Game #9-352: Virginia Military Institute Keydets at Coastal Carolina ChanticleersJanuary 19, 2013 11:00 am
When planning my Saturday, I was looking for two games to go to. High Point was playing at Charleston Southern, the closest my Panthers would be to where I live during the season. But Charleston Southern plays at 5:30 PM, which is a pretty odd start time even for a weekend game. There would be no chance of getting to a game afterwards, and a small time space to get to a game before. But as it turned out when looking at this weekend's schedule, Coastal Carolina had the most unusual starting time. Coastal would tip off against VMI at 11 AM! You often do not see "AM" in designating the start time of a sporting event. This meant I would have to wake up at 8 AM to be ready to arrive at the HTC Center well in advance to secure good tickets. I have not had to wake up this early on a routine basis since my freshman year at High Point. My grad school classes at South Carolina never started before 3:30 PM, and my internship work at USC Sumter does not usually get going most days until 10 AM since what I do is not related to morning classes. But if I were to see two games today, I knew I would have to do it.
So why were we starting at 11 AM? As Coastal Carolina season ticket holder Matt Cayuela mentioned in his recap
, it was cater to ESPN. ESPNU wanted a game to start the day to lead into its "bigger games" during the day. The Big South and the schools playing were excited about this opportunity, and therefore did what it would take to get onto national television. The Big South has never had a regular season game on the nearly seven year old ESPNU before, although the conference semifinals have always been on ESPNU during the network's history. Coastal also has had a home game against Winthrop several years ago televised by ESPN2, and several guarantee games played by Big South schools above the Red Line have been on ESPNU. But is being on "the U" a big deal? While the network is about seven years old now, I have only had access to ESPNU for just over three years now. In the 3+ years where ESPNU existed but I did not have it, I chastised any promotion of a game on the network as being ESPNNobodyGets. And while ESPNU is in more homes now and is carried nationally, there are still a large number of people who do not receive the channel. Of course there are also some who do not get ESPN itself, but those people are in the minority now (and most people also get ESPN2 as well). And to make matters worse for the Big South, the 11 AM start selected by ESPNU is blatant disrespect by the "Worldwide Leader" towards the Big South. If ESPNU thought Coastal and VMI would get more viewers, it would receive a more conventional start time. But instead the game would be at 11 AM, and the Big South was happy to oblige. So the question becomes, "Is very slight extra national television exposure worth it for mid-major schools at the expense of the inconvenience of students and ticket holders?"
But it is not just Our Game who is desperate for television exposure. I attended a South Carolina football game against East Carolina last September. South Carolina wants all
of its American-style football games televised to increase their reach in drawing fans. And to do so against a Conference USA team, USC had to schedule ECU at 12:21 on a SEC syndicated telecast. 12:21 PM is not typically as bad as 11 AM, although some football fans hate missing tailgating time. But this was at 12:21 PM on September 8, coming on the heels of the hottest summer in recent history. The result was a temperature of over 90 degrees in the stadium, and the concession stands running out of items because everybody came to get drinks. The big focus point of discussion after the game was not the team's dominating win with a new quarterback, but rather how so many people left at halftime because of the heat. The student section was nearly empty by the end of the game, sparking controversy on message boards of how loyal the students were to their team. But as some pointed out, the loyalty being shown was by South Carolina in accommodating television. They picked the wrong time to play just to be on television. And just like it was for Coastal fans this morning, fans who actually go the games were ignored. It shows you that the few of us who still like getting out of the house to watch sports are a minority whose preferences and needs are ignored. Television, especially above the Red Line, is the big money maker. Fans who show up at the games are no longer worth as much money they once were. But it is not just television forcing weird start times. Whenever there is a push to get several games in a day, there will be early starts. The Southern Conference starts tournament games at 9 AM, although that still could not prevent a late game one year from starting at 12:30 AM. I probably will cover one baseball game for USC Sumter in a few weeks that will start at 8:30 AM in an early season tournament. I also remember one game in a American Legion Baseball regional tournament game near where I live that started at 8 AM because of uncertainty in the schedule later that day coming off of rainouts earlier in the weekend. Neither team was happy to play at 8 AM, particularly one North Carolina team that had been playing at 10 AM each previous day. And the frustrations of those teams boiled over in the 4th inning when the two teams were kicked out of the tournament for a bench clearing brawl (an extreme rarity with high school-age players, who are much more tightly controlled than their professional counterparts). Playing early is not usually good.
