Trips to Maui, Bahamas in Tar Heels' future

CHAPEL HILL – The decision to play in the Las Vegas Invitational -- which begins for North Carolina on Sunday with a game at the Smith Center against Mississippi Valley State -- was pretty easy, UNC coach Roy Williams said.

Why? The weather.

“I like warm places,’’ he said, smiling. “So most of the time when we’re playing in tournaments, we’re going to play in warm places. We try to schedule those things three and four years out. I think we’re scheduled maybe through 2015.”

Indeed, associate athletics director Larry Gallo confirmed Thursday that UNC already has agreements (although not necessarily signed contracts) to play in holiday tournaments for the next four years (and likely five). Some are warm, some are not:

  • 2012 – The Maui Invitational, which now includes one home game, before playing three in Hawaii.

  • 2013 – The Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament, which this season is being played at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

  • 2014 – The Battle 4 Atlantis, which is an eight-team tournament debuting this season on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

  • 2015 – The College Basketball Experience Tournament, which will include two games at the Smith Center before two final games in Kansas City.

Gallo predicted Williams will probably want to take the team back to Hawaii in 2016, and he is correct.

“I love to go to Maui, and I’m always going to try to go to Maui,’’ Williams said, laughing. “So far, I’ve got a pretty good deal going: I’ve never left Maui without a commitment to go back four years later.”

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.