UNC Basketball Final Four Send-off Set for Wednesday

The Tar Heels are headed to the Final Four in Houston.  Fans can see the UNC basketball team off at 6:30 PM on Wednesday.

The team will be at Entrance D in front of the Dean Smith Center.  Starting at 5 PM, parking will be available in the Williamson, Bowles and Manning Lots surrounding the Smith Center.

The Smith Center will also be home to a Final Four viewing party.  Fans are invited to watch both Final Four games.  Oklahoma and Villanova are scheduled to play in the first game at 6:09 PM.  UNC will play Syracuse at approximately 8:49 PM.

UNC students, faculty, and staff will allowed into the Smith Center through Entrance A starting at 5 PM.  The general public will be allowed through Entrance A of the Smith Center starting at 5:30 PM.

Both games will be displayed on a large projection screen and the Smith Center video boards.  Concessions and Carolina merchandise will also be on sale.  Parking in the Manning, Bowles, Craige and Ramshead lots will be $5.

The Carolina Basketball Museum will also be open from 9 AM until 6 PM on Saturday.

The Tar Heels punched a ticket to their 19th Final Four with a 88-74 victory over Notre Dame on Sunday.


Sweet & Elite in the City of Brotherly Love


Being a basketball fan in March is fun, no matter who your team is. But when your allegiance lies with the Tar Heels, it can be nothing short of stressful.

If you haven’t had the chance to attend a weekend at the ACC or NCAA tournament, it’s a bucket list item. The energy of the arena is palpable, filled with the hopes and dreams of other teams and their fans from across the country, hoping this is their year.

Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to cheer for a different team, a Cinderella. You don’t expect to win – you’re there to enjoy the experience, soak it all in, hoping for success and hoping that it comes around again soon. And for many, it ends almost as soon as the ink of their names is drying on the bracket.

Roy Williams

Roy Williams stands with his team as they pose with the Regional Championship trophy. (Todd Melet)

The Tar Heels are perennial contenders – we like it this way, and sometimes are too used to that being the case. But with the expectations of being a Blue Blood powerhouse, number one seed and newly minted favorite to cut down the nets in Houston this coming weekend (thanks Kansas!), being a Carolina fan in Philadelphia was anything but easy.

Even with a regional full of brand names, the expectations can be suffocating as a fan. Win or fly home. You can feel the pins and the needles, the baited breath of every shot and every ball hanging on the rim. It’s hard for me to imagine how the players feel, knowing they feel that pressure – knowing they truly live the ramifications – good, bad or ugly.

In 2005 & 2009 it felt similar. A team with talent, size, experience and the gorilla of expectations as though this is all a gimme. As though there aren’t players from the opposition that have worked just as hard, often with less.

It takes on interesting angles as you meet people who are attending not just to watch the Heels, but to watch their kids play the game they love, or cheer from the sideline or play the fight song as the argyle takes the court. All of whom are hoping that the road leads one step further the next weekend.

It’s been far too easy for too many fans to moan and gripe about the players and coaches over the past several years. It’s been made even more difficult by an academic ‘scandal’ that most in the national media don’t understand. But for this weekend and the next, it’s been made easier, seeing the men and women who work tirelessly, late into the night, when the cameras are no longer shining brightly, to make it all possible for the Tar Heels.

Seeing their tears, their smiles and sheer joy as the clock hit zero should serve as a reminder of what it takes to become great and stay that way.

When the clock hit zeroes this weekend, you could feel the love in Philadelphia – the tears and pain of a difficult few years melted away, even if for a little while.

Yet, it was the fans and the media that immediately jumped to thinking about what’s next. It took all of three questions at the post game press conference for the first reporter to ask about the Final Four matchup. For a team that more than deserves a coup de gras, they’ll get a shot to address that in Houston.

But sometimes, despite our stress, excitement and anticipation of what could still be to come, it’s important that we listen to those who live it every day. “We’re going to enjoy this one, first.”

From Sweet to Elite, this Tar Heel team is an incredible reminder that, as fans, we need some perspective. Enjoying the moment is something we do far too infrequently as humans, and especially as fans of the Boys in Blue.

