GREENVILLE, S.C. — South Carolina basketball has waited 13 years for this moment and the current players have waited for as many as four years.
So what’s a full day of waiting?
South Carolina’s game against Marquette will be one of the final meetings to tip off in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, with an approximate start time of 9:50 p.m. in Greenville. But that’s no bother for the Gamecocks — they just want to be in it.
“At this time of year, when you’re given the opportunity to play in this, hey, shirts and skins, give me a marker and write your number on chest and let’s go,” coach Frank Martin said. “That’s the kind of excitement you have.”
The Gamecocks are doing something that Martin noted does not happen on a regular basis. They have plenty planned for them throughout the day Friday, though, as the agenda includes a team meeting, team practice, pregame meal and even an academic meeting.
After all that wraps up, the Gamecocks will have time at their hotel waiting for the game to arrive.
“It’s going to feel like a year,” freshman guard Rakym Felder said. “We will be at the hotel just waiting.”
Said sophomore guard PJ Dozier: “It’s going to feel a lot longer than a day. Just even being here for the last day or two has felt like a week leading up to the game. Everybody is really excited.”
South Carolina didn’t hold any late-night practices this week to acclimate their bodies to the hours. Senior guard Duane Notice did say he and some teammates have the habit of coming over to the gym late at night to shoot anyway, so having a basketball in their hands around midnight won’t be foreign.
But waiting all day to play at almost 10 p.m. is a little bit different, especially with it being in the NCAA Tournament.
“If anything, it will just make us a little more anxious than usual,” senior guard Justin McKie said. “You are anxious any time you are getting ready for a game. It being at 10 just makes it a little more anxious.”
But at the end of the day — literally — the Gamecocks will take the court in a game they have long waited for, with one more day being all that is in the way.
“The only thing I know is we have a game at 9:50 and I will be ready to play,” senior guard Sindarius Thornwell said. “That’s it.”