Like Longwood in the last game
Game #9-533: Presbyterian Blue Hose vs. Campbell Fighting CamelsMarch 5, 2013 6:00 pm
Myrtle Beach, SC
, Presbyterian entered this game against Campbell as big underdogs. Presbyterian like Longwood finished last in the conference with a 4-12 Big South record. PC was only technically better because they beat the Lancers in Farmville
. But unlike Longwood, PC has received much better treatment from the Big South Conference. Back when Longwood was still searching for a conference in their third year of transitioning to full Division I status, Presbyterian announced that they would be joining Division I. And while Longwood had been wanting to join the Big South before, Presbyterian got an instant invite upon joining Division I. Presbyterian is a much smaller school than Longwood, and is perhaps in an even more rural location although Clinton has better access to Interstate 26 than Farmville has to Interstate 95 or any other interstate. There was only one thing Presbyterian had that the Big South wanted, which was American-style football. The addition of PC would help get the Big South one step closer to its goal of an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. Yet the Blue Hose have been disrespected as well, less so by the Big South and more by the NCAA.As I have mentioned before
, Presbyterian has struggled more than most schools have of being granted full Division I status. For most schools, this process takes four years. After the moratorium was lifted on new schools joining Division I, the NCAA required a conference invite before being allowed to transition (most likely because of Longwood and Savannah State's struggles). After having success with their initial recruiting class, Presbyterian redshirted Al'Lonzo Coleman, Pierre Miller, and Josh Johnson so those players could be available for a postseason run. This would be similar to what North Dakota State had done to win the Summit League upon joining Division I in what was referred to on here as "Bison Fever". Winning a Big South Tournament was still unlikely for the Blue Hose, but every player deserves a shot at it.
But those Presbyterian players would never get a shot at it. They had to lengthen their academic careers by a full year just to have a shot at postseason glory that the NCAA never allowed them to a chase. The reason that PC had to go through one more year of transitioning was because of a clerical error on the required self-study that came about because of a change in athletic directors. Those players and coach Gregg Nibert did nothing to deserve this fate to their postseason hopes. The players were allowed to transfer without penalty to another Division I school to chase the postseason. But getting up and leaving their home in Presbyterian would have likely caused more hardship. These players and coaches had worked together towards the goal of postseason glory that they never were included in. In some aspects that is an even worse experience than what Longwood had. Longwood knew that joining the Big South was not going to be definite, and it was always uncertain when they could join. And Longwood beginning in 2008-09 had a theoretical chance at an at-large (very theoretical, but it's a nice option in case you somehow pull off a magical undefeated run). Presbyterian had made personnel and player development decisions based on when they would be postseason eligible, only to find out that they would not be in the end.
So this game was now the chance for the Blue Hose. Like Longwood before, their chances of this being the magical year were slim. Coleman, Johnson, and Miller were all gone. The only key player from PC's recent moderately successful teams still left was Khalid Mutakabbir. But Mutakabbir and his teammates as well as coach Gregg Nibert finally had that magical chance
everybody deserves. Coleman and his teammates may not have been able to win conference titles, but they did get some Red Line Upsets and made their school proud. So why is it vital for a school like Presbyterian to be in a here? Because there is always still a chance of reaching unprecedented greatness. According to most computer ratings, Presbyterian was one of the 20 worst teams in Division I this past season. But if Presbyterian beat Campbell this game and then their next ten, the Blue Hose would be the champions of college basketball. The odds of them winning this game alone against a struggling Campbell team was just over 30 percent. If PC was to reach the NCAA Tournament, they would have to win multiple games with a 1 percent chance of winning to still be in the hunt for a national title. But just to have that chance is special. It is what makes college basketball great, and a much much
better sport than college football. Heck, no Big South school has any chance at a true national title in college football because of the split between FBS and the FCS. And even schools below the Red Line that sponsor FBS football like the Sun Belt and MAC only have as much a theoretical chance at making the BCS Championship as Longwood had of making the NCAA Tournament as an independent. Over 300 schools in basketball however have a chance at a national title if they can pull off an improbable winning streak. And at long last, Presbyterian is now one of those schools can dream of playing on CBS and shocking the nation.
The only reason I thought the Blue Hose could potentially win this game is because Campbell has been on a slide since losing Darren White in January. The only reason Campbell was playing tonight rather than getting a bye to Thursday was because of losing a winnable game that I saw a few days prior at High Point
. So the Blue Hose had a chance here, even if it was only good by the standards of a third place division team playing a sixth (and last) place division team. And Presbyterian led after a back-and-forth start 7-6 at the first media timeout. But that was pretty much it for Presbyterian's early success in this game. Campbell had the much bigger crowd at the HTC Center, and they supported their Camels as they seemed to pulling away late in the first half. Campbell led by 17 points with less than two minutes in the first half before Presbyterian scored the last four points of the half to make their halftime deficit 35-22. It still did not look good for the Hose here.