Enjoy the rarity of the four-year student-athlete that is the foundation of this team. Enjoy this Ride to Houston. It’s already been fun.


Ryan Watts is a 2012 graduate of the Carolina where he studied political science and business. He currently works as a Consultant for Deloitte and is the co-founder and CEO of Toast Digital, INC., a social and digital media company helping restaurants and the hospitality industry grow. He can be reached at ryan@toasttogether.com


Stanford Hires Former UNC Assistant Jerod Haase

Stanford has hired former UNC assistant coach Jerod Haase as their head coach.

“Stanford University is a world-class institution which represents excellence across the board,” said Haase in a statement released by Stanford. “We will compete for championships by doing it the right way and graduating young men who will go on to accomplish great things in the world.”

Haase left Chapel Hill in 2012 to take over as the head coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

UAB made it to the NCAA Tournament in 2015, shocking No. 3 seed Iowa State, 60-59, in the second round for the Blazers’ first NCAA victory since 2005.

He finished the 2015-16 season with a 26-7 record, losing in the first round of the NIT to BYU.

Haase played for UNC head coach Roy Williams for three years when Williams was at Kansas.

He eventually joined Williams’ staff and follow him to Chapel Hill before accepting the job at UAB.

Stanford finished 15-15 this season.



Brice Johnson Ready To Prove How Far He’s Come

Brice Johnson has been hearing about his defense for years.

From high school when he was coached by his father and now at Carolina with Roy Williams, Johnson has always heard about his defense, or lack thereof.

“I saw him play in high school,” Williams said. “His dad stayed on his case too. I mean he didn’t walk over there and hug his dad in timeouts, I guaran-daggum-tee you that. His dad got after his rear end too.”

Brice Johnson

Brice Johnson (Photo by Todd Melet)

And sometimes he hears it from both sides at once.

“I’ll yet out something to Brice and there’s been two or three times in 30 seconds when his dad will yell out the same daggum thing,” Williams said. “It’s funny because I can hear his voice. You know if Beyonce came behind me I wouldn’t know who the crap she was.”

But after two strong defensive performances in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, including the game against Florida Gulf Coast when he had eight blocks, there’s no question Johnson has come a long way defensively.

While Williams still wants more out of his star forward, it’s hard to deny his play so far.

“There is something to be said for blocking shots,” he said. “And there is something to be said for defensive rebounds that are more important than getting down in a pretty stance and denying.”

The Tar Heels will get to see just how far Johnson has come defensively when they face an Indiana team that averages more points per game than anyone they’ve seen so far this season.

The Hoosiers are led by senior point guard Yogi Farrell, who was named to both the All-Big Ten first team and defensive team.

Johnson will likely match up with freshman center Thomas Bryant, who averages 12 points per game and has the third highest field goal percentage in the country.

Although he doesn’t do it much, just fourteen attempts this season, Bryant can even step out to the three point line, shooting 35 percent beyond the arc.

But for anyone who thinks Johnson isn’t up for the challenge, he has one thing to say.

“We’ve got a lot of people who say we’re underdogs in a lot of games,” Johnson said. “We proved them wrong so keep calling us underdogs and we’ll just keep proving you wrong.”


Art’s Angle: Check Ol’ Roy’s Numbers

Roy Williams can be infuriating, I know, from his refusal to call timeouts and change some other stubborn habits (like defenses). He chastises fans for “jumping ship” when things are not going well even though he calls his own team out for not playing tough, smart or just plain good enough. He loses games he shouldn’t lose, but don’t all coaches? Dean Smith certainly did (look it up).

Indisputable about ol’ Roy, however, is that he has one of the best post-season records in the history of college basketball.

Roy Williams

Roy Williams is 67-23 in NCAA Tournament play. (Photo by Todd Melet)

Williams is in his 26th NCAA Tournament as a head coach and already has two more wins (67) than Smith notched in 27 tournaments (Footnote: In Smith’s first 13 years, only one team from each league could go to the NCAA playoffs, and in 1971 his Tar Heels missed but won the then prestigious NIT championship.)

