GREENVILLE, S.C. (WNCN) – Hundreds of Duke and UNC fans filled the Bons Secours Wellness Arena Thursday afternoon to watch their team practice ahead of their NCAA Tournament First Round games scheduled for Friday.
The games were originally scheduled to be in Greensboro but the NCAA announced they were moving the opening round games, along with other championship events from North Carolina, due to House Bill 2.
Many fans still traveled from North Carolina since Greenville, South Carolina was still driving distance for them.
It doesn’t matter where they’re playing,” said Duke Fan Nicholas Wood. “I’ll follow them and they’ll get it done. Wherever they are, they’ll get it done.”
Meanwhile, Duke and UNC fans who live in Greenville were glad they were able to see their teams in their own backyard.
“We couldn’t get me tickets, but my Dad at least surprised me with this and took me here to the practice round to see Duke,” said Duke Fan Brett Smith.
While both fanbases want their teams to focus on their opening round games, the thought of Duke and UNC playing in the championship is in the back of their minds. Both teams are on the opposite side of the bracket and it would be the fourth game between the two teams this year if both make it to the finals.
“If it comes down to it and we get a chance to play them again, we’ll beat them,” said UNC Fan Brian Thompson.
On Thursday, Duke and UNC’s practices were scheduled back-to-back, meaning Duke and UNC fans had to endure being in the same room for each other. Fans say they’re keeping it civil
“We keeping it real,” said Duke Fan Antoinette Vandunk. “We keeping it good and calm, let the team play and let the best team win.”
Several UNC students made the trip down to Greenville since they are on Spring Break. For Reeva Bagwell, Thursday was her 19th birthday and her birthday wish was to meet Junior Forward Justin Jackson.
“That would be the best birthday present ever,” said Bagwell. “He’s just our leader this year, he stepped up when Marcus [Paige] left last year.”
For Linda Day and Matt Ware, siblings from the Greenville-area, their relationship is always tested come March. Day, who is a UNC fan, and Ware, a Duke fan, found themselves sitting together and engaging in friendly banter while both teams practiced.
“Our relationship is good throughout the year until basketball season,” said Day. “Then we’re worst of enemies.”
UNC faces off against Texas Southern at 4 p.m. and Duke takes on Troy at 7:20 p.m.