But Presbyterian kept fighting in the second half. A good start to the second half allowed Presbyterian to take the lead on a Mutakabbir superhoop with 9 minutes left. Mutakabbir was showing good senior leadership in his and his teammates first postseason game, and Josh Clyburn may not have been Al'Lonzo Coleman but he was pushing around the Camels' weak frontcourt. But as is often the case with many comebacks, Presbyterian lost steam for a bit. And it briefly appeared that Trey Freeman would take over, and that would be it for the Presbyterian surge. Campbell held a slight lead for most of the final minutes, and after a pair of free throws by Freeman Campbell seemed to have an almost insurmountable lead of five points with less than 20 seconds left. The Camels at this point were quite willing to let Eric Washington coast in for a layup since CU still led by three with 12 seconds left and had the ball.
But if you are not careful, a slight lead is never safe even late. Mutakabbir tied up Freeman in the backcourt, and Presbyterian had the possession arrow. Presbyterian had one last chance to send this game to overtime. And their was only one player on the Blue Hose you would consider to shoot that last shot. That would of course be Mutakabbir, who extended his college career on a big superhoop under pressure. Mutakabbir also came up just short of winning the game after intercepting the following in-bound pass by Antwon Oliver. But Presbyterian was still alive. You can see Matt Cayuela's video of Mutakabbir's clutch shot here.
But as is often the case, Presbyterian would not be alive much longer. Mutakabbir's college career, which started having to lead his team as a freshman while the Blue Hose were redshirting those ill-fated players, would only see five more minutes of action. After both teams traded baskets in the opening minute of OT, Campbell went on a 10-1 run to put the game away. The end of regulation was a dramatic Presbyterian success. But Campbell would win in an overtime that had no drama at all as Oliver and Marvelle Harris took over. The final result was an 81-73 Campbell win, and Presbyterian could not find the magic that Longwood had in the previous game. This would be it for Presbyterian's first Division I postseason.
But even though it was just one game, it was an experience the PC players will never forget. And I am sure Gregg Nibert was finally happy to be coaching in a Division I postseason game after coaching through the entire transitional phase as well as Presbyterian's final 18 seasons in Division II. And while Presbyterian loses Mutakabbir, they will be led by rising junior point guard Eric Washington who had a lot of postseason success previously at Keenan High School of Columbia. The Presbyterian Blue Hose can now have the same dream as everybody else in Division I. The reason we choose to be on this side of the Black Line is to aspire to one day take down the guys on the other side of the Red Line and compete for the same championships they do. For a long time, Presbyterian was able to pull off Red Line Upsets over the likes of Wake Forest, Auburn, and Cincinnati but could not compete in the same championships. Now Presbyterian can say that they have an approximately 0.0000001% chance at winning the national championship. And that dream is what Hoops Nation and Our Game is all about.
CAMPBELL 81, PRESBYTERIAN 73
PRESBYTERIAN 8-24 (4-12) -- E. Washington 3-5 6-7 12; K. Mutakabbir 6-14 3-4 19; J. Downing 5-10 0-0 10; J. Clyburn 6-6 4-8 16; R. McTavish 1-2 2-2 5; W. Truss 4-6 1-2 9; R. Hargrave 0-1 2-2 2; A. Anderson 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 25-47 18-25 73.
CAMPBELL 13-19 (7-9) -- T. Freeman 6-9 9-10 22; D. Hooker 2-8 1-2 5; A. Ryan 5-15 3-4 13; A. Oliver 3-7 3-3 9; M. Harris 7-12 1-2 15; D. Leonard 3-4 0-0 6; R. McCarter 2-4 5-7 9; T. Bremer 1-1 0-0 2; L. Leek 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 29-62 22-28 81.
Three-point goals: PRES 5-15 (R. Hargrave 0-1; K. Mutakabbir 4-8; J. Downing 0-1; R. McTavish 1-1; E. Washington 0-2; A. Anderson 0-2), CAMP 1-9 (A. Oliver 0-1; R. McCarter 0-1; M. Harris 0-1; A. Ryan 0-2; T. Freeman 1-2; D. Hooker 0-2); Rebounds: PRES 25 (J. Clyburn 6), CAMP 33 (R. McCarter 7); Assists: PRES 14 (E. Washington 10), CAMP 12 (T. Freeman 5); Total Fouls -- PRES 22, CAMP 21; Fouled Out: PRES-R. McTavish; CAMP-A. Oliver.
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