Trying to get a ticket to a Duke home game is not the easiest thing in the world to do. If you have plenty of disposable income, you can spend a few hundred dollars for a ticket through a third-party ticket service to see the Blue Devils pound on a non-conference opponent. I lucked out several years ago when I was able to get a ticket when Coastal Carolina went to Duke giving me my sole experience of Cameron Indoor.
That was a couple of years before I started going to games for TMM. In the past two years, I have a couple of friends that are Duke fans jokingly ask when we were going to go up and check them out for the site since they knew I was going to all these games. My usual retort would be that I would go if they were willing to dish out the $70 to $100 a ticket to see the Blue Devils play against the likes of Florida Gulf Coast or Presbyterian.
With none of us in the best financial situation, that option would probably never come to fruition. Even if I were to somehow get tickets, why would I even want to go? I am not a fan of the Blue Devils at all and seeing them bludgeon a team below the Red Line is not exactly appealing to me.
When I saw that Davidson was playing against Duke this season, I just assumed the game would be in Durham. It was not until a month into the season that I realized that the game would be played at Time Warner Arena in Charlotte and considered a Davidson home game. This was something I could work with, although I figured the tickets would still be too much even in an NBA arena.
It was to my pleasure that I discovered that I could get seats for $15 in the upper level. Even after the stupid Ticketmaster fees, this was a price I could stomach as could my friend Kevin who I convinced to make the road trip with me. We have had our good-natured ribbing throughout the years as I would usually root for whoever was playing against Duke. The obvious moment of trash talk came with Lehigh's upset of the Blue Devils last year in the NCAA Tournament, but I kept a somewhat-subdued tone due to him probably punching me in the face if I kept it up.
I had some hope for a colossal upset of the No. 1 ranked Blue Devils due to the location and the opponent. The Davidson Wildcats have knocked off their fair share of giants in recent history. Stephen Curry's teams are the most widely known for the big upsets, but this is essentially the same team that knocked off Kansas last year, not to mention some RLUs this year against West Virginia and Vanderbilt. The level of consistency has not been there this year for the Wildcats as they had several losses on the season, including games against Drexel and Milwaukee. I still believed there was a chance at the upset though; Butler was able to do it against Indiana as did Temple against Syracuse
, both in NBA arenas.
Not having been to Uptown Charlotte in quite some time, I wanted to check out a bar or two before the game, so we left fairly early from Myrtle Beach. I did not calculate my timing just right and entered the Charlotte area at around 5 p.m. If we had been 10 minutes earlier, we probably would have breezed straight into the city center, but we ended up in a small rush hour traffic jam.
We patiently crawled for a few miles before we were able to escape the bottleneck and get downtown. Adjacent to the Time Warner Arena is the EpiCentre which has numerous shops, bars, restaurants, a bowling alley, and a movie theater.. I saw the valet parking and decided to go with that instead of searching for a general spot. It was $15, but I figured it was worth it since general parking was $10. Inside the EpiCentre I knew exactly where I wanted to head to- Whiskey River
. It is a bar/club owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. with plenty of TVs, some decent deals on food, and scantily clad bartenders and waitresses with a Country/Western vibe. What's not to like, right?
Once inside the half-full bar and restaurant area, the crowd was 90 percent Duke fans, leaving me worried of what might be coming once we got to the arena. After a few beers and shots, we made the very short walk over to the arena and were greeted with a sea of people trying to enter the arena. Many were clad in Blue Devil Blue, but there was a large group of Davidson students in the sea of ACC fans chanting "Overrated!" giving me some hope.
Once inside, my fears were quelled. While much of the upper deck was Blue Devil fans, it was apparent that the normal Davidson season ticket holders got first dibs on seat selection as they had much of the prime seating mid-court on the lower level. They were all just smart enough to get into the arena early while all of the Duke fans were still trying to pile in.
I had been to the Time Warner Arena once before about six years ago for a Bobcats game when they hosted the Pistons. Back then, I really liked the arena and it still held true today. Unlike the RBC Center
in Raleigh, the Time Warner Arena had a much better feel to it for basketball. Even sitting in the upper deck behind the basket, I still felt like it was a pretty good seat for the game. Granted, it is nothing like the mid-major arenas I have grown accustomed to, but it provided an enjoyable experience nonetheless.
In having friends that are Duke fans, I have seen a couple of their games recently and knew they had been struggling in the first half as of late. The trend continued for the Blue Devils as they did not come out and blow the doors off Davidson. In fact the Wildcats were dominating in the paint and getting plenty of second-chance opportunities. An extended possession that had two offensive rebounds allowed Chris Czerapowicz to hit a three for a 14-11 lead and producing the first load roar from the Wildcat fans.
Duke would answer and score the next six points and Seth "the Mid-Major Traitor" Curry started heating up. Seeing Curry in person as a freshman at Liberty, I was so excited the Big South had a player with so much potential, but now he is just another Dookie in the eyes of many.
Davidson stayed right there with Duke much of the first half as the Blue Devils could muster only a maximum of a five-point lead, mainly from Ryan Kelly since Mason Plumlee was having a horrible half. He was fumbling the ball and continuing to allow Clint Mann and De'Mon Brooks to crash the boards and keep the Wildcats within striking distance. A Tyler Kalinoski three and a lay-up from Brooks closed the small gap the Blue Devils had as the teams ended up knotted at 29 at the half.
Duke had troubles with Cornell, Elon, and Santa Clara leading up to this, but used a big run in the second half to pull away using stern defense. I figured that things would be different, we were not in Durham, this was a 50/50 crowd and Davidson is much better than those teams. In hindsight though, that is probably when I should have walked out and headed back over to Whiskey River and watched another game. Duke came out with its usual big run and swamped the Wildcat offense. After 10 minutes, the damage was already done with the Blue Devils outscoring Davidson 19-5. Some shots finally started to fall for Davidson, but whenever they cut it to single digits, Plumlee would score on the other end.
As time wore down, so did the Wildcats chances at a big upset as some of the disheveled Wildcat fans made their way to the exits. Davidson could only manage two second-chance points in the second half, whereas they had 14 in the first. In the end, Duke ended up with a 17-point win.
It was disappointing not to see a monster upset, but it is always good to go see a game with other people no matter their rooting interest. It was also a rather inexpensive way to get to see the No. 1 ranked team in the country. It would be the last non-conference game for each team. I will closely follow Davidson as they are the favorites to win the SoCon, while I could care less what Duke does in the ACC and hopefully the next time I see them will be another early exit in the NCAA Tourney.