For the most part, North and South Carolina are happy neighbors. The two states share sports teams, roller coasters, culture, cuisine and friendly smiles. But don't be fooled by the politeness, the rivalry is real – especially when it comes to college basketball.
This year both states are represented in the Men’s College Basketball Final Four, and there is a good chance both teams could face off in the National Championships. As the place where the Carolinas come together and the only amusement park in the world that straddles a state line, we thought it would be fun to create a Carowinds Guide to a North Carolina Tar Heel and South Carolina Gamecock Championship Game.
We used Carowinds attractions located in South Carolina as comparisons to the Gamecocks, and attractions located in North Carolina as comparisons to the Tar Heels – that way everyone can follow along. For consulting purposes (and because my bracket is in shambles), I enlisted the help of Andrew Stilwell - CaroBlogger, college basketball junkie and theme park writer at Coaster 101. Being an expert on both subjects, he was perfect for creating this guide.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Intimidator – South Carolina Head Coach Frank Martin
There have been lots of ups and downs for Frank Martin’s coaching career, similar to the eight drops on Intimidator. Also, have you ever looked at Frank Martin? That’s a scary looking dude. Some would even say…intimidating?
Afterburn – Sindarius Thornwell, Senior Guard
Thornwell is the top gun for the Gamecocks, leading the team in scoring this season with an average of 21.6 points per game. He’s turned on the afterburners in the NCAA tournament, upping his scoring averages to nearly 26ppg through South Carolina’s first four games.
Skytower – Justin McKie, Senior Guard
The Carolina Skytower and McKie are known for their senior status. McKie isn’t the flashiest player, but he’s still a key part of South Carolina’s rotation, averaging 17 minutes a game this season.
Windseeker - Maik Kotsar, Freshman Forward
The second tallest attraction at Carowinds at 301ft is Windseeker. The second tallest player on South Carolina’s roster at 6’10” is the freshman hailing from Estonia, where the highest average wind gusts annually can reach 80 miles per hour.
Flying Ace Aerial Chase – Chris Silva, Sophomore Forward
Silva is a bit of a Flying Ace himself, taking four flights before arriving in the United States in 2012 from his native Gabon. He also is able to fly on the basketball court - converting monster dunks.
Woodstock Express - Rakym Felder, Freshman Guard
Don’t let the short stature (Felder: 5’10”, Woodstock Express: 35’ drop) fool you. Both Felder and Woodstock Express provide a quick bolt of adrenaline, despite their size. Felder averaged nearly 6 points and 14 minutes a game this season, and is the shortest player on South Carolina team by 3”.
Blackbeard’s Revenge – PJ Dozier, Sophomore Guard
At Blackbeard’s Revenge, there are multiple ride experiences that make the attraction great. With PJ Dozier, he can get the job done in multiple ways both on offense (he’s averaging 15 points per game in the tournament) and defense (he was largely credited for helping shut down Florida’s offense in the second half of their Elite 8 game).
Nighthawk – Hassani Gravett, Sophomore Guard
The sophomore transfer came to South Carolina this season after playing at Pensacola State College last year. Like Nighthawk, this guard has come out of nowhere to provide some highflying scores.
PVZ Arena – Duane Notice, Senior Guard
Notice is known for his quick reactions on defense and selfless acts to help out his team. Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 3Z Arena is the perfect comparison, with its team scoring, and need for quick reflexes in order to find the Golden Gnomes and defeat the other team!
North Carolina Tar Heels
Rip Roarin’ Rapids – UNC Head Coach Roy Williams
Rip Roarin’ Rapids opened in 1981, just a few years into Roy Williams’ first tenure at North Carolina, where he was an assistant coach under Dean Smith. “Rip Roarin’” is defined as “full of energy and vigor,” which is the exact coaching style that Roy Williams employs.
Fury 325 – Justin Jackson, Junior Forward
Jackson is one of UNC’s most decorated players this season, winning the ACC Player of the Year Award, as well as being a consensus First Team All-American, which is a pretty incredible honor. Fury 325 is pretty decorated itself, winning the 2015 Golden Ticket Award for Best New Ride, as well as the 2016 Golden Ticket for Best Steel Roller Coaster.
Ricochet – Joel Berry II, Junior Guard
The fleet-footed Berry runs North Carolina’s fast-paced offense as starting point guard. As the floor general for the Tar Heels, Berry’s quick footwork often mimics the hairpin turns and sudden drops of Ricochet.
Scrambler – Theo Pinson, Junior Guard
Scrambler plays a double role for UNC’s Theo Pinson. First, Pinson’s unpredictability, both on the defensive end for the Tar Heels, as well as in the post-game media room, mimics the unpredictability of the Scrambler. Second, during their Elite 8 Game against Kentucky, Pinson dribbled up the floor with under seven seconds remaining before assisting the game-winning basket, giving new meaning to the phrase “Scramble.”
Flying Cobras – Isaiah Hicks, Senior Forward
It’s not uncommon to see Hicks flying through the air for a dunk or to grab a rebound, not unlike the daring aviation maneuvers of the Carolina Cobras. If there is any part of his game that bites him, it’s his foul situation, and he needs to stay out of foul trouble.
Carolina Cyclone – Kennedy Meeks, Senior Forward
Meeks has averaged a double-double (10.25 points, 11.25 rebounds) during this year’s NCAA Tournament (and almost averaged one during the season – 12.3 points, 9.3 rebounds.) This fits in well with the Carolina Cyclone’s “double-double” of loops and corkscrews, holding the distinction of the first roller coaster to ever have four inversions.
Hurler – Luke Maye, Sophomore Forward
Often considered underrated, sometimes classified as a “walk-on,” and some significant off-season work has really improved overall perception. Wait; am I talking about Luke Maye or Hurler? Why not both? They can be clutch!
Drop Tower – Tony Bradley, Freshman Forward
The 6’11 Bradley often towers over opponents and has dropped in nearly 60% of his field goal attempts this season. Ironically, his 6’11 height wouldn’t allow him to ride Drop Tower, due to its 81” maximum height limit.
Carolina Goldrusher – Stilman White, Senior Guard
Carolina Goldrusher is the oldest roller coaster at Carowinds, just like White is the oldest player on his North Carolina team. Both White and the Carolina Goldrusher are a nice change of pace when you need a quick breather.
So who do you got? North Carolina or South Carolina? Fury 325 or Intimidator? Regardless of which team you’re cheering for, I think all Carolinians can agree – two teams in the Final Four is pretty awesome!
We wish both schools the best of luck in their remaining games! #WeAreCarolina