Drew Murawa is an RTC correspondent and a Pac-12 microsite writer. He filed this report from tonight’s North Carolina-Long Beach State game.
Right out of the box, we need to thank these two coaches for getting this type of game scheduled. It wasn’t necessarily a marquee game that every college basketball junkie around the country had been looking forward to, but this was a game that saw one of the sports’ bluebloods go on the road and play at a mid-major school. This is not something that happens every day. It’s really not even something that happens every decade, excepting North Carolina. Can you imagine Jim Boeheim scheduling this game for Syracuse? Coach K and Duke? Those schools barely even leave their own friendly confines in November and December, and when they do it is for made-for-television neutral site games. No, this was a true road game for the Tar Heels. And even though there were a lot of Carolina Blue shirts scattered throughout the arena, there was little doubt that most of the largest crowd in the history of the Walter Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State was there in the hopes of watching North Carolina lose.
So how did this game get scheduled? Well, primarily it was scheduled because the Tar Heels are on their way across the Pacific for a trip to the Maui Invitational and have made a habit of stopping off for a road game on the way. In 2008 they played at LBSU’s Big West rival UC Santa Barbara, and in 2004 they traveled to Santa Clara on the way to Maui – and lost with a freshman point guard, Quentin Thomas, at the helm. So, unlike some of the other bluebloods, UNC is not afraid to take the occasional road trip. Last year they helped UNC Asheville open their new arena; two years ago they traveled to Evansville. Head coach Roy Williams thinks it is good for his team and plenty of fun as well. “Anytime you go get a win on the road, it’s a good thing,” he said. “The crowd was great, it was a wonderful college basketball atmosphere. I don’t mind the kids yelling at me and yelling for their team.” Sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo agreed. “I think it was just a perfect fit for us right now, coming out here and playing in this atmosphere is just what we need, especially going into Maui and being a young team.” In the end, regardless of who you root for or what you think of the Tar Heels, you’ve got to respect the fact that these guys are more than willing to go on the road and give smaller fan bases a thrill on occasion.