Thanks to Florida’s basketball team, the South Carolina Gamecocks are now the SEC’s top team. Sitting at 9-1 in the conference, Carolina now controls its own destiny as it hunts for its first regular season SEC title since 1997. But why stop there? With the steady hand of Sindarius Thornwell impacting the game in virtually every way possible, PJ Dozier providing another great scoring option, and Chris Silva locking down the post (when not in foul trouble), this team has the potential to win the SEC both in the regular season and in the conference tournament. But the X-factor is the reemerging Duane Notice, whose hot hand can give Carolina the advantage over teams like Florida and Kentucky.
After undergoing a rough stretch for most of the season, Notice came alive during the Auburn game, finishing with 27 points all while shooting 6 of 9 from beyond the arc. In fact, in his last four games Duane Notice is shooting 55% from three, a huge improvement from his disappointing mark of just 30.1% in non-conference play. He has become more assertive in recent games as well - instead of waiting for the ball to come to him he makes efforts to come off screens ready to shoot and make a game-changing shot. This team does not need Duane Notice to carry the load in terms of scoring, that’s Thornwell’s job. But what Notice can, and should, provide is a steady perimeter threat to keep the defenses they face honest, and giving Thornwell a consistent kick-out option when he’s driving the lane.
Besides Notice’s improved scoring of late, one way he has been impressively consistent is his defensive ability, allowing the player he is defending to shoot only 25% from the floor. Defense may be an underrated aspect of a player’s game, but that makes it no less valuable. Now that Duane Notice finally has his shot back, or so it seems, this South Carolina team just has to keep winning before they find themselves face to face with an SEC Championship. And it is the duty of the experienced seniors, Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice, and Justin McKie, to lead the younger players to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. Hopefully this year, the tournament drought will end, and South Carolina will be back on the college basketball map again.