CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – In case you were curious, Roy Williams truly does not care where his seventh-ranked Tar Heels will play when the NCAA Tournament tips off next week.
UNC, along with No. 4 Virginia, No. 9 West Virginia and No. 11 Miami, is in the running for opening round games to be played at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. That close proximity to Chapel Hill is a factor that doesn’t register much with the Hall of Fame head coach.
“You guys must not believe me because you ask me these dadgum questions every year,” Williams told reporters on Monday. “For 13 years I’ve said it makes no freakin’ difference. If I have a choice, send my ass to Hawaii. If you want me to tell you where I want to go, let’s have a regional in Hawaii and I’ll go there immediately… I only care about how we play. I don’t go for the touring.”
UNC is 31-1 in NCAA Tournament games played in the state of North Carolina, including a 7-1 record in Raleigh.
“I can’t name you one other site,” Williams said. “That’s been the way it is. The only reason I know Raleigh is because several people have said, ‘Boy, wouldn’t it be good to be in Raleigh?’ And I said, ‘For what?’ It’s not usually the kind of place I like to go to that often.”
Williams said he’s more interested in the dates of play rather than the actual location of UNC’s opening round games. In previous years, a trip to the ACC Tournament final meant a Sunday afternoon game with little break before the start of the NCAA Tournament.
“If you’re going to play in the ACC Tournament, you want to win the thing,” Williams said. “But, boy, when that game’s over Sunday and they say, ‘God, you play on Thursday, you’ve got to leave on Tuesday,’ that’s a quick turnaround. That’s the only thing I’ve always thought about is when do we play.”
The ACC’s decision to push the ACC Tournament back a day to accommodate a primetime final on Saturday has alleviated that concern to some extent. Williams also prefers the Friday-Sunday rotation to Thursday-Saturday to prevent his players from missing an extra day of class.
The Raleigh games will be played Thursday-Saturday (March 17 and 19).
“I’d like it better for our fans,” Williams said. “I’d like it better because it’s not traveling as far, but it doesn’t guarantee winning. It doesn’t mean you’re going to lose if you go somewhere else.”
How did your team celebrate after the win over Duke?
“I had a silly thought about maybe coming back here and cutting them down here, but I decided not to do it. It’s more fun when there’s people around, no question. When we got on the bus, Brad [Frederick] showed me a picture of what Franklin Street looked like and so we told the bus driver, ‘Let’s go to Franklin Street.’ We got there and they had already run everybody out. They still had it blocked off, so we pulled up and Brad asked if we could go through because there were 13 people still there. So we went down Franklin Street. It was amazing the people that came out that hadn’t gone home and had just gone back into the restaurants or the establishments, and so that was neat, but it was just doing something silly.”
On the importance of winning the ACC regular season championship:
“It’s extremely important to me. I think most coaches will go with how you play over three months as compared to four or five days and think that’s very significant. I do; I really do. I’m thrilled for our guys. We had a couple of chances we could have taken care of it before it got down to that stage, but when it got down to that stage, perhaps that even made it sweeter to come through at that point. I would have liked to have taken care of it earlier than that if we could have.
“I think the regular season, playing 18 games, is more important than three or four or five, depending on which team you are at the end of the season in the ACC Tournament. I take a lot of pride in trying to play well the entire year. We’ve been pretty successful. Steve said the other night it was our seventh in 13 years, and that’s pretty doggone impressive…
“I’m one of the old school – I think the regular season winner should get the automatic bid to the tournament. I really do believe that… My own feeling is that I think the regular season is more important. I mean, last year we beat Boston College, Louisville, Virginia and then played Notre Dame. If by being the fifth seed, if the only way we would have gotten into the NCAA Tournament was winning the ACC Tournament, I would have said, ‘This is the best.’ But I don’t really believe that.”