ABOARD THE USS CARL VINSON — If North Carolina's players were nervous about meeting President Obama before Friday's inaugural Carrier Classic, it didn't last long.
Obama, who (correctly) picked the Tar Heels to win the national title in 2009, still remembered Tyler Zeller from that team's visit to the White House.
"It was kind of crazy," North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes said.
"He knew most of us, who we are. He said, 'Hey, Z, good seeing you again. Hey John, are you going to block some shots? Harrison, are you going to make some 3s?' It was kind of cool to see that he kind of knew us, he was in touch."
Obama met with both teams in their locker rooms before tipoff, then mingled with many of them after the game, a 67-55 North Carolina win over Michigan State.
"I shook the President's hand," North Carolina forward John Henson said. "That's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The First Lady's hand.
"It was so much more than a game."
SEASICK, BUT STILL DOCKED: North Carolina coach Roy Williams said last week that right up until tipoff, he planned to absorb as much of the atmosphere as he could. That plan was compromised when Williams suffered an attack of vertigo Friday afternoon, a condition he has battled for years.
With medication and assistance from North Carolina's doctors, Williams was feeling better by game time.
"I was just trying to make sure I could remember what was up and what was down for a while," Williams said.
HIGH MARKS: After all the anticipation, all the logistical concerns and all the uncertainty of hosting an event of such a grand scale on such a grand stage, the inaugural Carrier Classic went off with relatively few hitches.
A persistent wet spot on the floor near midcourt, perhaps exacerbated by the cool evening air, may have been the biggest snag.
"It was a lot better than I thought it would be," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "The troops who were out there were unbelievable."
Added Williams: "The biggest thing to me was the reception from all the military people. They kept saying, 'Thank you, thank you,' and I kept thinking, 'My gosh, I'm supposed to be thanking you, and should.'"
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