Game #9-170: Boston University at Coastal Carolina ChanticleersDecember 6, 2012 7:00 pm
This matchup between Boston University and Coastal Carolina was an interesting game to go to. Not because I expected it to be a good game since BU had crushed the Chants by 30 the previous week. But there was an appeal of seeing an America East team that will be leaving for the Patriot League next year. The Terriers may not be great, but they certainly are better than your standard Big South team. And most importantly, I could walk up the day of the game and buy a ticket, even with students still on campus. That is because this was not Kimbel Arena anymore!
The Big South has had its share of bad arenas. Charleston Southern has the smallest with a gym that seats less than 900
, and cannot readily accommodate television crews. UNC Asheville until recently played in a cramped Justice Center that seated barely over a thousand in what felt more like a cabin lodge in the mountains rather than an arena. My school, High Point, seats just over 1700 with barely over 600 seats on the sidelines. Presbyterian has an old looking and not very modern facility that only theoretically seats 2500. And back in their Atlantic Sun days, Campbell played at Carter Gym, a gym so small they barely had room for the court itself. But the gym I disliked the most was Coastal's Kimbel Arena. Kimbel had a cramped lobby with limited concessions and only one restroom for both genders. It also seated 1,039, a bigger problem than even what Charleston Southern has. CSU can get away with a smaller arena as the school has barely over 2,000 students and is the third most popular college team that plays in the Charleston metro area. But Coastal Carolina is the only college in the fast growing Myrtle Beach metro area of over 200,000, with an enrollment of over 6,000. I only went to one game there last year
, to see CCU play D3 Lynchburg College. That was because it was one of a few games you could actually buy tickets for when the student sections were opened up over Christmas break. And that game still sold out on the day of the game, as did every Coastal home game except for one last season. One appeal of mid-major basketball is that Hoops Nation has many venues where you can attend a game for a low price and not be squeezed out of the arena experience. But I am sure there were countless numbers of potential college hoops fans in Horry County who had a hard time getting to see their local team play. It was time for Kimbel Arena to go.
So that is why Coastal built the new HTC Center. Coastal has struggled for many years to replace Kimbel Arena, having had plans to do so dating to ten years prior to the HTC Center's construction. One arena was approved initially, and even had the naming rights sold to YRT2. It was supposed to seat 7,000 and hold not just the Coastal basketball team, but also a minor league hockey team and other special events. But the funding never went through on this project. And with any state government function like a public university, funding is a big problem. So eventually Coastal had the idea to include an arena component to an already planned student activity center. It would have been like if High Point had included an arena with the expansion of its Slane Student Center my junior year. But this project had numerous construction delays as well. After expecting to open last year, that new Coastal arena has finally arrived this year with the naming rights sold to HTC (not the smartphone manufacturer but rather a local telephone cooperative).
This would be the second time I would go to the HTC Center, as I went to a volleyball match there in October. But even with the volleyball team playing South Carolina, the arena was not in full operation with very limited staff and operations for the smaller event. So I had to see the arena used for its primary purpose.
The best thing about the HTC Center compared to Kimbel Arena is that it is much bigger obviously. The arena seats 3200, not what Coastal initially hoped for but it is big enough that you can usually get tickets there. The HTC Center is bigger than half of the arenas in the Big South, and is three times the size of Kimbel. There is still some stuff that reminds you of Kimbel there, such as the wall and roof of the arena which is reminiscent not just of Kimbel but also the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. But it is a much more modern facility, with strip boards and a video board like you now expect even in Hoops Nation. Parking is free and not too long a walk, although Coastal's signage for general parking could stand to be better in pointing to specific lots rather than just which way on campus to drive towards them. The student section has worse seats than they did at Kimbel, but there is more room for them and they are not spread out in different sections as was the case at Kimbel. The lighting is also pretty good as well, and the arena should look good on television. I would share pictures here of the arena, but unfortunately my pictures from the games I went to on this week are on a computer that had a Trojan virus kill the BIOS operating the motherboard. Not sure if or when I will get those pictures and the computer back, so right now I am writing this on an old laptop that does not have most of my newer pictures.
