Greenville – South Carolina knows it's going to be extremely tough against Duke on Sunday at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. The Blue Devils are clicking on all cylinders and are coming off an ACC Tournament championship.
However, the Gamecocks wouldn't want it any other way. They picked up a 20-point win over Marquette for their first NCAA Tournament win in 44 years. They are also playing less than two hours from their home campus, and expect a homecourt advantage against the second-seeded Blue Devils.
"I feel like if everyone brings that same confidence and that same attitude to tomorrow's game, we'll be able to compete with Duke," Sindarius Thornwell said.
Just like Marquette, Duke has five different players that average at least 10 points per game. Luke Kennard is the leading scorer at 19.8 points per game, and does a lot of things for the Blue Devils.
"He's a hard guard, man," South Carolina head coach Frank Martin said. "They do a great job of putting him in different actions."
Freshman Jayson Tatum is a force inside for Duke and averages nearly 17 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game. Amile Jefferson is another excellent post player while Frank Jackson and Grayson Allen give the Blue Devils an excellent combination of good guard play and excellent presence inside.
It will be a difficult challenge for Chris Silva, Maik Kotsar and the other post players for South Carolina, but it's one they're looking forward to.
"We're excited," Silva said. "That's a great matchup. We come with a mentality of winning, so you just want to play and see what they have to offer."
The Blue Devils shoot nearly 38 percent from behind the arc, which is around the same percentage that Marquette had entering its game against South Carolina. The Golden Eagles started the game on a tear from three-point land, but the Gamecocks settled down and had a terrific second half, defensively.
The dominant performance to close out the game has allowed South Carolina to enter the second round of the NCAA Tournament a confident group.
"I don't care what walk of life you're in, if you've got no confidence in what you're doing, you're not going to succeed," Martin said. "We became a good team because we got a lot of confidence in who we are, and that didn't start on Wednesday of this week. That's something that started five years ago."
Duke will be the clear favorite in Sunday's game. In fact, many people around the country tagged Duke as the team most likely to win a National Championship. However, with a home crowd behind their back and a loose, confident attitude, the Gamecocks will not shy away from the Blue Devils.
"It's just something you dreamed about when you were a kid," Duane Notice said. "Just playing Duke, Syracuse, all these types of teams we played this year. If you're a competitor, you want the opportunity to play someone like Tatum or Luke or Grayson Allen. I know guys are not going to shy away from the moment."
**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Artie Walker**