Williams, in fact, is now second all-time among coaches, laps behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who reached his first tournament at Duke in 1984 and has won 30 NCAA games alone with his five national championships. Coach K is going after his 91st victory in Thursday night’s Sweet 16 game against Oregon.

Probably the most glaring comparison between the current Blue Blood coaches is that Williams holds the record of never having lost his first NCAA Tournament game (26 consecutive), while Krzyzewski has been “one and done” five times (1983, ’96, 2007, ’12 and ’14). Roy’s first eligible team at Kansas in 1990 won 30 games and was upset by UCLA in the second round. His second made the Final Four and upset Smith’s Tar Heels in the 1991 national semifinals.

Of Krzyzewski’s 41 seasons as a head coach (including five at Army where he began at 27 years old), Williams says, “My first head coaching job was at 38. I don’t know how those guys who started so early do it. I’d be in the grave by now.” Williams became a head coach 11 years later than Coach K and eight years later than Smith.

Duke fans claim – and UNC fans cringe at the thought – that Krzyzewski might have seven or eight NCAA titles if the Blue Devils of 1986, 1994, 1999 and 2004 had not lost, or blown, late leads at the Final Four. Williams definitely should have had a third (or what would have been his first at the time) when Kansas missed 18 of 30 free throws in an 81-78 loss to Syracuse in the 2003 championship game.

Williams is 67-23 in NCAA Tournament play, including 33-9 at Carolina and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the 17th time in 26 NCAA Tournament appearances, including eight times in 12 tourneys at UNC. Smith’s team made it to 21 Sweet 16s, including a record 13 straight from 1981 through ’93.

If you don’t like numbers you can understand, in some cockamamie metric that Sports Illustrated used in its NCAA Tournament issue, Williams rated with Krzyzewski and John Calipari as the best current head coaches. (Frankly, I was more concerned with the SI Jinx when I saw Brice Johnson on the cover.)

Given that all of his predecessors played fewer games per season, Williams has now won 30 games six times at Carolina (plus five more times at KU); Smith did it three times, Bill Guthridge and Frank McGuire once each. Williams is second in NCAA history with eleven 30-win seasons (guess who’s first with 14?).

As for overall total victories to date:

  • Krzyzewski, 1,043 (average of 25.4 in 41 seasons)
  • Smith, 879 (24.4 in 36 seasons)
  • Williams, 780 (27.8 average in 28 seasons)

UNC Uniforms Ranked Best in Sweet 16

The UNC uniforms are getting some love.

Brice Johnson

Brice Johnson reacts after a big dunk. (Todd Melet)

Paul Lukas of Uni Watch ranked each of the sweet 16 teams by uniform for ESPN.  The Tar Heels’ home whites landed on top of the list.

Lukas describes his love of Carolina’s uniforms:

“As good as it gets, right? The Carolina blue, the school name framing the chest number, the argyle trim on the sides — that’s how it’s done.”

Lukas clearly likes the simplicity of the uniforms from traditional powers.  No. 2 on his list is the Kansas Jayhawks uniform.  The Indiana Hoosiers’ uniform grabs the third spot.  The uniform watcher does not care for “new school” looks.  Oregon landed at No 13.  The Texas A&M uniform is on the bottom of list.

Carolina’s “old school” uniform and Oregon’s “new school” uniform is Lukas’ pick for the title game.  It would be the “perfect matchup of old-school and new-school uniform styles.”

The Tar Heels take on the Indiana Hoosiers in Friday’s Sweet 16 game.  Tip off is shortly before 10 PM.

The UNC uniforms were designed by Alexander Julian.  Those linking diamonds have been featured on Carolina basketball jerseys since the 1991-1992 season.  More recently, the design started to show up on other Tar Heel uniforms.

Learn more about the history of argyle at Carolina.


UNC Basketball Team Send-off at 6:30

Fans can send off the UNC basketball team as they prepare to travel to Philadelphia for Friday’s Sweet 16 game against Indiana.

If you would like to see the team off, go to Entrance D at the Smith Center at 6:30 PM on Wednesday.  Parking will be available after 5 p.m. in the lots surrounding the Smith Center (Williamson, Bowles and Manning Lots).

