College basketball. This is what we all desire for. From the smallest independent program to national champions, everyone has the same desire. The desire to play on national television.
For schools like Duke and Kentucky, this is almost a given. Games against lowly opponents are aired nationally. For schools like the College of Charleston and Morehead State, this is something that rarely comes along. Teams have to make favors in order to play.
The College of Charleston and Morehead State signed a deal last season to play. One game in Morehead, and one in Charleston. In a story that isn't often told about the Eagles 2010-11 dream season, the Morehead game was a blowout. With the Cougars having to play the Sunday after New Year's, just after shocking Tennessee in Knoxville, they came out flat, as Kenneth Faried dominated them in a 69-49 rout.
This year's game was already planned, but ESPN decided that this match-up was one which was worth picking up. ESPN needed a 8am game for their "College Tip-Off Marathon", and the College decided to so they could get the national exposure.
ESPN wasn't just giving them a deal. This was a juicy contest. Both teams were replacing their top players. Andrew Goudelock for the College of Charleston and Faried for Morehead. Adding to the intrigue of the game was the signing of Adjehi Baru, one of the top 50 recruits in the country, who spurned ACC schools in order to play for the Cougars.
The Cougars played Holy Cross on Friday night (Nov. 11) at TD Arena in front of a packed house and won by 9, 78-69. Most people thought this game was one which would be hotly contested. It was.
Here's some background. I am a member of the "Maroon Mayhem" student section, which is for the most fervent Cougars fans. Part of that privilege is the right to sit in the first four rows of the student section. I always sit in one of those rows, which gives me a unique perspective of every home game.
With the game being an 8am tip, it was a weird atmosphere. The players ate at 5:45am at Jack's, a local breakfast and lunch joint on George Street. Coach Bobby Cremins was with them. Two local television stations did live shots for their morning newscasts.
The game was branded as a "Pajama Party", so many of the students wore pajamas to the game, even Andrew Goudelock. They also had Dunkin' Donuts coffee and donuts for the early risers.
Because many of the school's season ticket holders work, many people could not go to the game. The student section, however, was packed for a 8am game. A crowd of over 3,200 still entered the arena for this early game, including a group of about 20 Morehead State fans who drove all the way from KY, and several said they were at the NCAA tournament games last year in Denver.
The game was pretty well in hand, even in the first couple of minutes. The College got three straight 3s to start the game leading 9-0, and Morehead got into foul trouble. The College got out to a lead as big as 24 in the first half, and never looked back. The College of Charleston trended on Twitter nationwide for about half an hour, and even after a lot of first half turnovers, they eventually won by 15, and it ended up being a good win for Coach Cremins and his team.
Many of the students had to leave at the half because they had to go to class.
It was a surreal feeling after the game ended. Within five minutes of the game ending, everyone had left the stands. The only people left were a few stragglers, and a public relations/advertising class with about fifty students.
It was weird watching a teacher with his class in a empty arena just 10 minutes after a nationally televised game. Just minutes after the game, preparations began for the annual Charleston Classic tournament, and teams were practicing on the court later that afternoon.
Both teams got a wake-up call after this game, and there will be steady improvement. That's what the season is all about.