Javin DeLaurier remembers the feeling, all too clearly. Looking around the locker room in Greenville, S.C., last year, knowing it was over. The crying seniors. His stunned fellow freshmen who had played their last game. All of it over so fast.
DeLaurier is exceptional among his Duke teammates having experienced that. He's one of only four Duke players to have played in the NCAA tournament, and sparingly at that.
"I remember very vividly how much that hurt," DeLaurier said.
Until that moment, he had no idea.
"I thought I did, but you never really understand until you experience it," DeLaurier said.
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Iona, Duke's opponent Thursday, has five players with NCAA experience. It's one of the very few areas where the Gaels have an advantage over the Blue Devils. This is Iona's third straight NCAA trip, and despite losing both of the previous appearances, there's still something to be said for going through the experience, which is different from any other game on the schedule -- from the travel to the timeouts, the practice disruption to the locker rooms open to the media.
"I think it's going to help them as far as a comfort zone of being out there and knowing what the emotion is going to be like during the game, before the game, and everything we're going through right now, and they can share that with our other players," Iona coach Tim Cluess said. "But talent is talent."
Not always, though, as was the case in 2012 and 2014 when Duke teams built around star freshmen were upset in the first round by more veteran teams.
The 2015 title team was freshman-heavy but had a core of older players -- Quinn Cook. Matt Jones, Amile Jefferson --- who had experienced both NCAA success and failure. Other than Grayson Allen, this team does not.
Duke has a total of 16 games of tournament experience, 11 of those by Allen. Iona has seven, spread among five players. The Gaels also have players who have been through this without playing; Duke's six freshmen have not.
At least they know it. Or they know they don't know.
"To that level? I'm not sure," Duke's Gary Trent Jr. said. "In high school, you might lose a tournament game or something like that and be like, 'This is my last game' and be sad. College is on a whole different level, a whole different pedestal. To be honest, I don't know that feeling. I hope I don't find out."