But there are unfortunately flaws with the HTC Center, more so than other new Hoops Nation arenas like at UNC Ashevile and Campbell. And that is what would be expected when you had to throw in an arena at the last minute. If you get there early, my advice is to take a jacket. It was somewhat cool on this night, but I did not feel the need for the jacket just walking one block to the arena. But 75 minutes before the game, the external ticket area was closed. When I was at the volleyball match two months before, I thought the lobby was where you go in and wait to buy tickets. But the HTC Center for basketball games is only set up for people already at the game or students looking to go to the exercise rooms across the hall. The event staff worker who saw me and asked if he could help, but the only help he could give me was to say that he could not let anybody in for another 15 minutes while I stood outside getting cold without a jacket. It's at least not managed like a professional arena, and at least I could get a ticket when they opened. Another issue is the lack of chairback seats at the HTC Center. The only chairback seats are 11 rows behind the team benches and scorers' table, and all sold out to season ticket holders. Even Kimbel had a higher percentage of its seats as chairback. The other sideline where I sat did have bleachers with a back on them, but I think it could be uncomfortable for big games with large crowds. And all of the seats behind the baselines are general admission bleachers without backs. I am not sure why Coastal did not install more regular seats rather than bleachers like a high school gym when they are opening a new facility. And a high percentage of seats are the bleachers behind the baselines, just like the Millis Center. It's something I really don't care for at High Point, and it's especially true here with some seats obstructed by the basket support (unlike at HPU where the backboard is attached to the ceiling). The arena the HTC Center most resembles is the generic arena that filled in for the Millis Center on ESPN's College Hoops 2K video games, which seems weird since that is a fictional arena. Overall, the HTC Center is basically the Millis Center with twice the capacity.
And I am not sure that will do the Big South well for when the HTC Center hosts the conference tournament for the next few years. Big games could still be hard to get seats for. Tonight's game against Boston University was only 500 tickets sold short of a sellout (80 percent capacity), and this was not really that big a game. The HTC Center does fine for most games capacity-wise, but when you have fans from other teams traveling in the HTC Center could be crunched for Coastal games in the tournament as well as the final regardless of who is playing. I also do not think it is fair for one school to get an advantage in homecourt every year either, although the High Point women were never able to take advantage when they hosted the women's tournament the last four years. It's also a bit of a drive from Asheville as well as the Virginia schools. The other city that was pushing for the conference tournament was Winston-Salem, whose venue s centrally located and more neutral. But as I saw at the MEAC Tournament there,
the facility is actually too big and charges prices at a professional arena rate. Winthrop would be ideal, even though I disliked going there as a HPU student. But then you would be giving Winthrop homecourt every year as well. What would be ideal is if you had each team in the conference reserve a big enough site that they could use if they won home court advantage like teams had in recent years. That would be logistically hard, and there is no real good solution. From seeing that the tournament is now sponsored by VisitMyrtleBeach.com, most likely there was a push by the hotel industry to fill hotels when it is too cold for the beach in March. The tournament has been promoted in other arenas as a way to make a Myrtle Beach vacation, even though A) Coastal is actually located nine miles through heavy traffic away from the coast and B) the Myrtle Beach area is not that great out of peak tourist season.
But at least that means I will have an entire conference tournament less than two hours away from me, which is a bit unusual. And Coastal season ticket holder and 800GP recap champion Matt Cayuela
will be able to go to games as well. I knew where to look for Matt, having seen photos taken from his seating spot and also talking about his seating assignment on Coastal's message board. But it was at the concession stand I first saw him. I was ordering for slightly overpriced food (the selection of food is as bad as it was at Kimbel), and as he mentioned in his recap
when he first spoke to me it was to tell me that I could by a drink for $1.50 less at the attached CCU bookstore. I likewise know of a couple places where you can by cheaper drinks by going to a vending machine that is usually there for students during the school day. But I won't say here where they are by the off chance that one of the schools somehow reads this and unplugs the vending machine during games like I know High Point and a few other schools do. It was nice to once again talk with somebody who is familiar with visiting lots of college basketball arenas in the area, since we both have had experiences
with others who think we are weird
for what we like to do.
