Game #9-431: Virginia Commonwealth Rams at Charlotte 49ersFebruary 9, 2013 7:00 pm
My original plan for this Saturday was to see two games, which the other leaders on this site like Raymond Curren
and Matt Cayuela
have also usually tried to do on Saturdays. The plan was to see Davidson play Appalachian State at 4, and then hopefully make it to the UNC Charlotte campus by 6:30 to see Charlotte take on an elite mid-major in VCU at 7. I checked ticket availability, mostly focused on the VCU-Charlotte game since VCU is a likely NCAA Tournament team with a fan base that travels well. But Davidson I realized might get a good crowd for Appalachian State, given that the Wildcats usually always have Belk Arena well over half full and most of ASU's alums live closer to the Charlotte area than towards the school's Boone campus. The good news when I checked ticket availability? Seats were still available, although like at the Charlotte-VCU game not plentiful either. The bad news? The listed start time was now 7:30. There was now no chance I could see both Charlotte and Davidson play. In an ideal world, Division I schools in the same metro area would have start times at least three hours apart on the weekend so that fans in the area could go to both games. But most basketball fans are not like me, Ray, or Matt. We are not a group that is going to be catered to, since over 90 percent (probably closer to 99 percent) of college basketball fans are only going to one game in a day. I do not know when Davidson changed the start time (my schedule was based on listed start times a week before the start of the season), but I am figuring they were staggering the start time to fit their own needs in seeing two games: the Davidson and ASU women's teams had a game at 2 in Boone, so I am wondering if they moved the men's game in Davidson back to 7:30 P.M. to accommodate school personnel traveling between the two places. In any case, my initial plans were dashed.
So what now? Could I still see two games? Now knowing Davidson was playing at 7:30, could I instead go to Winthrop's game against Longwood at 4 and still make it to Davidson? That seemed quite doable, except for the following problems:
A. For both schools being on Interstate 77 and in the Charlotte metro area, Davidson and Winthrop are pretty far apart. The schools' exits on I-77 are 39 miles apart, and it takes as much as 15 minutes depending on Cherry Road traffic in Rock Hill to get from Winthrop to I-77 (and a little bit of time as well from I-77 to Davidson).
B. Winthrop never starts their games on time. They don't usually start the national anthem and player introductions until around 4:05 for a 4 PM listed start, and are occasionally as late as 4:15 before actually tipping off.
C. Halfway between Davidson and Winthrop, Interstate 77 goes through "Uptown" Charlotte, and with only two main interstates for a city large enough to have NBA and NFL teams traffic can get congested is not usually going over 60 MPH in most places.
D. Davidson's general parking is on the western and northern edges of campus with the arena on the southeastern corner of campus. There would be a lot of walking even once the drive was completed.
So to summarize, I would have no chance at getting to Davidson before 7, and not a very good chance at getting there before 7:15 for a 7:30 game. And it was very realistic I would not make it until after tip-off. And by my standards, it is not acceptable to make it to a game late unless something unforeseen happens. And as I have gone detail over, I could a foresee a possibility in not making it on time.
So that possibility was out of the way. My next option was to go to Furman in Greenville at 4 P.M. (where I had been just a couple days prior
) and then zip over to Wofford in Spartanburg at 7 P.M. Furman and Wofford are less than 40 miles apart with Interstate 85 connecting the two SoCon schools. They are closer than Winthrop and Davidson, with fewer worries about parking and urban driving. And with a Furman game I would not have to worry about my dinner options. But I decided to reject that option, for two reasons:
A. While Furman and Wofford are closer than Winthrop and Davidson, I would have close to 30 minutes less time to make the trip.
B. Furman is further from an Interstate than any of the schools mentioned above, and traffic three miles south of the Furman campus at Cherrydale Point is at least as bad as the Cherry Road traffic I mentioned above in Rock Hill.
The variance in driving time would be less for Furman to Wofford than Davidson to Winthrop, but it would still be pushing close to game time. And I have had a traffic warning recently, and I don't want to risk getting a ticket by being in a hurry. So I decided to go back to the safe option of just buying a ticket for the Charlotte-VCU game the night before, and only attending that game for this particular Saturday.
