While the 2010-11 NBA season is sinking further and further toward oblivion by the day, college basketball gets underway in a big way Friday night — on a boat!
Near-consensus preseason favorites North Carolina will take the court against Michigan State on the deck of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson for the first annual Carrier Classic.
ESPN’s Sports Science took a look at the challenges facing the Tar Heels and Spartans as they get acclimated to their new surroundings — namely the potential for sea sickness and the effect of a (literally) sky-high ceiling.
The biggest challenge mid-week looked like it might be the weather, as it appeared the threat of rain might force the game under the above deck into the indoor hangar. But the chances of rain had dipped to 10 percent by Friday afternoon, according to weather.com which comes as a welcome relief to organizers and their VIP guest, President Obama.
The game and all of its accompanying fanfare has added meaning for Michigan State senior Austin Thornton, whose older brother Thomas is a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps.
“I’m glad I redshirted,” said Thornton, who is a fifth-year senior using his fourth and final year of eligibility this season. “It’s just great, the whole experience. It’s truly an honor, and it’s truly special to be a part of.”
Preseason All-American Harrison Barnes — whose face has been featured on dozens of sports magazines this month — leads a Tar Heels team lauded as a favorite to capture their sixth NCAA championship. Along with senior center Tyler Zeller, junior forward John Henson and sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall, Barnes elected to forgo entering the NBA draft after his freshman season to return for a shot at a title. It’s nearly the same formula that helped North Carolina cut down the nets in 2005 and 2009.
Washington Post columnist John Feinstein, for one, already has the Tar Heels penciled into his Final Four.
Sometime this winter, North Carolina Coach Roy Williams needs to write a thank-you note to David Stern and Billy Hunter. The decision by the NBA commissioner and the head of the players’ union to go to war is one reason why it may be close to impossible to deny Ol’ Roy his third national title in eight seasons.