Fans from Southeastern North Carolina travel to New Orleans for UNC vs. Duke Final Four game
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - It’s the game everyone’s talking about: UNC and Duke will face off for a spot in the championship game of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The Final Four matchup is shaping up to be arguably one of the biggest games, if not THE biggest game, in college basketball history.
There’s a number of storylines at play that make this semifinal game historic. For starters, while the rival blue blood programs have played each other literally hundreds of times, including a number of times in the ACC tournament, they have never met in the NCAA tournament.
That’s just one reason why Wilmington native Catie Dull said this is a must-see game.
“This is on my bucket list to see them, and [UNC] never having met Duke in the NCAA tournament before — like I don’t even care how well I can see I just want to be there. I’ve never gotten to experience it,” said Dull, a UNC alumnus.
Dull has tickets to the game, which will be played at the Superdome in New Orleans, in the nosebleed section, so it’s pretty far from the court.
Another reason why this game is so important: it’s Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last season. The iconic Duke head coach announced he would retire after this season back in June, so this marks his final NCAA tournament run.
Not only that, but this is UNC’s Hubert Davis’ first year at the helm of the program. Davis, a former UNC basketball player and assistant coach, took over for former head coach Roy Williams following his retirement last year, so this is his debut appearance in ‘The Big Dance’ as head coach.
Wilmington resident Ray Baca is not really a Duke or UNC fan, but he does call himself a basketball fanatic. Baca said given the circumstance surrounding this game, he had to be in New Orleans for the Final Four.
“It’s the end of an era and with Coach K leaving and the fact that Duke and Carolina have played themselves so many times and literally they’re within points of each other,” Baca said. “For UNC, it’s the first time in 20 years we have a rookie head coach that made the Elite 8.”
While Baca does not have a ticket to the Duke vs. UNC game, he is traveling down to New Orleans by himself this weekend just to be a part of the historic moment.
“I am a basketball fanatic I just wouldn’t miss it. I mean my friends were like, ‘are you sure you’re going?’ And I’m going by myself — I’m just driving up, just going to go, have a good time, meet people,” he said. “I just wanted to be a part of the experience.”
While he didn’t need to buy a ticket, he still needed to find a place to stay — and lodging costs are soaring in New Orleans this weekend.
“This is Duke [vs.] Carolina, so once the games ended on Sunday — then the mad scramble was on to find a place to stay in New Orleans, but we found that the prices were pretty high, very high,” Baca said. “$500 to $600 to $700 anywhere close to City Center or down in Bourbon Street — it was pretty crazy.”
He managed to find a place to stay in the end. Following Carolina’s win on Sunday, Dull also did not wait to find a place to stay.
She shopped around and ended up finding an Airbnb for $900 for two night. That may seem like a lot, but it’s pretty reasonable compared to some prices.
“I looked [Tuesday] just for fun, just to see and literally everything is gone. There is nothing on Airbnb, Vrbo, like every hotel is completely booked — it’s crazy, so I’m glad that we went ahead and made moves on the Airbnb.”
While Dull immediately booked a place to stay, she initially waited to buy her ticket.
“Sunday evening when they won — right after the game [tickets] were like super expensive, but we were probably still going to buy them. We were like, ‘let’s just wait a couple days,’ and it got a lot better,” she said.
Dull said prices went down after surging Sunday night.
Given how legendary this game will be, however, many feel it’s worth it.
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