As I mentioned earlier, Coastal lost to Boston University by 30 points the prior week in Boston, which happened to be the Chants' last game prior to this one. Not very often do you see teams playing back-to-back games against the same opponent in basketball like you see in baseball. It would not take much for Coastal to improve from the prior week's performance. Coastal only has two big returning players in Kierre Greenwood and Anthony Raffa. Coastal's newcomers could not lead the team in Boston, and the lack of size deeply hurts the Chanticleers. But these new Chants looked better at home against the Terriers. Michel Enanga and El Hadji Ndieguene contributed in the frontcourt to help alleviate pressure from Raffa and Greenwood in the first half. But even with Greenwood getting going late in the game, Coastal could not improve enough. The Terriers always led throughout the game, even though it was not usually by much. It was a very steady game, as BU almost always led by two or three possessions. Coastal never let it get much worse, but also only briefly made it a one possession game. While the steadiness of the game made it somewhat boring, it was still easy to watch as the game flowed pretty well unlike other games I have watched recently. Like with the HTC Center, the Chanticleers showed signs of improvement over their previous selves. But they still had a ways to go, as Boston University won 69-63. BU is a hockey school and will continue to be as they are ineligible for the America East tournament due to their impending defection for the Patriot League. But they had the better basketball team, which sadly might be better than anybody in the Big South. The Big South is in a down year, never good when the conference usually struggles most years regardless. If a team wins both the regular season and tournament, they still could end up in the Quad P.I.G. in Dayton.
The Chanticleers won their opener against Akron, which has recently been a solid MAC program. Aside from that, Coastal has struggled mightily in all games against Division I competition so far. They showed signs of improvement that might help them going forward against a weak conference schedule. Coastal's performances against Boston University this season are a microcosm of their two arenas they have had in Division I. Coastal's game at Boston was basically like Kimbel Arena: poor and not up to Division I standards. And this game at Conway for Coastal was very much like the HTC Center: a big improvement over its previous showing and very credible for the Big South, but not quite a success. BOSTON UNIVERSITY 69, at COASTAL CAROLINA 63
BOSTON UNIVERSITY 3-5 (0-0) -- D. Irving 2-10 4-5 10; T. Robinson 5-6 0-0 15; D. Morris 9-11 0-0 18; J. Papale 1-5 0-0 2; M. Watson Jr. 3-7 2-2 8; M. Thomas 2-4 0-0 5; N. Dieudonne 4-6 2-2 11; J. Alston 0-1 0-0 0; Z. Chionuma 0-0 0-0 0; J. Kennedy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-50 8-9 69.
COASTAL CAROLINA 2-5 (0-0) -- K. Greenwood 9-14 0-1 19; W. Gillis 2-7 0-0 4; A. Raffa 5-13 0-0 10; E. Ndieguene 4-6 0-0 8; U. Ljeskovic 2-5 4-5 8; M. Enanga 2-4 0-0 4; B. Diagne 2-6 0-0 4; J. Daniel 3-3 0-0 6; C. Ashford 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-58 4-6 63.
Three-point goals: BU 9-19 (M. Thomas 1-1; D. Irving 2-6; T. Robinson 5-5; N. Dieudonne 1-3; J. Papale 0-3; M. Watson Jr. 0-1), CCU 1-7 (A. Raffa 0-4; K. Greenwood 1-1; W. Gillis 0-1; B. Diagne 0-1); Rebounds: BU 29 (M. Thomas 9), CCU 22 (A. Raffa 9); Assists: BU 16 (D. Irving 5), CCU 10 (K. Greenwood 4); Total Fouls -- BU 13, CCU 13; Fouled Out: BU-None; CCU-None.