There will not be an opportunity for autographs or photos with the team, but fans are encouraged to come show support for the Tar Heels.  Carolina will play Indiana on Friday night just before 10 PM.

The UNC basketball team arrived in the Sweet 16 after victories over Florida Gulf Coast and Providence in the first two rounds of the tournament.

The winner of the UNC-Indiana game will take on the winner of the game No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 7 Wisconsin.  That contest will begin at 7:27 Friday night.


Stroman On Sports: Road To The Final Four

The NCAA tournament begins for UNC tonight, with the 16th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast Eagles looming as the Tar Heels’ first hurdle on the road to the Final Four. (Game time is 7:20 at PNC Arena in Raleigh; WCHL’s coverage begins at 5:30 with the UNC Health Care Countdown to Tipoff.)

How far will the Heels go this year? Who poses the greatest threat in the East region? Who else will make the Final Four? And who ever thought it was a good idea to let Tulsa in, anyway?

Deborah Stroman is a sports commentator and a professor at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School (and a Virginia alum who might be really conflicted come April 2). Earlier this week, she discussed the bracket with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Chansky’s Notebook: March 17 Memories

The Tar Heels have played 13 games on St. Patty’s Day.

Tonight, they will play for the 14th time on St. Patrick’s Day, the global holiday to honor the patron saint of Ireland that has since turned into a celebration of dancing, eating and drinking, mostly drinking. Roy Williams is 2-0 on St. Patty’s day at UNC, beating Murray State in the 2006 NCAA Tournament and Michigan State the next year in the game that Tyler Hansbrough played with a broken nose and mask that he ripped off in the second half.

Bill Guthridge was 1-0 on March 17, beating Missouri in 2000, the game that launched the Tar Heels onto their second Final Four in three years under Coach Gut. In Dean Smith’s 36 seasons, his teams played 10 times when leprechauns were frolicking all over the world. He won nine of the those 10, losing his last St. Patty’s Day game to Texas Tech in 1996, when the Red Raiders’ Darvin Ham shattered green UNC’s hopes in the Big Dance, along with a backboard.

The Heels played some famous and infamous games on March 17, three times with wins that catapulted them to the Final Four. None was more memorable than their 1977 dramatic victory over, of all teams, Notre Dame in the Sweet Sixteen at College Park, Maryland. Carolina also defeated Villanova in 1991 and Murray State in 1995 on the way to those Final Fours. In 1980, the Heels stunned top-ranked Oklahoma in the second round on Rick Fox’s driving bank shot, as Woody Durham bellowed, “The game is over! The game is over!”

And there was the 1984 win over Temple on St. Patty’s day, five days before perhaps Carolina’s best team ever lost to Indiana in the game that TV announcer Dan Dakich supposedly shut down Michael Jordan. Sure you did, Dan, keep telling people that!

Perhaps the most special March 17 victory came in 1967, when the Tar Heels avenged a regular–season loss to Princeton in the Eastern Regional at College Park and gave Smith his first of what would be 65 NCAA Tournament victories, another record he held the day he retired 30 years later.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Tar Heels!


UNC Basketball Up to No. 3 in AP Poll

The UNC basketball team moved up to No. 3 in the latest AP Poll released on Monday.

The Tar Heels jumped from No. 7 after winning the ACC Tournament.

Kansas remained on top of the poll.  The Jayhawks are followed by Michigan State.  After Carolina, Virginia and Oregon round out the top 5.

Including UNC and Virginia, five ACC teams are in the top 25.  Miami is No. 10.  Louisville is no. 16.  Duke is No. 19.

More importantly, the UNC basketball team snagged a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Carolina will begin the tournament on Thursday evening with a matchup against either Florida Gulf Coast or Farleigh Dickinson.  The play-in game is scheduled for Tuesday night. UNC will see its first action at 7:20 on Thursday night.  Should UNC advance further, its most likely Sweet Sixteen opponent would be either the No. 4 seed Kentucky Wildcats or the No. 5 seed Indiana Hoosiers.

Carolina has had a lot of good news over the past few days.  On Monday afternoon, it was announced that Brice Johnson’s jersey would be headed for the rafters.  The senior forward was named a first-team All-American by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.