UNC basketball: Significance of postponement

Last Wednesday, February 12 marked the date that should be considered a national holiday: the night of the Duke vs. North Carolina basketball game.

It would have been the first time in history that a national holiday was postponed to a later date.

Unfortunately, the game was not played as the Duke men’s basketball team was unable to make it to Chapel Hill due to inclement weather. The area of North Carolina known as the triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) was blasted with levels of snow that North Carolinians haven’t seen in years.

What exactly does the postponement mean for the North Carolina men’s basketball team? According to UNC students and fans (and not surprisingly so) the postponement only benefitted the Duke Blue Devils.

It is true, many of the roads in Chapel Hill and Durham were seemingly impossible to drive on because of snow and ice. Many cars were left stranded by their drivers on the sides of roads and highways all over the triangle, and thousands of ticketholders wouldn’t have been able to make it to the game because of the driving conditions.

However, this is exactly why the Tar Heels would have had even more of a home court advantage. Prior to the announcement that the game would be postponed, officials announced that any ticketholders able to arrive at the Dean Dome would be admitted, but the rest of the stadium would be filled with students to make up for the ticketholders that were stranded. Let’s remember that UNC fans are known as the “wine and cheese crowd” as Sam Cassell so eloquently described years ago to other teams around the ACC. The wine and cheese portion of the UNC crowd that Cassell referred to was regarding some of the more elderly season ticket holders with the lower level seats who sometimes seem indifferent because of their expectations for the Tar Heels to win each home game. But can you imagine almost the entire lower level of the Dean Dome filled with passionate students and estimates of 15,000 students making up the close to 22,000 seat arena?

Many UNC fans on twitter argued that this was one of the main reasons that Duke decided not to show up in Chapel Hill. Many claimed that Coach K and his team would be intimidated and overwhelmed by the relocation and increased number of students to the lower level. I was at Cameron Indoor Stadium last week for the Duke home game against Wake Forest, and the historic arena was more than halfway full with Duke students, who took up almost the entire lower level. Could it be that Coach K uses the location of Duke students to his advantage for home games, but didn’t want to face this against his biggest rival?

Everyone in North Carolina knew this snow storm was imminent at least two days prior to the game. Even though Duke knew the storm would surely reach the triangle, they announced that they weren’t going to leave Durham until 6p.m., which would then be too late. If Duke had left Durham just a few hours earlier, the game almost certainly would’ve been played. All of the media, scorekeepers, and referees involved were able to reach Chapel Hill from various locations. Even the Pittsburgh women’s basketball team, who had a game against the lady Tar Heels, were able to reach Chapel Hill coming all the way from Pittsburgh. Duke was unable to travel just 8 miles down Franklin Street for the game.

I honestly can’t blame Coach K or the Duke men’s basketball team for staying in Durham, as UNC had seemingly all of the momentum entering the game. An arena full of loud, passionate students already excited because of the snow and subsequent class cancellations, a 5-game winning streak for the Heels, and not to mention a fight that broke out in the manager’s game between Duke and UNC  Tuesday night that seemed to unanimously favor the Heels were all contributing to the increased momentum for the Tar Heels.

The game has been moved to next Thursday, February 20th, and hopefully the fans will be able to carry that momentum into next week’s game. Until then, the Heels need to focus on their opponents before they face the Blue Devils. The Heels play the Pitt Panthers in Chapel Hill Saturday, February 15th, and travel to Tallahassee to face a struggling Florida State team next Tuesday. If the Heels are able to win both of these games, they will carry a 7-game win streak into next Thursday’s game against their arch-rival.