The eyes of every basketball fan on the planet are going to be on New Orleans on Saturday night, when the biggest rivalry in sports, UNC vs Duke goes head-to-head in the Final Four. For fans of both teams, there is nothing like it… but the fans can’t even imagine, what it’s like to play in it.
Tar Heel International spoke with Brice Johnson, Joel Berry II, Marcus Ginyard, Deon Thompson, Jawad Williams, Baden Jaxen, Justin Watts, Garrison Brooks, Kenny Williams and Andrew Platek, all former UNC players who have had their battles with Dook over the years and they all shared their thoughts ahead of Saturday, how Coach Hubert Davis has been and where they’re watching the Final Four.
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Brice Johnson (2012-2016) will be watching from Japan on Saturday as he plays professionally for Toyama Grouses and is even playing a game the same day.
“I expect the boys to continue to kill like they’ve been doing. They’ve been playing tough and not backing down to anyone and I don’t expect that to change now.”Brice Johnson on his expectations of the Tar Heels against Duke.
“As for Coach Davis’s first season, I couldn’t be happier for him. Im not going to say I expected this level of success but I’m not surprised! If you know Coach Davis, you know he truly bleeds Carolina blue and he will do anything to take care of the name on the front of that jersey before the name on the back! He’s continuing the excellence of the program and that’s all anyone can ask for. He might not be doing it the Coach Smith or Coach Williams way but he’s doing a great job of doing his way and I’m so proud of what he’s accomplished and this is only the beginning for him! I know things are going to get better and better!!”Brice Johnson on Coach Hubert Davis’ first season
“Hell yeah this is the biggest game in UNC history! The biggest rivalry in sports being played to go to the National Championship game! Only thing that would make this a bigger game would be this being the Championship game itself!”Brice Johnson commented on how big UNC vs Duke in Final Four is.
Joel Berry II (2014-2018) has been to the Final Four, twice! This time he will be at the Final Four as a Sports Analyst with ACC Network and watching the game LIVE.
“I expect it to be one hard-fought game with UNC, obviously, coming out on top, heading to another National Championship. I believe the team can stay poised, keep the nerves and the excitement in check and will win this game. I believe Carolina will utilize the inside and out attack and continue the dominance performance they’ve been displaying on the offensive end. They’ll need to keep Duke out of the paint, force to knock down perimeter shots, and limit them to one possesion down the court.”Joel Berry’s expectation on the UNC/Duke game
“It’s been an up and down season for Coach Davis, but the way he has handled the adversity and the criticism is what caught my attention. He instilled confidence in his team even in the worst times of the season. The passion, the grit to be better every day has propelled them to this type of play. And where they are right now speaks to how well he has done this year. Just phenomenal.”Joel Berry’s opinion on Coach Hubert Davis’ first season.
“First time meeting in the tournament, they do it in the Final Four, in Coach K’s last season, with a first-year Head Coach, spoiling the party not too long ago, and it being a Rivalry. Will this go down as one of the best games in history? Yessir, I believe so!”Joel Berry on the magnitude of UNC/Duke in the Final Four.
Marcus Ginyard (2005-2010) has recently retired from professional basketball and has been enjoying being a fan of the Tar Heels many times this season, he will be in New Orleans living every Tar Heels fan’s dream.
“My expectations are probably in line with the rest of the world in the hopes that this will be a heavyweight title match for the ages.”Marcus Ginyard on his expectations ahead of Saturday.
“HD has had a PHENOMENAL first season. If you can’t see that I’m not sure what you’ve been watching. Resilient. Tough. Poised. Confident. Classy. Perfect embodiment of Carolina Basketball.”Marcus Ginyard on Coach Hubert Davis’ first season.
Jawad Williams (2001-2005) is another Tar Heel watching from Japan on Saturday morning.
“A close game UNC winning by 5 more.”Jawad Williams has UNC over Duke on a close one.
“Amazing! Couldn’t have asked for better results from a first time head coach.”Jawad Williams on Coach Davis’ first season.
“It’s the most hyped game in UNC history. The biggest game in UNC history is any of the National Championship games.”Jawad Williams, NCAA Champion, has his mind on Monday.
Baden Jaxen (2009-2013) is going to be with friends in Los Angeles and will be locked in on this game.
