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USA TODAY Sports’ Nicole Auerbach says you’re sorely mistaken if you think this won’t be an entertaining Final Four.
USA TODAY Sports

Along with their uniforms, sneakers and sweats, the North Carolina players made sure to pack portable gaming systems for their trip to Memphis last week. Being cooped up in a hotel gets old fast, and you can only bingewatch Netflix for so many hours.

“We’re going to be here for this long, I’m not going to just sit in the room and be bored,” Tar Heels forward Kennedy Meeks said.

It’s a small thing, knowing a comfort from home can help keep boredom at bay as a three-day trip stretches into five and time seems to move slower each day. But as the games get bigger and the field gets smaller, it’s those small things that can add up to something big.

North Carolina, as you might have heard a time or two, is the outsider at this weekend’s newcomers game, aka, the Final Four. Gonzaga and South Carolina are making their first appearances, and Oregon is back for the first time since 1939.

North Carolina, meanwhile, is in the field for the second year in a row. Of the Tar Heels who see significant playing time, freshman Tony Bradley is the only one who wasn’t part of last year’s team that came within seconds of winning the national title.

That means while the Ducks, Bulldogs and Gamecocks all stumble around the Final Four wilderness together, North Carolina could tell you the lay of the land blind-folded.

“We’re a little more loose with it, and I think it’s because we’ve been here before,” Meeks said. “We’ve seen these type of things, and we know what it takes to get to that championship game.”

Those who have never been to a Final Four will say these are games like any other, that the key is to maintain the same approach and not do anything different. But that’s not quite true.

Between media…