UNC fans: Family even in defeat
Posted April 4, 2016 2:49 p.m. EDT
Updated April 5, 2016 1:11 a.m. EDT
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Tar Heel fans got the championship game atmosphere without the 1,000-mile road trip Monday night on campus where cheerleaders, band and a big screen brought the 2016 NCAA men's basketball title game home to Chapel Hill.
"The Dean Dome is just sentimental," said Vincent Abiona. "Everyone here is a Carolina supporter. The bars, anyone can go to the bars. The Dean Dome is where it started."
Organizers estimated about 10,000 people packed the Dean E. Smith Center to watch UNC fall, 77-74 to Villanova, and most of them lined up on the floor as the seconds ticked away, ready to rush outside to celebrate another national title.
After Villanova's buzzer beater shocked them into silence, some were able to find a silver lining.
"Our hearts were pounding so hard and we really hoped for the best outcome, but in the end we're still proud of our team no matter what," freshman Ashok Patel said.
In Houston, about 400 UNC students lucky enough to score tickets lined up outside NRG Stadium hours before the doors opened, and rushed to fill in their floor seats.
"It's a surreal feeling," said Taylor Sharp. "We're here in Houston for the Final Four, the national championship. I'm a senior, and I can think of no better way to go out."
UNC legend Michael Jordan and other high-profile NBA players put in an appearance at NRG Stadium as well. Jordan made his allegiance clear in a Carolina blue shirt, and cheered wildly when Marcus Paige tied the game with only seconds remaining.
Along Chapel Hill's Franklin Street, packed bars and restaurants spilled out stunned patrons after the final buzzer. The sight of excited students and small bonfires took place instead in Villanova, where the celebration lasted into the wee hours of Tuesday morning.