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“When Tommy and I played, we used to play outside,” Williams said. “But kids don’t play outside anymore. We better get a lot of shooting in today and tomorrow because we haven’t been outside. He may have outsmarted me, but we haven’t been outside.”

Said Izzo: “My guys haven’t shot real well in the exhibitions. I told them to shoot the exact same way and the wind will blow it in.”

Tar Heels senior center Tyler Zeller said the coaches keep teasing the players about who’s going to fall off the ship. At one point, he worried that the massive carrier will move during the game.

“It is something that none of us have ever experienced,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it but I’m also a little nervous about it. It’ll be fun to be able to give back to them and be able to play a game in front of them.”

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, credited with coming up with the idea for the game, said he was looking for a “dramatic way to reach out” to the military.

By chance, the carrier that became available to host the game was the one that conducted bin Laden’s burial at sea after he was killed by Navy SEALs in a raid ordered by Obama.

Capt. Bruce H. Lindsey, the commanding officer of the flat top, said neither he nor any of his sailors can talk about that mission.

But Lindsey did say his daughter is a senior at Chapel Hill, “so I just have to root for Chapel Hill.”

Magic Johnson and James Worthy will be honorary captains for their alma maters.

When the Carl Vinson is at sea, following sports events _ when possible _ is important for the crew, Lindsey said.

“They follow sports all the time, so much so that I have to steer the ship so I get the satellite beam hitting us just right,” he said.


AP Basketball Writer Aaron Beard in Chapel Hill, N.C., contributed to this report.