Zeke, FIU Will Debut Against National Champs

FIU opens next season in Chapel Hill

So much for easing Isiah Thomas into his first college coaching season.

The NBA Hall of Famer will lead a rebuilding FIU basketball team into - of all places - Chapel Hill to play the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels.

The Nov. 9 tip off will be part of the nationally televised Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. It's also the opener for the Tar Heels, according to the schedule released Tuesday by the Atlantic Coast Conference. Coach Roy Williams should be able to get some valuable minutes from his fifth stringers.

In a way, Zeke is already paying huge dividends by getting an NCAA dust mite onto a national stage against a perennial powerhouse. Now that's star power.

Earlier drafts of FIU's schedule indicated the Golden Panthers would open at Ohio State on that date, a trip that would have taken Thomas -- the former Indiana star -- back to his Big 10 playing roots. Not that FIU had a snow balls chance in Hades of staying close to the Buckeyes, but now that game looks like a cake walk compared to facing UNC.

But why make it easy on FIU, who hired Thomas, the former New York Knicks coach and president, on April 15 and gave him a five-year contract? You have to feel kind of bad for Coach Thomas, too.

He is going to take a serious beating in his first time out and he won't even be gettting paid for it. Welcome to the NCAA.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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