One year ago, Matt Doherty was coaching his first game at a new school. One year later, he's doing the same thing.
But much has changed in a year. Doherty's task to tip off 1999 was to lead his Notre Dame squad on the road against fourth-ranked Ohio State. The Fighting Irish won 59-57.
Doherty's task this year? To lead North Carolina past Winthrop in the first round of the NABC Classic at the Smith Center. The teams square off at 7:30 p.m.
"No one expected us to beat (Ohio State)," Doherty said. "This situation is kind of different. That's not a knock against Winthrop - that's just fact. We're the ones coming off the Final Four. Winthrop has everything to gain, and we've got to go out and play."
UNC will probably have to do it without supersub Max Owens, who sprained an ankle in Wednesday's practice after landing on Brendan Haywood's foot.
Owens, who scored 16 points in UNC's final exhibition game, is doubtful for this weekend's Classic.
Tulsa and Arizona State meet at 9:30 p.m., and the winners will play for the title Saturday at 8:30. The consolation game is scheduled for 6 p.m.
The Tar Heel starting lineup is set, with the exception of point guard. Doherty will go with Joseph Forte at shooting guard, Jason Capel and Kris Lang at forward, and Brendan Haywood at center.
But he said Wednesday on a conference call with the media that he had not yet picked his floor general.
"The point guard position is geared to be going toward defense and taking care of the basketball - who can best guard the ball and who can best take care of the basketball," Doherty said. "I can't say it's more offense than defense - I think it's an even split."
Freshman Adam Boone has seen the most minutes in the preseason of the three candidates for the position. Freshman Brian Morrison and sophomore Jonathan Holmes are the other two contenders.
The Tar Heels should have few problems with Winthrop, although the Eagles did qualify for the NCAA tournament last season for the second year in a row. If UNC wins and Tulsa knocks off Arizona State, the Smith Center crowd will get to witness a UNC family reunion of sorts.
Buzz Peterson, Tulsa's coach, and Doherty are friends going back to their three years together as teammates at UNC. Both men were members of North Carolina's 1982 NCAA title team.
"I would love to play against Buzz in the finals Saturday night and win by one point in overtime," Doherty said. "That would be an ideal weekend."
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