10:23 Top of the Hill
The good people watching the title game at the Top of the Hill would like to ask the North Carolina players, if they’re reading, to rebound the basketball.
That was one of many shouted refrains during what was a frustrating but ultimately far from devastating first half effort from the Tar Heels.
At halftime, some fans on the TOPO balcony have started a TAR...HEELS! chant with a competing group of fans downstairs and across the street outside Sup Dogs. Despite having been unsuccessful in gaining physical entry to Sup Dogs, a large group of people remains gathered outside its patio doorway, straining to see the TVs mounted outside.
Up on the third floor of 100 E. Franklin Street, the viewing experience is surprisingly varied. In the dining section, an older crowd – and we’re talking mostly recent grads and perhaps a few middle aged alumni – is seated, watching a large projector screen. Around the bar, undergraduates and other younger fans are gathered around wall-mounted TVs and packed closely together.
On the smoking patio, overlooking Franklin Street, are the social butterflies and fans too anxious to directly expose themselves to the televisions without a layer of glass or two between their eyes and the action.
9:05 pm Four Corners
A sing-songy Tar....Heels chant roars through the bar with tip off approaching. Line still stretches out the door with 20 or so people hoping to get in for game. But rain has stopped so fans outside are dry. Like the saying goes, God must be a Tar Heel. Right?
9 p.m. Top of the Hill
At 8:15, out on Franklin Street, TAR! ... HEELS! call-and-response chants are frequent, fervent, and begin without warning. The rain has stopped now, and there are lines still outside nearly every restaurant on Franklin Street with a television, including Top of the Hill.
A motorcade of police on motorcycles rolled slowly down Franklin Street at about 8:30 p.m. Half an hour later, things are starting to quiet down outside. By now, it appears, most folks are at their stations.
Inside TOPO, as Top of the Hill is known to many in Chapel Hill, the pregame show is being shown on screens around the restaurants, and the crowd alternates between vocal delight and anger, depending on whether the broadcast happens to be showing shots of UNC or Gonzaga. The restaurant is now at capacity, the hosts report.
More people are watching at Back Bar, Top of the Hill’s more casual satellite just down the stairs from and behind the main restaurant.
9 p.m. Smith Center
There is a packed crowd at the Smith Center tonight, as fans prepare to watch North Carolina take on Gonzaga in the NCAA national championship game.
The size of the crowd is twice the size it was during Saturday’s Final Four watch party when the Tar Heels beat the Ducks, 77-76.
Some people are even sitting in the upper deck.
There’s a sense of excitement and nervousness in the crowd. However, they feel like this is the Tar Heels’ year.
They say they want redemption from last year’s national championship buzzer-beating loss to Villanova.
7:05 p.m. Four Corners
Maybe this is a good omen for UNC fans. Lifelong Tar Heel Gil Perkins and his wife, Geraldine, traveled to Franklin Street from their Lexington home to enjoy the championship game festivities. Gil Perkins said he’s been coming here to watch UNC Final Four games since 1982, when he watched that Jordan guy hit the jump shot to beat Georgetown in the NCAA title game. He saw a win that night. He expects to see another one tonight.
And here’s a little secret the Perkins’ let me in on. ... They didn’t have to get here in the morning to get a table. Their nephew is working the door. (Score)
5:55 p.m. Four Corners
Yes it’s raining outside on Franklin Street but the patrons packed inside are dry. Why? Many have been here since midmorning. Take Perla Castillejos. The 25-year-old UNC senior landed a table near the window by arriving at 11 a.m. She’s bided her time working on two history projects.
“I have a 20-page rough draft and a four-page paper due Thursday,” the history major said.
She’s due to graduate in May, national championship or not.
5:40 p.m. Top of the Hill
Underneath awnings below Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery, about a dozen people are waiting for tickets that may or not exist. At 7 p.m., the restaurant will dole out to these latecomers any reserved tickets that have gone unclaimed. The bouncers remind the crowd that there is no guarantee that any such tickets will remain.
Top of the Hill, three floors up at 100 E. Franklin Street, is among the most coveted places to watch high-profile basketball games in Chapel Hill. People camped out for tickets nearly at the buzzer of Saturday night’s win over Oregon.
The restaurant’s posted capacity is 453 people, and Top of the Hill is sticking to that number in the strictest of terms after catching grief from fire marshals after Saturday’s game, one bouncer said.
Jakub Chaba, a senior at UNC and a server at Top of the Hill, is standing by the phone near the entrance. People are calling nearly continuously to ask if there are any seats left. There aren’t. As soon as he puts down the phone, having delivered the bad news, the phone immediately rings again, and he starts over. This happens three or four times in a row.
“Someone just called a second time and said, ‘It’s raining outside, can’t you let me in?’ And I said, ‘I’m sorry, there’s not much I can do.’ ”
Upstairs, on the third floor, people are eating and chatting casually. There’s still plenty of elbow room.
A steady rain is falling over Franklin Street. Guy Murphy, Top of the Hill’s general manager, said the restaurant has an internet stream of the game ready to go in case the restaurant’s satellite connection is interrupted by storms this evening.
Elsewhere on Franklin Street, sportswear shop Johnny T-Shirt has boarded up its storefront window as a precaution against postgame pandemonium. The plywood has been spray-painted with a Tar Heel logo, and two small signs are taped to it, reminding passersby that the store is still open.
4:25 p.m. Sup Dogs
Folks have been lining up here outside Sup Dogs, a specialty hot dog joint on Franklin Street, since about 9 p.m. Sunday. About six students spent the night outside on air mattresses and in sleeping bags. Some groups brought bottled water, snacks and other provisions for their nearly 20-hour vigil.
Managers say they’ll start seating fans for tonight’s national championship game between UNC and Gonzaga around 5 p.m. and admit the first 175 people through the door – the restaurant’s legal capacity. At present, there appear to be a little more than 120 people in the line, which extends east from the restaurant’s patio down toward the Varsity Theater.
Sup Dogs, a Greenville-based eatery, opened its Chapel Hill restaurant in the summer of 2014. In a relatively short time, it has become a staple of the Chapel Hill gameday experience, almost exclusively among UNC undergraduates.
There are few people outside Top of the Hill, Chapel Hill’s most coveted gameday location. That’s because tickets to watch there are sold out, and fans with tickets have been instructed to show up around 5. A hostess there said there’s still hope, though: A standby line begins at 7 p.m., where unclaimed tickets will be redistributed.
Rain is in the forecast for Chapel Hill starting at about 5 p.m. Since about 3 p.m., the sky has been growing gradually darker, and a light but steady wind is blowing.