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Roy Williams is not a coward!

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Unlike Coach K, Ol’ Roy is willing to play away from home

University of Virginia v University of North Carolina Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

College basketball is inching towards a 2020-21 season. A necessary casualty to make it all happen is that early season tournaments in tropical tourist locales are now being relocated to the continental United States in more... plain locations. Carolina’s trip to the Maui Invitational was replaced by a 3.5 hour drive to Asheville. Duke, which committed to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis, apparently will not be making the trip to its relocation site in South Dakota.

Now before you jump on me for bagging on Coach K for this lame move, let me make this point. Two things can be true at the same time. In this case,

  1. A basketball multi-team event that promotes social-justice activism, especially given the positive work that Nolan Smith and the Duke basketball team have done on campus in Durham is good and commendable.
  2. Leaving a tournament that you committed to play in to host your own tournament that will compete for an audience, on your OWN CAMPUS, is bad and deserving of ridicule.

It’s not a secret in college basketball that Coach K does not like playing true road games in his non-conference schedule. If it weren’t for the fact that he is contractually obligated to play a true road game against a B1G team every other season, he would surely be content to play every non-conference game on his schedule in Cameron or Madison Square Garden.

Roy Williams, by contrast, is a Road Warrior. He is Animal and Hawk. He is not afraid to play true road games at power conference schools like Texas, Tennessee, and Stanford. He is not afraid to play true road games at small schools near the hometowns of his players like Northern Iowa, Evansville, and Penn. He is not afraid to play true road games at schools far from home en route to the Maui Invitational like UC Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, and Hawai’i.

To illustrate and honor Roy Williams’s moral fortitude, dignity, and courage to play true road games, in direct contrast to the craven, cowardly Dracula in Durham, I wanted to highlight three true road games that Roy Williams scheduled, even if they were dicey match-ups for the Heels when they were scheduled, not automatic wins.

@ Alabama-Birmingham, 1 December 2013 (L, 59-63)

This game came about from a common tactic of Roy’s, scheduling a game at the campus gym of a school that hired one of his assistants. Two years earlier, UAB hired away assistant coach Jerod Haase, who had been by Roy’s side for 12 years, both at Kansas and UNC. The previous year, Haase brought his Blazers to Chapel Hill to take a firm spanking, 102-84.

The following year, Haase welcomed the Tar Heels to the 8,500 seat Bartow Arena, and had his Blazers ready. It’s tough playing against a coach that has you well scouted, even more so when that coach helped install your system. UAB won their home court game against Carolina by dominating the Heels on the boards (52-37 advantage) and the free throw line (22-28 versus 4-11).

J.P. Tokoto led all UNC scorers with 16 points. If you remember Tokoto’s time at Carolina, having him lead the team in scoring was indicative of things not running optimally. Marcus Paige had a poor game, scoring only 13 points on 6-16 shooting, and missing all six of his three-point attempts.

@ Wofford, 6 November 2018 (W, 78-67)

The Tar Heels were shocked in 2017 when the Terriers came into the Dean Dome and McGee’d them, winning 79-75. Fletcher McGee scored 27 points that night hitting shots all over the court. It was a nightmare.

The return match had the Tar Heels visiting the year-old Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium, a lovely new 3,400 seat facility for Wofford basketball. UNC would be the biggest draw in Wofford school history. Adding to the degree of difficulty for Carolina was that this true road game was also the first non-exhibition game of the season, and graduated senior point guard Joel Berry had just been replaced by freshman Coby White.

Carolina would lean on their size in this contest, with Luke Maye leading all scorers with 24 points. Garrison Brooks had 20 points, and Cam Johnson had 17. UNC successfully “limited” Fletcher McGee to 21 points on 3-16 three-point shooting. Wofford as a team only shot 9-35 from downtown.

@ Gonzaga, 18 December 2019 (L, 81-94)

This true road game was something of a perfect storm of pain. Roy Williams and Mark Few, close friends off the court, scheduled a home and away series after the 2017 national championship. In the first match-up in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels rolled Gonzaga 103-90, a final score that really flattered the Zags.

Having two losses in a row to Carolina stewed and festered in Spokane, and when the Heels showed up to the Kennel the following December, as the biggest program to ever visit the 6,000 seat arena, it was rocking. It didn’t matter that exams were over, the students stayed behind to scream and cheer. (As someone who was compelled to spend some time in Spokane in the winter, I will tell you that’s no small feat.)

Additionally, the Heels were missing star point guard Cole Anthony to injury. Senior shooting guard Brandon Robinson was ill and missed the entire second half, and did not score in this game. Leaky Black, who missed UNC’s previous game, only scored six points in nine minutes on the court. This loss was Carolina’s fourth in a row.

Gonzaga, on the opposite end of the spectrum, was the #2 team in the country on the back of a 12-1 record. Gonzaga as a team shot a blistering 59% from the field and had five players score in double digits, led by Corey Kispert (26 points, 10-12 shooting).

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These are only three of many examples of true non-conference road games that Roy Williams has played as head coach of North Carolina. What are some other memorable ones that I didn’t include? Biggest wins, worst losses? Let us know in the comments! And if you want to just rag on Coach K for not having the stones to play away games like Ol’ Roy, then by all means give it a go!