The only reason any of the other options would have made sense over going to the Charlotte-VCU game would be just simply more games. I like seeing lots of basketball games, this would be the 129th basketball game I have been to of the 2012-2013 season between the high school and college levels including both genders (also with one NBA exhibition game in that number as well). But I go to basketball games to see good basketball, not to get an outrageous number. In my personal rules of attending games, I do not allow myself to show up at a rec center and watch a bunch of kids' games or intramural games or other semi-organized recreational activity and count it in my game total. Also in my rules of attending games as I mentioned earlier, I do not count a game if I show up well after tip-off knowing that I probably would not make it in advance. For one thing, I want to see the start of what leads to the final outcome. And another thing is that I do not like late arrivers blocking my view of the game as they walk to their seats. Why should I do that to others? Matt in one of his recaps where he made it to Elon later than expected
pointed out that at hockey games ushers hold people back from entering during play. I noticed that as well at a minor league hockey game near Charleston in late October that ushers had little stop signs in their hand that read "STOP while puck is in play". My reaction to that was, "That's a great idea! Why on earth have other sports not adopted that?" I am not one who usually likes tightly controlling ushers, but that is the kind of control I can get behind as a diehard sports fan. So it seemed kind of cheap in that sense to go for two games when I would be getting a better game by itself at Charlotte.
And sometimes in going for quantity (both in for this site and overall), you can forget that this is not how most people view sports. While I love all mid-majors of all calibers, VCU is the kind of team that one thinks of when they think of high quality mid-major basketball. I had seen the Rams crush Winthrop back in November
, and had also seen VCU in the Charleston Classic last season
. But this would be an important game in VCU's new conference, the Atlantic 10. VCU as always brought a lot of fans, with their home games often being too expensive and difficult to get these days after making the Final Four with current coach Shaka Smart two years ago. Charlotte would also get turnout for this game as well, with a large student body and local alumni base wanting to see if the 49ers could prove themselves worthy of their 17-5 record coming in. And it looks like Smart has the Rams set for another March run again. If there is one mid-major game worth being the only game seen of the day, this was it.
So I bought my ticket and printed it out, expecting a sellout at Halton Arena (which did not quite happen, largely in part because the student seats in the corner of the upper deck had problems getting filled). I got there well over an hour before the game, since I now had the time to do so and wanted to avoid the rush. As I walked around on the concourse looking for the restroom and later concessions, I saw TMM legend Gary Moore
walk in. While Gary is like me, Matt, and Ray in going to a lot of games, I did not expect to see him here. I expected him to be at Davidson since he is a big fan of Bob McKillop and personally knows one of McKillop's assistants. As it turns out, Gary was also forced to change his weekend plans. He was going to drive to Wilmington to see his former employer Hofstra take on UNCW at noon, but in doing so a faulty check engine light came on. Once he had that problem taken care of, he had to find a different game and showed up here at Halton Arena. It was nice to talk with him again as I had not seen him since we were at a South Carolina doubleheader back in December
. You can read Gary's recap of this game here
. While me and Gary could get in early, the UNCC students could not. The doors to the general public open 90 minutes early while students aren't admitted until 60 minutes prior to tip-off. Considering that the students are the ones who show up first to get the best seats, this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. My guess is that the arena staff wants the 30 minutes to allow themselves to get ready before a huge mass of people show up. But I am just guessing here in an attempt to make sense of why those of us in the general public can look outside and see this long line of students waiting.
As I mentioned, VCU fans travel well. Half of my section just underneath the TV camera stand consisted of Ram fans. I felt bad for the Charlotte fans there, as normally they would not be used to seeing fans root for the other team in large numbers. It is similar in MLB parks where Red Sox and Yankees fans pack visiting stadiums with both transplants as well as travelers who want better ticket availability at affordable prices which I am sure is the case for VCU fans as well. The VCU fans around me were very vocal when calls did not go their way or when they felt a VCU player was not playing up to their potential. It is certainly not like what I am used to as a High Point fan going to road games
, or the case for most fans of schools below the Red Line. But VCU is not like most schools below the Red Line. VCU fans who bought through their school were put up in the top back corner of Halton Arena, making themselves visible through little red lights on their apparel. The cheap seats are where Charlotte and other schools tend to put visitors, as our student group at High Point was put there five years ago as was my dad's Southern Illinois alumni group that same year as well.