So I was not expecting much when I arrived at the HTC Center. Even though I did not get out of Sumter until after 8:15, I arrived in Conway before 10 AM because of the lack of traffic on a Saturday morning. I remembered to bring my jacket, although it was not as cold as the last time I was here. The ticket office did not open until 10:05 AM, and I could tell things might be sluggish getting going at the HTC Center. I was able to buy a ticket towards the top of the bleachers at midcourt, a reasonably good value seat at $12 and near where I reserved my Big South Tournament ticket come March. You know it is a good seat because that row has been approved by Matt Cayuela
, the 800 Games Project recap champion. Once I got to my seat, I needed food and knew the options would not be good before 10:30 AM. I asked the Chick-Fil-A concessioner if they had sandwiches it, and was told they had not arrived. "Of course," I thought, "why would they have even been made yet? It is not even lunch time yet!" So I went over to another stand and got nachos, not great but enough to hold me until I got real food between games. I followed Matt's advice from my last game here
and bought a drink out of the bookstore for over a dollar off the concession stand price. As I walked out of the bookstore with my drink and nachos, I saw a cart of Chick-Fil-A sandwiches being rolled in to its stand. Oh well, still can't win in my concession stand purchases.
The early start time also meant as I expected fewer fans. When I was at High Point, being on regional television was a huge draw, especially for students even with games often starting as late as 9 PM. But that was not the case here. While CCU's marketing announcer made jokes about students being up early for a Saturday, it was not the students who were no shows. Most of the teal seats belong to Chanticleer Athletic Foundation members were empty, as were the season ticket holders who normally sit below where me and Matt were. I thought maybe these empty seats were because of the early start time, and Matt drew the same conclusion as well. But yet it seemed odd, because season ticket holders normally are much older than the students and wake up early all the time. They have to get up by 6 AM to go to Country Kitchen!
I expected a light crowd, but more from the students than the season ticket holders. The students actually did a reasonably good job at supporting their Chants in the morning. I do not know what most fans were thinking about in getting up this early for basketball, although I doubt that Red Panda was what was actually on their minds.
The reason this game was selected for ESPNU coverage as opposed to other Big South games most likely had to do with VMI's high powered offense being good for television. And with VMI playing half an hour from a tourist area, ESPN probably viewed this game as being a vacation for them. For the first few minutes, it looked like ESPNU would get what they wanted. Coastal led 11-7 at the first media timeout, and it looked like we would get plenty of offense. But soon after that first media timeout, the shots stopped falling for the Keydets. The first half would remain competitive, as VMI cut Coastal's lead to one with eight minutes until halftime and stayed even most of the rest of the half with the home team barely ahead 27-23 at halftime. The first half was definitely a bit sluggish, with a combined 50 points on a combined 72 possessions. This is probably not what ESPNU had in mind when showing the game. But if ESPN had not set the game time so early, maybe the players would not be playing like they just woke up.
At halftime, the Coastal Carolina women's lacrosse team that will be playing their program opener very soon used their lacrosse nets to shoot T-shirts into the stands, an interesting innovation on a standard promotion trick. The marketing staff tried to get the crowd going, with the knowledge that many would have rather slept in today. The promotions announcer joked to the students that it was about time to wake up since it was getting close to noon. So that served the purpose of Coastal Carolina doing a version of Northern Iowa's Interlude, which I had not learned of until Matt Cayuela mentioned it in his previous recap
. I tried putting my camera down to join in at Matt's request, but I just could not get in the right mood to do it. Sometimes I am a bit hyper, but I was not this morning after waking up at 8 AM. The Interlude dance is similar enough to what I called the Happy Dance that I did in middle school, so I definitely need to try better some time when I return to the HTC Center. I was mostly focused on taking pictures of the halftime hoopla, getting both the students and Matt doing the Interlude dance. So sorry Matt, hope this picture is not too embarrassing!
