It was always going to be impossible to avoid discussion of what happened last year in Houston, so the Heels have chosen instead to embrace that talk and welcome the sense of mission now that they're back in the Final Four. After all, every team here wants to win it all, what does it matter that they were the only team to come so painstakingly close last year?
That notion of Final Four experience and the advantage it supposedly gives the Heels is interesting. Joel Berry said Thursday they know everything to expect from Phoenix, from the media obligations and the practices to the social opportunities. Justin Jackson said everything here is new from last year, the only carryover being that they know the level of intensity that's required.
Having spoken to a number of UNC fans over the past week or so, the sense that they've already played their toughest games is pretty common. That's exactly what the Heels must avoid thinking. Oregon is legit. Dillon Brooks is an All-American. Tyler Dorsey is a big shot maker and Jordan Bell is a flat out monster in the middle.
What Oregon doesn't have is the waves of big men that UNC brings to the party. In a cavernous University of Phoenix Stadium, I think it makes a legitimate difference to be a more old-school post-oriented team. UNC has guys who can make a three, but their offense does not depend on deep shots. A layup is a layup no matter how large the surroundings you're playing in. That sets up well for the weekend.
I think Carolina wins today. I think Joel Berry plays very well. I have Kennedy Meeks down for a big game and Isaiah Hicks down for a big bounceback performance. No Luke Maye magic required this time.