GREENVILLE, S.C. — Duane Notice sat in a frantic locker room filled with players, staff and media on Thursday afternoon in Greenville. It was a surreal moment for the South Carolina basketball senior, buried in the corner on a bench with the words “March Madness” displayed all around him. You know, just in case Notice and the Gamecocks needed any extra reminders that they are in the NCAA Tournament.
It has been a whirlwind 24 hours for USC, which arrived last night to fans at the hotel and had its first practice at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Thursday.
Really, Notice and his teammates had no idea what to expect, so the eye-opening experiences have been many. The senior guard said seeing the level of production, money and time put into the entire event of March Madness was his “wow” moment.
“I don’t think you can really understand it when you’re sitting at home, watching it on TV,” Notice said. “I think once I got here to the arena, it started to kick in. This is a big thing and this is serious. I wish I could have done it all four years.”
South Carolina is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 13 years, playing for its first win in 44 years at approximately 9:40 p.m. against Marquette.
To get a feel for what the entire experience is like, Notice reached out to previous teammates that had played in the tournament, including former Kansas star Andrew Wiggins, former Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis and Iowa State’s Naz Mitrou-Long.
They all told him to be relaxed and be himself, but also to enjoy the moment. But words couldn’t do it justice, as the Gamecocks found Thursday.
“You can’t explain it,” guard PJ Dozier said. “You can tell everybody how it goes, but until you live, you haven’t lived it. Just the feeling of being here is great.”
There were a lot of smiles, loose and freewheeling emotions expressed and excited eyes on Thursday for the Gamecocks.
To a man, South Carolina players said they were trying to soak in the moment and the feeling of the past few days since hearing their name called during the selection show. And they are happy to be in Greenville now.
“It’s my last year, my last everything,” senior guard Sindarius Thornwell said. “I’m just enjoying it and trying to make it last as long as I can. I’m trying to soak in the moment.”