Game #9-059: Saint John`s vs. Charleston CougarsNovember 15, 2012 5:00 pm
Carolina First Center
After the first game of the day between Dayton and Colorado
, the afternoon session would finish between two BCS teams in Baylor and Boston College. The game was not eligible for TMM9, so I considered leaving. The reason I considered leaving was not because I didn't want to see a Big 12 team play a ACC team, but rather because it seemed a bit crunched with the first game of Session 2 starting immediately afterwards. And that first game of the next session involved host College of Charleston. I thought about going out to eat in Downtown Charleston then coming straight back to TD Arena. I pictured a mass of C of C fans lining up at the entrance waiting for the BC-Baylor game to end, and then they would clear the arena and make it challenging for anybody who stayed to the end of the second game to get in for the third game. What I decided to do was to watch the second game near the entrance so I could monitor the lobby to see if it was getting crowded. But TD Arena staff did the right thing and allowed fans with Session 2 tickets to enter after 4 PM even though the last game of Session 1 was still going on. While the PA announcer ordered fans without Session 2 tickets to leave, it was mostly an honor system level of enforcement. If I had been sneakier, I could have saved 30 dollars by not purchasing a tournament pass but rather just Session 1 tickets for each day.
This game would be even higher attended than Dayton-Colorado, as the College of Charleston fans were just as close as they would be for any traditional home game. But this was not a traditional home game. And it wasn't just because they were playing St. John's of the Big East. College of Charleston plays more home games against schools above the Red Line than your average mid-major
, and will be playing preseason #2
Louisville in a couple weeks at TD Arena. It was rather because this was part of the Charleston Classic. And this was not your standard school-hosted tournament either. While the arena staff consists of the exact same workers as who would be managing a regular C of C home game that includes students working the concessions stands, ESPN was the official host. And while it is College of Charleston who helps manage every Charleston Classic, since ESPN is the tournament organizer the Cougars have to abide by the same multi-team event regulations that the other teams in the tournament abide by. That means that they are only eligible to compete in the Charleston Classic every four years, even though it is held on their campus
. Season ticket holders get a free pass to each session that their Cougars are in, but they don't keep their seat. If they arrive late, then they will have to settle for a lesser seat like individual ticket purchasers get during most of the season. Students at College of Charleston have to pay half price, rather than not at all as they do during a regular home game. In some ways, it felt like a neutral site game that just happened to feature a team coming from 0 miles away.
Such events are not unheard of. In postseason play, the higher seed is the official home team even if the host is the lower seed. In basketball, this usually just indicates who will wear white jerseys and who will wear dark jerseys. Even when a higher seeded team hosts in conference tournaments, they will often announce the starting lineups together rather than giving the home team preferential treatment. In baseball, who is considered the home team is bigger as it indicates who will bat last. As a result, most postseason tournaments in baseball will alternate who is the home team rather than solely by who is the host or who the higher seed is. But today this was just a basketball MTE. It seems kind of strange to try and a make a neutral site of what amounts to a regular season game. And since C of C is providing resources so ESPN can put on the event, you would think the NCAA could grant a waiver to allow for the Cougars to be in every Charleston Classic. This would be a very different home environment setting.
While College of Charleston would be the home team for this game officially (they would not be necessarily so later in the tournament), the Cougars came out in all black uniforms while St. John's came out in their traditional all-red uniforms. Since College of Charleston did not have to travel at all to this "neutral site" tournament, some pre-tournament predictions had the Cougars as among the favorites in the Charleston Classic. But C of C had a ways to go after finishing last year on a down note with their coach Bobby Cremins retiring mid-season. College of Charleston's best player coming in was Andrew Lawrence, a London native who got to play for his home country in his hometown last summer in the Olympics. But as was the case with Lawrence's Great Britain team in the Olympics, his Cougars also seemed to be mismatched on their home floor in this tournament at the start. A 9-2 run gave St. John's a six point lead at the first media timeout, and the Cougars could not get in any rhythm during the game. C of C did go on a 6-0 run to tie the game in the first half before the Red Storm came back with an 11-0 run. St. John's has not been successful in recent years in the Big East, but being a Big East school is useful for Steve Lavin in getting the program back on track. There was little new Charleston coach Doug Wojcik could do to make his team competitive here. The rising Red Storm from above the Red Line held a double digit lead the entire second half and would win 64-53.
It was not a typical TD Arena experience. I was able to get a better seat than for most Charleston home games. Attendance was down despite it being a big game since the game was at 5 PM. And it was also the first time I had seen College of Charleston go down on their home floor. Another potential Red Line Upset was averted, and it seemed that the magic of TD Arena was gone. But the great thing about a MTE is that there always more games available to make a statement, so this would not be the last we heard from either the hosts or mid-majors in the Charleston Classic.