10:43 Top of the Hill
People love Luke Maye, who with an ordinary rebound incites deep voiced calls of “Luuuuuuuuke.” The Kentucky-slayer has been quiet so far this game, scoreless from the floor, with only a couple made free throws.
Justin Jackson on the other hand is feeling it, hitting his fourth three pointer. His shots here sound like a hush and a boom.
9:37 p.m. Top of the Hill
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Pace of play is painful so far, but really seems to hurt Carolina. Fans here are used to their team running and scoring quickly but nothing is going in. CBS just put up a box saying UNC is 6/23. Make that 6/24.
Starved for points, people here are going crazy for free throws.
9:30 p.m. Smith Center
It’s a close game in Phoenix, and back in Chapel Hill, fans here have exhibited a roller coaster of emotions already, clinging to every missed and made shot.
All eyes are glued to the biggest television screen in the Dean Smith Center. The game is back and forth.
Turnovers are especially deflating and so are shots that Oregon makes. But when UNC makes a shot, the crowd cheers wildly.
A foul on UNC freshman Seventh Woods has fans upset.
North Carolina is down by two with less than eight minutes left in the first half.
8:36 Top of the Hill
Of the Carolina jerseys on Franklin Street, most belong to Michael Jordan, but there have been a fair number of last year’s near-hero Marcus Paige and 40 year-old Vince Carter.
There’s still time, but there’s no sight of Oregon’s electric yellow anywhere here. One current Carolina undergrad said she’s heading to Oregon next year for graduate school, but said her allegiance is not conflicted.
One guy is wearing a UPenn hat.
8:17 p.m. Smith Center
Meghana Kodali, a North Carolina sophomore cheered along with her fellow students every time South Carolina scored. She and the other students groaned when Gonzaga played well.
But the reason they were cheering for South Carolina wasn’t so simple.
Kodali said she was cheering for the Gamecocks because their fans like to talk a lot of trash, and beating them in the national championship game, she said, would be a lot sweeter.
“Knock on wood that we win today’s game, but in an ideal world that’s what we would want to happen,” Kodali said.
Plus, she believes the Tar Heels have a better chance at beating South Carolina than they do Gonzaga.
“They like to say they are a football and basketball school now, but they are not,” she said of South Carolina she wagged her finger.
At that moment South Carolina got another stop. Then Kodali turned and cheered some more.
7:50 pm. Four Corners
Four Corners finally came alive with South Carolina’s stirring comeback. Not a Gamecock shirt in sight. But nearly all those in baby blue are cheering for the other school that called itself Carolina. A lot of leftover love from that upset win over Duke.
7:48 p.m. Smith Center
It seems that North Carolina fans have picked a side, and are cheering for the Gamecocks to beat Gonzaga.
It had been mostly quiet throughout the game, but midway through the second half Gonzaga led by 14. The Gamecocks slowly chipped away at the lead until they hit a 3-pointer to bring them within six points. The crowd at the Dean Smith Center cheered.
After each positive South Carolina play, the crowd continued to cheer. The Gamecocks are on a 12-0 run with 8:15 left in the game. It’s tied at 65.
Is this Carolina pride? Or do they just not want to play Gonzaga, one of the top 2 teams in the country?
7:43 p.m. Top of the Hill
People started lining up at 1 a.m. today to get tickets for dining room seats at Top of the Hill. Spots at the bar and on the balcony overlooking Franklin Street were up for grabs starting at 11 a.m., but there’s still elbow room 90 minutes before Carolina’s tipoff. Early afternoon glassware has moved on to early evening plastic cups for the brewery/restaurants offerings.
With South Carolina struggling to close the gap in the second half, most here are indifferent to the first game.
7:15 Top of the Hill
Emily Geerdes’ shirt says “Carolina” but it’s the only one here written in garnet. The Gamecocks of South Carolina are the story of the tournament so far, outplaying their seventh seed and toppling Duke on the way to the school’s first Final Four.
Geerdes, a 1985 graduate from South Carolina, and her family have been along for the ride.
“We had tickets for the game here (in Greensboro), but in North Carolina’s infinite wisdom, it ended up going to South Carolina,” Geerdes said of the first and second round games moved because of HB2. “The planets got aligned that Sunday night. We got to see the Tar Heels win, then we got to see Duke lose at the hands of (the Gamecocks). That just doesn’t happen.”
An all-Carolina final would certainly mean a lot to the Geerdes family. They’ve had season tickets in the Dean Dome for 15 years, she said, and her father, a UNC grad himself, used to sing the Carolina Fight Song as a bedtime lullaby.
“It’s been the most incredible March Madness I’ve ever experienced, and we’ve been going to the first round for over 10 years,” Geerdes said. “To tell you the honest truth, I didn’t want anybody to play tonight. Both of my teams have been flying high all week.”
Maybe it’s the fact they’re neighbors, or wanting to avoid the number one see Zags in the final, or maybe they just like a good story, but most of the Top of the Hill crowd has adopted the Gamecocks for the night’s first game.
6:57 p.m. Smith Center
Seats are starting to fill up in the Dean Smith Center, as North Carolina fans prepare to watch the Tar Heels play the Oregon Ducks in the second Final Four game of the evening.
The arena has not quite reached a quarter full but it’s still early. Some fans have arrived early to watch the first game between South Carolina and Gonzaga on a few big television screens.
UNC plays Oregon at approximately 8:49 p.m.
The winner of the UNC-Oregon game will face the winner of the South Carolina-Gonzaga game in the NCAA national championship.
5:55 p.m. Four Corners
With the first game less than 30 minutes from tipping off, only a few seats are unoccupied at the famous Franklin Street bar and restaurant. Appropriate menu items -- like the Number 23 (char broiled chicken on a toasted bun with mushrooms, red peppers, provolone cheese and herb mayo) -- are being gobbled down.
Even the restrooms are in the spirit. A small Oregon car magnet has been placed in the men’s room urinal for, well, target practice.
More updates to come.