VCU is known for Shaka Smart's "Havoc" system. When I read more about "Havoc" in preparation for seeing this game, I was expecting really uptempo basketball. Maybe not quite like Duggar Baucom's VMI teams, but still a system where we would be seeing lots of points off turnovers. I expected that this would be a game decided in transition. My only worry with this kind of basketball is that teams that deploy this type of strategy often tend to foul a lot, and thus takes away the flow and fun of seeing fast basketball.
But that is not exactly what would happen with "Havoc" tonight. Yes, Charlotte was forced into more turnovers than VCU (17 to 10). And VCU also committed more fouls than the 49ers (22 to 14). But that really is not too atypical of what happens when the more talented team is playing on the road. But VCU was not running with the ball, and I did not see much transition basketball. According to the official box score, the Rams outscored the Niners 23-11 off of turnovers but UNCC had the edge on fast breaks of 15-4. VCU was disrupting Charlotte's offense as Shaka Smart intended, but Havoc did not do much for the Rams'
offense. But that is not to say VCU did a bad job on offense. They were doing well enough to stay ahead most of the game. At the under 8 media timeout of the first half, VCU led 22-12 with each team having had 19 possessions. Charlotte responded with a 10-0 run, only for the Rams to recover and close out the half scoring 12 of the last 18 points. Havoc may not have dominated the first half, but it did its job.
The second half would be more of the same. VCU never had a huge lead, but it was never really that close in the second half either. Rob Brandenberg made the shots when needed from outside while Juvonte Reddic was able to contain Charlotte's big men. The Rams slowly pulled away over the course of the second half, and many Charlotte fans began to leave as the game reached the final minutes. VCU led by as much as 14 with five minutes left. The Niners were able to score effectively in garbage time, but Virginia Commonwealth still came out with a comfortable 68-61 win. The level of Havoc at Halton Arena did not seem too high as far as the number of possessions was concerned, as VCU finished with 58 possessions and Charlotte with 59, a slower tempo game than usual and not what you would associate with the term "Havoc". But what was most important was that the Havoc was indeed felt at Charlotte. Charlotte may have not turned the ball over excessively and let the Rams run, but Charlotte could not get quality shots. And that is what good defense is about, regardless of its style.
Unlike some casual fans, I can take a low quality game and appreciate all of Division I. But it is also nice to see the good teams as well. Teams like VCU are certainly part of the picture of the Beautiful Season as well. Sometimes I wonder if I should try to do this more often in seeing more quality games at the expense of the quantity. At some point there will be times where my opportunities for games will be limited, and I have to choose a select few games to go to. Hopefully we will see more variety of teams that become successful mid-majors, maybe even in the Big South and SoCon someday. But you can be sure that as long as this man is around, VCU will often be one of the elite mid-majors.
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 68, at CHARLOTTE 61
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 19-5 (7-2) -- D. Colter 1-12 5-6 8; D. Theus 3-7 1-1 7; J. Reddic 6-9 2-3 14; T. Daniels 2-8 0-0 5; T. Graham 5-9 0-0 12; M. Johnson 3-5 0-0 7; R. Brandenberg 7-12 4-4 21; B. Weber 0-0 0-0 0; J. Guest 0-1 0-0 0; D. Hinton 1-1 0-0 2; J. Tuoyo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-52 7-8 68.
CHARLOTTE 17-6 (5-4) -- P. Henry 3-12 2-3 8; E. Nickerson 3-5 2-4 8; C. Braswell 2-7 4-6 8; D. Ingram 3-6 1-2 7; W. Clayton 6-7 0-2 12; T. Williams 5-6 2-3 13; D. Clark 2-4 1-2 5; I. Benkovic 0-0 0-0 0; M. Thorne 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-47 12-22 61.
Three-point goals: VCU 7-18 (T. Daniels 1-6; D. Theus 0-1; R. Brandenberg 3-5; T. Graham 2-4; M. Johnson 1-2), CHAR 1-7 (C. Braswell 0-1; E. Nickerson 0-1; T. Williams 1-2; P. Henry 0-3); Rebounds: VCU 17 (J. Reddic 4), CHAR 34 (P. Henry 11); Assists: VCU 13 (D. Theus 6), CHAR 8 (P. Henry 4); Total Fouls -- VCU 22, CHAR 14; Fouled Out: VCU-None; CHAR-None.