Game #9-106: Colorado vs. Murray State RacersNovember 18, 2012 8:30 pm
After pulling off Red Line Upsets over Auburn and St. John's, the Murray State Racers would earn their way to the Charleston Classic final and play on ESPN2. In a tournament owned by ESPN, this would be the first and only game of the tournament that would be televised on basic cable. All other games were either televised on the digital tier (ESPNU) or on the internet with ESPN3. While we at TMM have always followed what goes on at schools like Murray State, more fans would get a look and take notice of one of the top mid-major programs. More people would watch Murray State play now with their recent wins, including those who do not read TMM. Casual college basketball fans were now more likely to look in on the Racers. And some of those fans were not just watching on television, but also at TD Arena for the conclusion of the tournament.
They did not clear the arena between sessions, which surprised me since there was well over an hour between the end of the Auburn-Dayton game
and the start of the next. I did switch sides of the arena between the area behind the scorer's table to behind press row where I sat most of the tournament. The next game was between Baylor and St. John's, and for anybody who cares Baylor's offense got hot late to pull away for a 97-78 win. But the main event of the tournament's last day would be the final game between Murray State and Colorado. Before the game, I heard two fans from the Charleston area talk about the tournament. And I heard this conversation:
"Who do you want to win?" "Colorado." "Yeah, me too".
I could not believe that I heard fans that were not connected to Colorado actually wanted the Buffaloes to beat the mid-major team here. Why would anybody root for Colorado here? Anybody who follows college sports should be able to easily identify that Colorado has far more disadvantages financially compared to Colorado. Why would anybody from outside Colorado want to see them beat the smaller school? Maybe these guys thought differently, and actually respected Murray State. I heard them say in addition to what they said before that they considered Murray State to be the favorite. Most likely they did not understand the disadvantages an Ohio Valley team has like we do. They probably knew of Colorado as having a less successful history, and thought that mad the Buffaloes the underdog here. Or thinking more cynically, they could have decided to root for Colorado because they were a more well-known school. Most casual fans do not identify with schools like Murray State. Regardless of what their thinking was, we sort of get in a bubble here with thinking that everybody loves a Red line Upset.
But even before this website was founded and even before I started going to college basketball games myself, I thought the same way, different from most casual fans. I remember ten years ago in high school arguing that Missouri, a 12 seed that made the Elite Eight, should not be celebrated. I argued that were not a true underdog, as they had their chances to prove themselves in Big 12 play. Only teams seeded low because of their conference affiliation who have never had the chance to prove themselves should be celebrated, I argued. But the casual fans I ate lunch with disagreed, believing apparently that a low seed by itself made Missouri the tournament's top "Cinderella" team.
And you see these casual fans all of the time at a college basketball arena. They arrive after tipoff and leave before the final buzzer. They get up and down during the game, either to go to the concessions or find more of their friends around the gym. They are slightly rooting for the home team, mainly because everybody else is around them. They are more likely to care about seeing famous comedic actor Bill Murray at the game, who attended the final session of the Charleston Classic. Murray owns a house in Charleston, and has a big interest in sports, and is a part-owner of the local minor league baseball team. I think the reason my connection to Twitter was down was because everybody in the arena was texting a picture of themselves with Murray. I felt sorry for Murray, who like all celebrities cannot enjoy a simple basketball game without causing a scene with their presence. But he seemed pretty used to it, and was here talking with former College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins
At least college sports are not as bad in this regard generally as professional sports, with minor league baseball being particularly bad for drawing this kind of casual fan. The guys behind me were not this kind of casual fan either. They were fairly knowledgeable about college basketball and were clearly interested in this Murray State-Colorado game. But they were looking at it from a different angle than our readers at TMM would look at it.
And these casual fans are what make Our Game "relevant". If they did not follow college basketball, we would have less to play for. The reason that the NCAA Tournament and subsequently all of college basketball makes so much money is that lots of people care about it (relatively, anyway). But these same people often only show interest in teams above the Red Line. And this impact from casual fans has a negative impact on Our Game and college sports as a whole. It is why conferences are consolidating above the Red Line into super conferences that make little geographic sense. The schools above the Red Line to media moguls represent a television market, and sometimes even an entire state. And that is because they are marketed as such to casual fans. Most fans do not attend these schools, but still root for their basketball team. Murray State may be a successful mid-major, but they are worthless to the big media giants that control college sports. Louisville represents a big TV market, Kentucky represents Kentucky. And Murray State represents a small rural area that has less people, and thus worth less money. If fans rooted for their school and their local teams, we would likely see less of a divide between the two sides of the Red Line. There is no official mid-major designation by the NCAA, the Red Line on here is as official as it gets for designating the difference between mids and majors.