I do not know if it was the Interlude or what, but the Chanticleers came out much stronger in the second half. Anthony Raffa, who struggled early on, had a better second half as did his teammates as Coastal quickly pulled out to a 12 point lead a few minutes into the second half. VMI made one last charge, cutting the Coastal lead to four again midway through the half. But the home team was able to find what little energy there was to be had today. The previous time I saw VMI, I remarked how efficient they were rather than just scoring by using a lot of possessions. But that was against Presbyterian, and the Chants are much better than the Blue Hose. Or maybe VMI just could not shoot well this game. VMI shot only 30 percent from the field, an awful percentage that does not look good when you are on national television. Maybe the moment of being on ESPNU froze the Keydets. I have seen plenty of teams not normally on national television who look tight once they get a national outlet to cover them. VMI star Stan Okoye had 16 points, a respectable number most of the time but not on 21 shots from the field. Yet despite these struggles I expected VMI to mount some late rally to make the game interesting. But it would only get worse for the Keydets, and the final minutes would be plagued by excessive fouling and monitor reviews of those fouls. It seemed that the monitors the refs used were the ESPNU monitors themselves, and apparently could not review a play during commercial break as the reviews did not occur until the teams returned to the court. Coastal scored 12 of the final 15 points in the game to wind up with a 72-49 blowout win. The win was what Coastal needed to keep stay right behind the South Division leaders while VMI's grip on the Big South North loosened a bit after this.
The game was not quite as bad as the score indicated, as Coastal did not fully put the game away until with about three minutes left. But it was definitely not a good game for VMI, which came away with less than two points per every three possessions. That is not what the conference likely wanted for its national television appearance. It would be nice in the future to see mid-majors not go for national television as much in the future. In 2013, anybody who is willing to pay can see any Big South game televised online. If the truly major ESPN outlets (channels 1 and 2) want to carry the game or if ESPNU wants a normal start time, then we should go for it. But otherwise you are going to end up like College of Charleston, which last year in a game Joe Wright was at started at 8 AM
. The reason for an 8 AM start was so ESPN could have the gimmick of televising a game at all hours of the day, even making Hawaii play at 11 PM local time so there could be a 4 AM Eastern Time game (ESPN at 6 AM decided that a two hour season preview show was satisfactory for its marathon). And that is what Our Game is to the major media outlets: a gimmick. On this site, Kyle has criticized certain schools for selling out by playing guarantee games. Let's hope that Hoops Nation in the future will not have to make similar sacrifices in order to appease the television gods.
at COASTAL CAROLINA 72, VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE 49
VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE 9-8 (4-1) -- S. Okoye 6-21 3-5 16; B. Brown 2-7 2-2 7; D. Covington 1-7 0-4 2; R. Glasgow 5-9 2-2 16; N. Gore 1-3 0-0 3; J. Carr 0-0 0-0 0; T. Marshall 0-3 0-1 0; D. Albritton 1-3 0-0 3; P. Anglade 1-1 0-0 2; J. Watson 0-0 0-0 0; D. Absher 0-2 0-0 0; C. Burton 0-0 0-0 0; G. Stephenson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-56 7-14 49.
COASTAL CAROLINA 8-8 (3-2) -- A. Raffa 8-12 3-4 21; K. Greenwood 1-8 0-0 2; W. Gillis 4-13 2-3 12; E. Ndieguene 4-9 1-4 9; B. Diagne 4-9 1-3 9; M. Enanga 3-6 2-2 8; C. Ashford 2-5 1-1 5; J. Daniel 1-1 0-0 2; T. Curtis 0-2 2-4 2; U. Ljeskovic 0-0 0-0 0; B. Addey 1-1 0-0 2; T. James 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-66 12-21 72.
Three-point goals: VMI 8-31 (S. Okoye 1-8; N. Gore 1-3; D. Absher 0-1; R. Glasgow 4-7; B. Brown 1-6; D. Albritton 1-3; T. Marshall 0-3), CCU 4-15 (A. Raffa 2-6; W. Gillis 2-5; B. Diagne 0-3; M. Enanga 0-1); Rebounds: VMI 30 (S. Okoye 12), CCU 44 (B. Diagne 9); Assists: VMI 10 (S. Okoye 4), CCU 16 (K. Greenwood 8); Total Fouls -- VMI 19, CCU 18; Fouled Out: VMI-None; CCU-W. Gillis.