New Orleans serves as friendly setting for UNC entering historic game with Duke ::

– New Orleans has been good for UNC’s men’s basketball program.

The Big Easy is the site where the Tar Heels won national championships in 1982 and 1993. Now it’s the final landing pad for what has been a late-season resurgence for UNC, a team that seemed to miss out on the NCAA Tournament at various points during the regular season. After winning nine of the last 10 games over the past month, UNC scrapped enough mojo to earn an 8 seed before knocking out defending champion Baylor, outlasting UCLA and putting end to Cinderella’s run from Saint-Pierre.

Well-timed peak is one way to describe it. Another way to put it is that the heels have always been this good, but the stars are finally aligning as the program reaches its 21st Final Four. UNC looked as solid as anyone entering the stretch race.

“I think all year our belief that we’re good has never changed for us,” All-ACC first-team player Armando Bacot said. “I feel like more domestically, more with the media, we finally got that quad 1 win that made everyone believe. For us, I feel like we always believed that we were so good.”

If there was a starting point to this streak where UNC began to grab everyone’s attention, it was certainly the telltale victory that spoiled Duke coach Mike Kryzyzewski’s final game at the Cameron Indoor Stadium. A month later, the two blue bloods meet again in what is being touted by fans and the media as an epic showdown. On March 5, the Tar Heels used a 55-point second-half outbreak to dismantle Duke in the second meeting between the two teams.

UNC had four players who scored 20+ points, a far cry from the opener at Chapel Hill where Duke took a big lead and won comfortably.

Whatever the outcome on Saturday, the game will be seen as a landmark moment in the rivalry. Governor Roy Cooper declared North Carolina “the center of the college basketball universe” on Thursday in light of what is the most anticipated social event for North Carolina sports fans in quite some time. weather.

Hubert Davis speaks with reports on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

First-year coach Hubert Davis spoke at length to players about staying focused on what lies ahead and ignoring distractions. Players like Leaky Black follow his advice.

“Does it make a difference whether it’s Duke? No,” Black said. “At the end of the day, we’re in the Final Four, and we really only came here for one thing, and that’s to bring something home. It doesn’t matter who we’re up against, that’s our goal.”

This is the first time that two teams from the same state and the same conference have met in the Final Four.

“The first day of practice, I put a picture of the Superdome in their locker,” Davis said. “I didn’t want them to dwell on it, but I wanted them to see where we are going and why we are fighting and why we are training so hard, why we are preparing, what is going to be necessary for us to have a chance to be there,” Davis said.

The tenacity Davis has spoken of in press conferences has been more apparent over the past month, something many were questioning midway through the season after lopsided road losses to Miami and Wake Forest.

“People can’t say that about our band right now,” Davis said. “They fought back. They held on. They planted their feet and they competed. I think our guys understood how tough, tough and resilient you have to be to have a chance to play every day. At this level.”

UNC leads the all-time series against Duke 142-115. Davis did not win a national championship as a UNC player, although he was an assistant on the 2017 team.

Tipping is set for Saturday 8:49 p.m.

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