The question wasn’t about Bob McKillop, but Roy Williams didn’t care.
On Dec. 1, 2017, North Carolina’s head coach sat in Charlotte’s Spectrum Center, where reporters asked him about Luke Maye and an 85-75 win over Davidson, the team UNC beat out to sign Maye in the first place. But, before he addressed that, Williams felt it necessary to speak on McKillop, the Wildcats’ coach.
“You cannot have any more respect for a coach than I have for Bob McKillop,” Williams said. “I’ve known Bobby a long time. He was Matt Doherty’s high school coach through Matt’s junior year. I told him before the game that we had more grey hair on the sideline than in any game anybody has seen this year.”
“Bobby McKillop’s a great guy,” he added. “I know how badly they wanted Luke, and I really wanted Luke badly … When you recruit against Davidson — and I hope (McKillop) feels the same way when they recruit against us — everything going to be above the board. You’ve just got to do a great job recruiting and get lucky. And that’s what we did: we got lucky.”
The Tar Heels and Wildcats will meet again on Dec. 29 in Chapel Hill, in a non-conference game for the sixth consecutive year. Davidson, the reigning Atlantic 10 tournament champion, is one of 14 NCAA Tournament participants on UNC’s schedule, announced last week
Williams is 8-0 against Davidson since becoming UNC’s head coach. Regardless of if that record improves to 9-0, or drops to 8-1, still expect some postgame compliments from Williams on his good friend McKillop — who is entering Year 30 as Davidson’s head coach.
Here are five more games on the Tar Heels’ 2018-19 that are worth watching, for one reason or another:
UNC at Michigan, Nov. 28 at 9 p.m.
Perhaps no North Carolina win aged better than its 86-71 victory over the Wolverines last November.
Michigan set the Big Ten ablaze later that season. John Beilein’s squad won 14 consecutive games — a nearly two-month win streak that featured a conference tournament title and a crazy run to the 2018 national title game. The team won 33 games, a school record.
Gone is Moritz Wagner, the big man whose old-school post moves and shooting touch made him a first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. But the Wolverines return lanky guard Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole — yes, the guy who made that shot.
The Tar Heels’ first ever game in Ann Arbor, an installment of the 2018 ACC/Big Ten Challenge, will be a big one.
Gonzaga at UNC, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m.
This one is obvious: UNC will meet Gonzaga for the first time since April 3, 2017 — the night North Carolina won its sixth NCAA championship.
Josh Perkins, a redshirt senior guard, and Rui Hachimura, a projected 2019 lottery pick, will provide tough defensive matchups for the Tar Heels’ backcourt.
This matchup, the fourth against the Bulldogs in school history, will be the first at a non-neutral site. Expect a sold-out crowd for this Saturday night primetime game.
UNC at Pittsburgh, Jan. 5 at noon.
It got a little ugly last year in Chapel Hill when graduate transfer Cameron Johnson played his former team for the first time as a Tar Heel.
After the game, a UNC win, then-Pittsburgh head coach Kevin Stallings wouldn’t speak on his former player: “I don’t like to talk about other people’s players. Ask Roy about how he played because I couldn’t tell you. I was worried about my guys.”
When the Tar Heels open 2019 ACC play at Pittsburgh this year, tensions should be diffused. The Panthers are under new leadership in Jeff Capel. Johnson, in his last year of college eligibility, should be due for a warmer welcome in his first and only visit back to his former school.
Virginia at UNC, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m.
The Cavaliers beat UNC twice last season: 61-49 in Charlottesville, and 71-63 in the ACC title game.
What happened to Virginia after that game — see the University of Maryland, Baltimore County — remains the dominant storyline. It’ll be a point of reference in every UVa. telecast this season.
Head coach Tony Bennett’s squad will be led again by Kyle Guy, who averaged 14.1 points per game as a sophomore. Also of note: UNC’s game against Virginia, on a Monday, will come on a quick turnaround after a Saturday game against Miami.
UNC at Duke, Feb. 20 at 9 p.m.
Three high-profile first-years will get their first Cameron Indoor Stadium experience: Nassir Little, Rechon Black and Coby White.
UNC will have 12 ACC games under its belt by this point. It will also be the Tar Heels’ first look at Duke’s even higher profile first-year trio of R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish.
Last year’s game in Durham was a 74-64 Duke win defined by Marvin Bagley III, the second overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Celebrities on hand included Ken Jeong, 2 Chainz and Tony Romo. As always, expect similar hype and madness.
UNC’s home game against Duke, on March 9, will be the teams’ second meeting in less than three weeks.