Things are weird this year, but you already knew that. Soon after the NCAA announced a later basketball starting date of November 25th, we started seeing the big preseason tournaments adjust. First, the Battle 4 Atlantis was moved from the Bahamas to sunny, beachy South Dakota, featuring Duke, Creighton, Ohio State, Memphis, West Virginia, Wichita State, Utah, and Texas A&M. Others soon followed, but the big one for our purposes is the Maui Invitational, which had been set to feature the Heels and a host of other prominent teams. Obviously, traveling across the Pacific Ocean right now to a tourist hotspot is a no-no. So where, you may ask, is the Maui Invitational relocating? The answer, first reported by Jon Rothstein and then just confirmed by the event itself, turns out to be Asheville, North Carolina:
Sources: The 2020 Maui Invitational will be held in Asheville from 11/30 to 12/2.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 18, 2020
Field includes North Carolina, Indiana, Texas, Alabama, Providence, Stanford, UNLV, and Davidson.
This is solid news for the Heels from a travel perspective; staying in-state is paramount right now and this allows Roy Williams’ team to get a good preseason tournament’s worth of competition without flouting that wisdom. There are several teams in that field that will definitely provide good competition, especially Alabama, Stanford (featuring former UNC target Ziaire Williams), and Texas, so the new squad, featuring six true freshmen and redshirt freshman Anthony Harris, will get good, low-stakes preparation for the meat of the college basketball season.
As far as the vacation aspect, Asheville definitely isn’t Hawai’i, but it’s also a cool place in its own right, and with the number of out-of-state players on the Heels’ roster, there’s a good chance they won’t have been before, so I’m glad they’re getting the chance to see and experience one of North Carolina’s most fun cities and integrate themselves that much more with the state’s culture. It’s much more lively than South Dakota, for example, and it’s got a lot of unique attractions (including being very close to the Appalachian mountains, probably not too far away from the best time to visit them).
The tournament’s announcement states that it will be “operating under the guidance of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services for mass gatherings,” so it seems that Governor Cooper’s leadership will continue to lead the way as far as keeping events in North Carolina safe and isolated. The event’s dates will be announced in the future, and we’ll keep you updated when we know them. Until then, it’s just good to get an announcement that makes basketball coming up feel just a little bit realer.