The North Carolina men’s basketball team will compete in this year’s Maui Invitational Tournament, but won’t be traveling to Hawaii. Instead, the tournament will take place in Asheville between Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 due to COVID-19.
Performing well in Asheville would be a good sign for the Tar Heels, as winning the tournament has signaled successful seasons in previous years. UNC went on to win the National Championship each of the last three times it won the invitational. Only Duke has won the tournament more often — five times compared to the Tar Heels’ four.
Each time the Tar Heels have won the Maui Invitational, a guard has won the Tournament MVP. Former Maui MVPs for the Tar Heels form an impressive list, including Joseph Forte, Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson and Joel Berry II. Talented first-year Caleb Love — who is expected to start at point guard — could continue that legacy if UNC wins out in Asheville.
The Tar Heels will face UNLV in their first game of the tournament on Nov. 30, then play twice in the following two days. On Dec. 1, UNC will face off against either Alabama or Stanford, depending on the day one results. The tournament will have a losers bracket following the initial round of play, and a total of 12 games will be played throughout the competition.
The other teams competing in Asheville are Texas, Indiana, Davidson and Providence. UNC's program has the longest history in the invitational, having played in Maui seven times.
The Maui Invitational has taken place in Hawaii each year since it started in 1984. Asheville, while not a usual host for early season college basketball tournaments, has some experience hosting college basketball tournaments. Last year's Southern Conference men's basketball tournament was held in the Harrah's Cherokee Center in Asheville.
The change in location for the tournament is just one of many changes in what is expected to be a highly unusual college basketball season. UNC's 2020-21 schedule includes just seven out-of-conference games — four less than last year — with just one, a matchup with Charleston on Wednesday, coming before the Maui Invitational.
North Carolina's slate includes 27 regular season games — a few less than an average year — and the ACC Tournament, which will be held in Greensboro from March 9 through March 13.
Asheville is also UNC head coach Roy Williams' hometown. Williams graduated from T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville, and spent a stint early his coaching career at another local high school, Owen.