Saturday, April 20

‘Greatest Food Ever’: Carolina Fans Enjoying Final Four Weekend in New Orleans –

While videos of the celebrations at the Smith Center and Franklin Street have gone viral this weekend, there’s still a sizable contingent of UNC basketball fans having their fair share of fun in New Orleans, too. Carolina blue can be seen on every major thoroughfare in the Big Easy, from Jackson Square and Bourbon Street to the team’s Sheraton hotel on Canal Street. There, you’ll find UNC dignitaries such as Roy Williams and Jones Angell, as well as the Carolina band.

UNC wrestling head coach Coleman Scott and his staff also made the trip down to Louisiana, and were in attendance for Saturday’s national semifinal.

“Watching the Elite Eight game at my house, midgame when we realized we were in a good spot, [I] didn’t want to jinx it so we didn’t book anything until then,” Scott said. “We were fortunate enough to get tickets through the university for the whole staff. I said, ‘Just request them and get them and we’ll figure everything else out.’”

Scott described the atmosphere of the weekend as “unbelievable.”

“That game Saturday, the magnitude of the rivalry in a Final Four game, never have I seen a basketball game that great,” he said.

Joe, a Tar Heel fan from New York, wasn’t at Saturday night’s game, but instead flew into New Orleans on Monday morning.

“I had a bachelor party this weekend,” Joe said. “And once they won and I knew I could get up here on Monday, I bought my tickets and flew up at like 1 a.m.”

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Other Tar Heel fans have been with the team for the long run. Perhaps there’s no better example of that than Dennis Love from St. Louis. You may have heard of his son, Caleb, who plays on the team.

“We’ve got all the Tar Heel family here, and we’ve been winning, so it’s all good,” Dennis said.

As for how Dennis is spending his down time, it was a theme echoed by many among the light blue-clad crowd.

“Greatest food ever,” he said. “No knock against Chapel Hill… but there’s no food like New Orleans.”

Connor Hitchings, a junior trombone player in the Carolina band from Kernersville, N.C., had just gotten back from a swamp tour with friends when he stopped to talk.

“Got to see some gators, some swamp pigs and some swamp raccoons, which I didn’t know were a thing,” he said. “So that was awesome.”

Hitchings has been with the Tar Heels for their entire NCAA Tournament journey, starting in Fort Worth, TX, then moving to Philadelphia and now onto New Orleans.

“It’s just a dream come true,” he said. “I grew up watching UNC games, my dad was in the band when he was here. This was what I wanted to do when I came to Carolina.”

The New Orleans Sheraton, where the basketball team, band and spirit squad have been staying throughout the weekend.

Fans who stopped to chat pointed to a few pastimes when not watching the Tar Heels in the Superdome: admiring the architecture, strolling through the French Quarter, taking in live music and, of course, sampling the local cuisine. One word came up time and time again when describing the atmosphere around the city: electric.

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“Out on the streets, you can tell people are excited for the NCAA Tournament,” Hitchings said. “A lot of them are wearing their gear… Bourbon Street is really cool, just to see people excited and abuzz about what’s going on.”

Keith, a friend of Dennis Love and the Love family, described the city as “beautiful.”

“Beautiful weather, food… everything’s beautiful,” he said.

Almost all of the Tar Heel fans ended their conversations with a confident forecast of a Carolina victory over the Kansas Jayhawks Monday night.

All of them except Hitchings, that is.

“I don’t know if I have any predictions,” he said. “I’m very superstitious on that front.”


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