Unfortunately, a great Charleston Classic would have a final that would be an ugly one to watch. Both teams shot the ball poorly in the first half, with the lead going back and forth. The Racers were in frequent foul trouble most of the game. Ed Daniel, who embellished contact he drew at various points in the tournament for Murray State, was not getting the calls here in this game. Murray State had a narrow lead most of the first half, but the size and strength of the Buffaloes overpowered them at the end of the first half as a Colorado run put Murray down 33-31 at halftime.
The second half would turn out to be a physical contest. And physical contests unfortunately do not favor mid-major teams. Not only did Colorado have more big physical guys recruited to play in the PAC 12 to their favor, they also benefitted from some generous calls. And the Colorado fans for a day behind me justified each of these calls, even when little contact was made or there was contact from both sides. Murray State probably committed most of these fouls in trying to keep pace, but the officiating edge was not beneficial to them and made the foul situation even worse. And even worse was when Isaiah Canaan was called for a technical midway through the second half for allegedly pointing at an official. To be fair, the Racers also did have some loose balls out of bounds calls that seemed to favor them. But it was an ugly game, and they only stayed close as Colorado was not good always at shooting the numerous free throw attempts they had. But Colorado delivered those free throws when it mattered to hold on for an 81-74 win. We still had a good Charleston Classic, with mid-majors beating teams above the Red Line on five of nine attempts. But that was not the way to end a good tournament.
COLORADO 81, MURRAY STATE 74
Perhaps we are all like those fans behind me in how we pick a team to root for. I began to feel like I knew Murray State pretty well to the point of almost being a fan this weekend. And I am foremost a High Point fan. But like everybody who reads this site, I understand what it is like to be a mid-major, and rooting for Murray State is part of the "All of us, each of us" concept. But unfortunately while we are the majority of schools and basketball teams, we are the minority in how we view college basketball. That is perhaps why ESPN so far has chosen five weak teams from above the Red Line
as well as Temple so far for next year's Charleston Classic (still two more open spots). This tournament is about money, and you spend it with a $90 tournament pass as well as parking fees and concession prices. And these teams above the Red Line can spend some money, or at least that is the perception (the biggest draws here were actually the mid-majors). I am glad to finally have done an entire Charleston Classic, but it's probably the last time I got to all 12 games here. It was a great tournament, but needed a better ending.
COLORADO 4-0 (0-0) -- S. Wood 1-11 3-3 6; A. Roberson 5-8 6-9 16; S. Dinwiddie 1-5 11-12 14; S. Chen 2-5 4-6 8; A. Booker 10-18 1-2 23; J. Scott 5-8 3-4 13; X. Johnson 1-1 0-1 2; E. Stalzer 0-0 0-0 0; J. Adams 1-1 2-2 5; X. Talton 0-0 0-0 0; S. Harris-Tunks 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-47 27-36 81.
MURRAY STATE 3-1 (0-0) -- D. Fields 6-9 1-2 18; S. Wilson 3-13 0-2 8; I. Canaan 8-19 2-3 21; E. Daniel 8-10 4-6 20; B. Garrett 1-2 0-0 2; T. Gilmore 1-1 0-0 2; C. Ford 0-3 0-0 0; E. McCree 1-5 0-0 2; Z. Henderson 0-0 1-2 1; T. Rambo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-62 8-15 74.
Three-point goals: COLO 4-11 (S. Chen 0-1; J. Adams 1-1; A. Roberson 0-1; A. Booker 2-5; S. Dinwiddie 1-3), MURR 10-26 (I. Canaan 3-11; D. Fields 5-8; S. Wilson 2-5; E. McCree 0-2); Rebounds: COLO 30 (A. Roberson 9), MURR 29 (E. Daniel 10); Assists: COLO 6 (S. Dinwiddie 3), MURR 14 (S. Wilson 7); Total Fouls -- COLO 17, MURR 27; Fouled Out: COLO-A. Roberson; MURR-E. Daniel.