Tar Heels ready for another long March mission

CHARLOTTE, NC (WTVD) -- It's a funny thing being here at the very beginning of the NCAA tournament with this team knowing they've traveled the entire distance the last two seasons running. It's like we're all seasoned tournament travelers together. The Heels should put out a Lonely Planet NCAA tournament travel guide.

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First - the news. Luke Maye is excited to be back in Charlotte. Genuinely excited. He's usually a pretty stone-faced interview, but Luke lit up when he got that inevitable question Thursday. He went home last night to visit his folks, said his grandma actually lives downtown (for the nightlife, I'm guessing) and just generally gleamed about playing here for the weekend.

Cameron Johnson said his back is feeling much better after a basically non-stop regimen of rehab treatments ranging from cupping to ice baths to heat treatments to rhythmic chanting and sweat-lodge sessions. I may have made up those last two but you get the point.

Joel Berry said this year feels different having already climbed the entire mountain last season. They had a defined goal last year given what happened in 2016. That kind of obvious motivation isn't there this time, but as Joel laughed and said: "I mean, we obviously want to win the title again."

Theo Pinson is playing a disrespect angle, saying he perceives most people don't think Carolina has it in them to repeat. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

I asked a few of the Heels on Thursday what their mental or visual cue is that lets them know it's tournament time.

Luke said it clicked for him when he entered the stadium and saw all the blue and white NCAA signage. Both Theo and Joel said they dialed in while watching the selection show at Roy's house. Joel said he savors this time of year not just because he's playing in it, but also because he knows when he gets back to the hotel he'll be able to watch wall-to-wall hoops. He also added that he certainly doesn't mind being out of class, given that it's Spring Break.

These Heels are ready for another long March mission.
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