Game #9-228: Old Dominion Monarchs at Charleston CougarsDecember 18, 2012 7:30 pm
Carolina First Center
After having not attended College of Charleston's Black Line Trap Game
against Anderson five days earlier, I decided to head down to Charleston to see how College of Charleston would respond against Old Dominion. Before the season started, this was expected to be a big game during the Holiday Break. College of Charleston had been courting offers from the CAA for the entire fall before they accepted an offer a month prior to this game. Old Dominion has been a CAA power historically, and this would be a showdown of the old CAA against the new CAA. When setting ticket prices for the season, College of Charleston set this game at $20, on the high side of their average ticket prices (which usually cost $15 for most midweek games). But this would not turn out to be a big game, and many seats failed to be filled like a typical big game at TD Arena. The Monarchs have taken a downward turn from their previous fortunes, coming into this game with a 1-9 record. And College of Charleston's momentum from having beaten Baylor took a huge shot with that trap game loss to Anderson five days prior. This was now a matchup of two teams looking to turn their season around.
College of Charleston was probably the less desperate team, coming at 5-4 with the only real blemish being the loss to Division II Anderson (a pretty big blemish though). Yet the Cougars needed to prove that they belonged in the Colonial (see Matt Cayuela's joke that the CAA might rescind their offer with that loss
). But with that said, would the Cougars belong in the Colonial anyway? The Colonial has been a much more successful conference than the Southern Conference in recent years, with teams like Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason, and Old Dominion doing quite well. But VCU is no longer in the Colonial, having switched to the Atlantic 10. Old Dominion was an out of conference opponent tonight for C of C, which they will continue to be as ODU will leave for Conference USA next year. The CAA might be still slightly better than the SoCon despite these defections. But that is not a sure thing either if Davidson stays in the SoCon as they have insisted they will and if George Mason decides to pick up and leave the CAA as has often been rumored. Moving to a comparable conference below the Red Line with more travel involved might not be too smart. We have often criticized schools above the Red Line for ignoring geography to create football super conferences. It seems weird for a school like College of Charleston, a mid-major without football, to make a Sports Bubble move. The historical footprint for the CAA has been the Virginia schools, with outliers in the Mid-Atlantic to the north and UNC Wilmington to the south. The CAA now stretches from Atlanta (not next year as Georgia State leaves for the Sun Belt) to Boston where Northeastern is. That is a pretty big geographical range for an East Coast mid-major conference. The idea of playing many northern schools has not thrilled the baseball program, as the SoCon is a far better conference in baseball. The move is being done pretty much for one sport, basketball. Some reasons justifying the move include a better television deal in the Colonial with NBC Sports. But it is hard to tell whether NBC will continue to extend that contract with a weakened conference. Some school leaders also see playing mostly northern schools in the CAA as beneficial in recruiting students from those areas. But unless you are somebody like me, your awareness of a school is probably not related to who they play in Our Game. But I can understand the source of discontent for College of Charleston. They play in the Southern Conference, whose emphasis is FCS football which is a drain on school resources. I can see why the Cougars would want no part of that. But increased travel for all teams (not just basketball) can also be a drain on school resources.
Old Dominion however is leaving the Colonial, in part because they also want no part of FCS football. With early success by their FCS team, they have decided that they would instead rather have a FBS team. And to do that, they will have to leave the CAA to join Conference USA. Both Charlotte
and UT San Antonio
will be making similar moves to Conference USA. With many mid-majors across the country leaving for Conference USA football (and Memphis leaving C-USA for the Big East), it seems that C-USA will be back on our side of the Red Line. Conference USA will live up to their name in being a conference with little geographic focus and being just a national conference. Old Dominion has achieved football success, and would like to build on that. But it is a shame that ODU has become yet another school driven by American-style football after years of not having it. Old Dominion has had good men's basketball teams with even greater success historically in women's basketball, and has produced MLB star Justin Verlander in baseball as well. But now they are a school mostly centered around football unfortunately. I see their conference move also being a bit risky. Unlike College of Charleston, Old Dominion is located in the heart of CAA territory. Their student-athletes in all sports will now make frequent trips to the Southwest so their football team can be in FBS. The basketball teams will be also moving into a weaker conference as well. It is also unclear if football will continue to thrive after their early success. It should also be possible to have FBS football without creating ridiculous conferences. But each conference is trying to chase money that many of them will ultimately not get. And that is what makes conference realignment a challenge and one of the biggest threats to Our Game.