“Overall I expect us to win. I expect Duke to have a chip on their shoulders from the embarrassing lost they took at Coach K’s last home game as well. And that’s besides the fact that this is the best rivalry in sports.”Baden Jaxen’s expectations for Saturday.
“I admire Coach’s ability to overcome adversity. With this being his first year as a head coach for a big time organization, the way he has been able deal with criticism early in the year, using that as fuel to have a successful season thus far is inspiring.”Baden Jaxen on Coach Hubert Davis.
“This game for sure will be one of the greatest match ups in not only college basketball but in sports in general.”Baden Jaxen on the rivalry.
Deon Thompson (2006-2010) will be joined by a familiar face in Spain this weekend.
“I’ll be in Zaragoza Spain, at home watching the game. Tip off will be 2:49am here. I’ll also have fellow Tar Heel and National Champion with me, Marvin Williams.”Deon Thompson will be watching from Spain with Marvin Williams.
“I expect for it to be a hard fought game! Both teams playing the their full potential, with all of the offensive talent on display. I see Carolina getting the victory on a last second shot.”Deon Thompson sees Saturday going to the last second.
“Impressive, he has gotten the most out of the guys that are playing big minutes. One thing you want to see with team is improvement and this Carolina team has definately improved from the start of the season until now. I believe he has the guys playing and living in the moment and that’s huge at this part of the season. And now Coach Davis has joined a short list of coaches to get to the final four in their first season.”Deon Thompson on Coach Hubert Davis
“That’s a tough one, I will say it is the most hype game, most anticipated, most talked about. Because after we win, we will still have to play one more for the national championship. I think Monday night’s game will be. Beating Duke on the way to winning a national championship! Nothing is better than that.”Deon Thompson on is this the biggest UNC game in history.
Justin Watts (2008-2012) is going to be watching this Saturday up close and personal in New Orleans.
“I expect it to be the rivalry x4. The teams are going to fight! Even possible for an overtime.”Justin Watts sees Saturday going to the wire.
“I think Hubert has done a beyond great job! Season speaks for itself.”Justin Watts on Coach Hubert Davis
Garrison Brooks (2017-2021) is going to be in Chapel Hill in the Dean Smith Center watching the Tar Heels take on Duke.
“My expectations is the game will live up to the hype and of course we take home the dub.”Garrison Brooks is confident ahead of Saturday.
“It’s been awesome with the expectations and obstacles of the season. He’s handled everything phenomenal. I think this is a glimpse of what is to come in the HD era.”Garrison Brooks on Coach Hubert Davis’ first season.
Kenny Williams (2015-2019) has a late night ahead this Saturday.
“I’ll be in Athens when the game comes on and we’re 7 hours ahead so I think it’ll be around 4 am.”Kenny Williams will be tuning in from Greece.
“I expect it to be nothing short of a fight. As HD loves to say, it’ll be “live-action” from the jump. It’s UNC-Duke but you throw in the fact that it’s the final four and how things have been going all season between the two teams on and off the court, it makes for an all-out battle on Saturday.”Kenny is ready for a battle on Saturday.
“I think Coach Davis’ first season has been amazing, of course, the final four run makes it so much better but you can see his and the team’s growth over the course of the season and to see them peaking at just the right time is exactly what you want throughout a season. I’m super happy for all of them pushing through so much talk early in the season to make this run deserves all the credit in the world.”Kenny Williams on Coach Hubert Davis and the team.
“It’s hard to say the biggest game because there’s so many big games and history with this program. But let’s be honest, it’s a huge game whether people want to downplay it or not, it’s HUGE. It’s just so hard to say that one game is the biggest in UNC history.”Kenny Williams on is this is UNC’s biggest ever game.
Andrew Platek (2017-2021) is in Boston coaching AAU and will be watching Saturday with his team.
“I’m expecting it to be either very close or a blowout either way. Don’t think game is won by like 13-15.”Andrew Platek’s prediction for Saturday.
“Coach Davis has shut up every critic he has had. It really doesn’t matter how you do in the regular season as long as you can make a deep run, as we all are seeing now. He’s winning when it matters, which is what matters.”Andrew Platek on Coach Hubert Davis.
“As far as the entirety of the program? I don’t think so. But the bragging rights will go on for years because of this game. But, a basketball game won’t get bigger than this for a long, long time.”Andrew Platek on if this is UNC’s biggest ever game.
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