GREENSBORO - North Carolina, Duke, and the rest of the Greensboro pod took the practice floor on Thursday in anticipation of Friday's Round of 64 games. In addition to status updates on John Henson's wrist and Ryan Kelly's foot, here are some of the storylines from Thursday at Greensboro Coliseum.
1. The many mentions of Doug McDermott. Creighton's sophomore forward has gotten plenty of attention on the first day in Greensboro. The former high school teammate of North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes is third nationally in scoring (23.2 points per game) and is second in the Missouri Valley Conference with 8.1 rebounds per game.
"I watched a little film so far and he's a smart player," said Alabama senior forward Jamychal Green. "He has a high basketball IQ and I see that he likes to make multiple moves trying to get his defender to jump. He likes to jump into players and get them in foul trouble and he can stretch the defense because he can shoot the three."
McDermott, the son of Bluejays' head coach Greg McDermott, said that he and Barnes have communicated about the potential second-round matchup between the Ames' natives.
"I texted him back and forth just the possibilities of playing him would be really cool. So it's kind of crazy how it all worked out, but definitely looking forward to it if that comes up."
2. A pod of prolific scorers. Greensboro will be playing home to two of the nation's Top 5 scorers on Friday. In addition to Creighton's Doug McDermott, Lehigh's CJ McCollum ranks fifth nationally with 21.9 points per game. While McCollum is undoubtedly the center of the Mountain Hawks' offense, he also ranks fifth nationally in steals (2.6 per game).
"He's a great scorer, and has a lot of responsibility on that team," Duke guard Seth Curry explained. "We're going to have to come ready to play."
McCollum was recently named Patriot League MVP for the second time, after leading the Mountain Hawks to their second conference title in three years. Lehigh enters Friday's contest against Duke on an eight game win streak.
3. Notre Dame considers Xavier "a Big East team." From the sounds of the Irish and head coach Mike Brey, Notre Dame is entering Friday's showdown ready for a test comporable to their toughest Big East foes.
"I look at them like a Big East team," Brey said on Thursday. "I said [to the Notre Dame players] this is going to be a challenge like playing Louisville on the road or West Virginia on the road. They're a Big East team."
If the battle is similar to a Big East conference game, it should fare well for the Irish. After losing star forward Tim Abromaitis (knee) for the season in November, Notre Dame rallied and won 10 of their final 12 regular-season games to finish with a 13-5 conference record.
4. Home court advantage? Greensboro is located less than an hour down Interstate 40 from the campuses of both Duke and North Carolina, but the Greensboro Coliseum crowd during open practice on Thursday was mostly tinted the lighter shade of blue.
Thousands of North Carolina fans came early in the afternoon to watch the No. 1 seed in the Midwest. But before the Tar Heels took the floor, many fans stood on their feet to offer encouragement to the Lehigh Hawks - Duke's foe for Friday.
This is not an unusual occurrence for the NCAA Tournament when both Duke and North Carolina find themselves in the same location for the first weekend of competition. North Carolina fans far outweigh the Duke fans most of the time for in-state tournament sites. If Duke and North Carolina both win, and the Blue Devils play the second game on Sunday; expect it to be a less-than-friendly crowd despite the close proximity to Durham.