So with that in mind, I decided to head down to Charleston to see what was by far the closest Division I game to me this Tuesday night. The basketball atmosphere at College of Charleston even when weakened like it is this time of year is still better than most in the area. I got to downtown Charleston just before 6 PM to ensure a good parking spot (and one that would cost $8 with hourly fees). As I have said before, I like simple things
, and that goes beyond sports as well. While fellow TMMer Matt Cayuela has a website dedicated to bar and restaurant deals in the Grand Strand
(and always picks a new place to visit before each game on the road including this game
) I am content finding any place with cheap good food. When I was driving around looking for parking during the Charleston Classic, I spotted a Subway a few blocks from TD Arena. Finding simple places to eat in downtown Charleston can be tricky since my favorite local Charleston place the Ye Olde Sandwich and Ice Cream Shoppe closed their King Street location. But when I arrived to the arena a few minutes before six, I was more interested in getting a good ticket (I was not paying $3 on top of the $20 ticket if I bought it online). Once I got my ticket, it was almost 6 PM so I decided to just wait until the doors opened and get dinner from the concessions stand. But then I heard a supervisor telling his staff member that doors opened at 6:30 PM. I thought it was weird that doors would open 30 minutes before tip-off before I looked at my ticket and saw that it was actually a 7:30 start. Apparently C of C had decided that in expecting this to be a big game they would start it 30 minutes later than typical to get more people. So I did have time to go to Subway after all, and went there.
I was still there when doors opened at 6:30, and spotted Matt coming in just after 7 (like at the High Point game two days prior
, I sat with him during the second half). As always, the TD Arena crowd takes a while to fill in coming from the tight parking spots around downtown Charleston. As expected, the student section never filled in and my Hopping Cats teammate Joe Wright
was one of the few to stand most of the game. The game itself was pretty even throughout most of the first half. Old Dominion led most of the early portion of the game, but could never get a run going to get separation from the Cougars. College of Charleston was able then to with a solid finish tie the game at 28-28. The Cougars in their previous game had rested Andrew Lawrence to get him back to full health as well as Trent Wiedeman who had been hurt since the second day of the Charleston Classic
. Lawrence and Wiedeman were now ready to go and avenge the recent struggles of the team. But while Wiedeman and especially Lawrence were helpful, it was big man Adjehi Baru who was helpful the most tonight. Baru delievered this powerful dunk to get the Cougars going on a second half run.
College of Charleston likely lost to Anderson because they let their guard down when they had two key players missing. They were not going to let that happen tonight against Old Dominion. The Cougars got out to an eight point lead five minutes into the second half and would continue to build on that. C of C did suffer a scary moment when the oft-injured Wiedeman went down in pain again. But by that point College of Charleston had a big lead, and while ODU pummeled the C of C walk-ons College of Charleston would still wind up with a 76-65 win. Old Dominion is not that powerful right now, but it was a win that affirmed that College of Charleston can win in the Colonial.
The only question is if winning in the Colonial will be worth anything more than winning in the SoCon. College of Charleston has won in the SoCon, but has struggled to win in the postseason. The Cougars' last NCAA Tournament appearance was under legendary coach John Kresse when they won their first ever SoCon Tournament in 1999 and lost to Tulsa as a #8
seed. They still have produced good basketball teams, but have not returned to the glory days they had under Kresse. C of C hopes that the CAA can give them a chance at an at-large, but that seems less likely with defections by those including their opponent tonight. And the defecting CAA schools are also going against their tradition as well. We often think of the problems with conference realignment and weird financially motivated moves to be the stuff that goes on above the Red Line, but it is easy to lose sight of the fact that many mid-major leaders do not think like TMM readers. I just hope that Hoops Nation does not need to feel like they need to have their own place in chasing the Sports Bubble. Hopefully the CAA can still work out well and College of Charleston will do better in a conference that appears to be losing interest once again in football like was the case until recently.
at CHARLESTON 76, OLD DOMINION 65
OLD DOMINION 1-10 (0-1) -- G. Powell 2-3 0-0 4; D. Hill 5-10 1-4 11; K. Palmore 3-10 4-4 10; D. Painter 6-9 3-4 15; D. Clark 4-5 0-0 10; A. Bacote 2-7 4-4 9; A. Larsen 3-8 0-0 6; R. Ross 2-3 0-0 4; D. Batten 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 25-54 12-16 65.
CHARLESTON 6-4 (1-0) -- A. Lawrence 4-10 6-9 17; A. Stitt 2-8 0-0 6; A. Baru 8-8 4-5 20; A. Thomas 5-7 1-3 13; W. Hall 2-5 2-2 6; T. Wiedeman 2-3 3-4 7; N. Johnson 1-2 0-0 3; T. Johnson 1-2 0-0 2; M. Sundberg 0-0 0-0 0; T. Dixon 0-1 0-0 0; B. Benton 0-1 0-0 0; H. Bowne 0-0 0-0 0; P. Branin 1-1 0-0 2; C. Cooke 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-49 16-23 76.
Three-point goals: ODU 3-15 (D. Hill 0-4; D. Painter 0-1; A. Larsen 0-1; D. Batten 0-2; A. Bacote 1-5; D. Clark 2-2), COFC 8-20 (A. Lawrence 3-7; B. Benton 0-1; N. Johnson 1-2; T. Dixon 0-1; A. Stitt 2-5; C. Cooke 0-1; T. Johnson 0-1; A. Thomas 2-2); Rebounds: ODU 24 (D. Painter 7), COFC 28 (A. Baru 9); Assists: ODU 14 (D. Hill 5), COFC 18 (A. Lawrence 6); Total Fouls -- ODU 19, COFC 15; Fouled Out: ODU-None; COFC-None.