Gamecocks prepare for March Madness, ‘Time to Dance’
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - If there were any signs of pressure entering March Madness, you could not tell by how the Gamecocks danced onto the floor before Thursday’s practice.
The players walked through the tunnel in a single file line and then huddled in a circle near the sideline while creating a beat. Zia Cooke entered the middle and started dropping some lyrics.
The top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament was ready to rock!
“Here we go,” said star junior forward Aliyah Boston. “It’s time to rock.”
“Time to dance,” chimed in Gamecock senior guard Destanni Henderson.
“Time to dance,” Boston quickly exclaimed while chuckling. “I take it back.”
It’s strange to consider Friday’s home tournament game marks Carolina’s first postseason home dance in four years. The men’s big dance wiped away one opportunity in Columbia in 2019. The pandemic eliminated another in 2020. And last year was held all in Texas.
There’s extra excitement to host in Columbia finally, and for most of the team, their first experience.
“I sit back and I think it really is a huge advantage when you’re able to host,” said Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley. “It doesn’t mean -- you have to show up and play the games, but it creates a huge advantage.”
“This is my first time being in this type of situation where I’m playing on my home court,” said Henderson. “It’s just bittersweet. I’m ready to get it rocking. At the same time, I’m going to miss everything that comes with it.”
Henderson and the Gamecocks hope everything that comes with this tourney run includes cutting down the nets at the Final Four. The mindset that will get them there begins with a Gamecock motto, ‘keep the main thing, the main thing.’
“You know, we came up with that phrase because there is a whole lot of things that pulls at our players,” said Staley. “It’s this time, when everything -- you turn on the television, riding in your car, everybody is talking about March Madness. When you’re a team that is projected as one of the teams that could win, it just heightens it more. So it takes your focus to that, and that is the main thing right now. I know Aliyah and everybody else buys into the phrase of keeping the main thing the main thing.
“The main thing has been to bring home a national championship back to South Carolina,” added Boston. “The tournament is starting, so that needs to remain the same.”
The number one ranked Gamecocks begin tournament play with a first-round matchup at home against Howard on Friday, March 18th at 2 PM.
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