By Rixon Lane

South Carolina’s basketball team enters the 2014-15 season with momentum.

After a blowout loss to Florida, the Gamecocks bounced back to knock off Mississippi State in the regular season finale, and then made a surprising run to the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament.

With the season ending on a positive note, the biggest question surrounding South Carolina’s upcoming season is this; will we see a return of Frank Martin’s beard?

Martin’s beard first appeared in the opening round of the SEC tournament. After serving a school-imposed suspension for the Mississippi State game, Martin arrived at the Georgia Dome sporting his new facial hair. His squad responded with its biggest win in over a month, beating Auburn 74-56. The Gamecocks then squeaked past Arkansas 71-69, advancing to the quarterfinals, where they ultimately lost 59-44 to Tennessee.

For his part, Martin did not give any indication that the beard would be back.

“Only if I get suspended again,” he said. “That’s my incognito look.”

Martin may joke, but the power of the beard is for real. Consider this; before it arrived in Atlanta, the Gamecock hadn’t won an SEC tournament game in five years. The beard oversaw South Carolina’s first multiple-win SEC tournament since 2006.

The answer is simple. For South Carolina to get where it wants to go, Frank Martin must let the beard loose.

Getting suspended again would not be a good career move for Martin, but fan support might sway his opinion of the clean-cut look.

The upcoming basketball season hangs in the balance. It’s time to #FearTheBeard.