Needless to say, the 2017 version of South Carolina basketball came out gangbusters to start this current season. They have been a team on a mission, playing their way into becoming the second best defense in the country (ironically behind only Gonzaga, their first opponent in the Final Four that begins Saturday). USC has notoriously been among the national leaders in fouls committed, but correspondingly, they’re also in the top 3 in fouls received. When it comes to “defending the rim,” sometimes you have to have guys who say “not on my watch,” no matter what.

No one wants to play these guys. They have a very unique defensive zone in which all five players move to the direction of the ball wherever it goes. It’s intimidating, every defender glaring angrily at whoever has the ball, daring him to do something with it. I love it. On the way to the Final Four, USC has dispatched this year’s consensus Final Four pick Duke, and the hottest team in the tourney, Florida. Andrew Beaton at the Wall Street Journal explains:

In the Elite Eight, Florida fouled seven times in the first 5:09 of the second half—enough to put South Carolina in the bonus for the rest of the game. By the end of their second round comeback against No. 2 Duke, when the Gamecocks scored 23 points in the first half and then 65 in the second, the Blue Devils had racked up 26 fouls. Three of Duke’s five starters fouled out in what Mike Krzyzewski called “the most physical game we’ve been in all year.”

This ability to completely unsettle opponents makes South Carolina the rare underdog that dictates the style of of play [to their opponent].

Our 2017 Final Four is South Carolina, Gonzaga, North Carolina, and Oregon. As mentioned, the South Carolina/Gonzaga match up features the two best defenses in the country. The other game features two of the country’s best offenses. I fully expect UNC to make mince-meat out of Oregon, so it’s this other game that I will watch much more closely. USC and Gonzaga are both in the Final Four for the first time in school history. This will be a great game, but not one for the faint of heart. It might just be a slug fest – in which the angriest team is left standing. Don’t count out Frank Martin’s squad–he can find the tiniest of things to fuel their fire:

Most recently, with 11 seconds left in the Elite Eight, after guard Duane Notice threw down a ferocious dunk to put South Carolina up seven, Martin again sensed his players’ emotions could turn unproductive. So even with a spot in the Final Four almost certainly clinched, he called a timeout to deliver a simple message. “He just wanted to settle us down,” said assistant coach Perry Clark.

Still, there’s no questioning Martin’s ability to get riled up—even about the smallest things. On the eve of South Carolina’s Elite Eight matchup, Martin grew visibly irritated as he went over the scouting report. But he wasn’t upset about something he saw from Florida on film.

“He didn’t have chocolate-chip cookies,” Clark explained.

Angry basketball, now this is fun. Tune in on Saturday if you have a chance. You’ll get a show from Frank Martin alone, not to mention a heck of basketball game. I dare you not to blink…and not to root for the guy. It will be unbridled biblical anger for 40 glorious minutes, and there’ll be nothing un-redemptive about it. Oh, and by the way, per below, Martin is a sweetheart too. Watch out Tar Heels, those Carolinians to your south are not messing around.

Last week’s Gamecock Elite Eight win – Post Game question to coach Martin from “SI for Kids”: