Basketball To The Max: On The Road For Conference Tourneys


Our man Max G. is on the road watching a whole lot of hoops. He’s starting in Charleston for the CAA conference tourney, then headed to Brooklyn for the ACC Tournament. He’ll update musings from the road–and mostly from the arena–here and on Twitter @maxgongaware
Day 5, Travel Day
Today is a travel day for me. No basketball, unfortunately. I got home from Charleston at about 2 o’clock this morning. I’m putting in a good 6-7 hours of work in at my real job today and then it’s wheels up to Laguardia Airport this evening. My plan is to be one of the first people inside the Barclays Center around 10:30 tomorrow morning. I’m looking forward to joining the rest of the SC8 team and providing some energy off the bench when I get up there!
Day 4, CAA Finals
I wrote the other day about how much I love watching four games in one day during a basketball tournament, but there’s also something to be said about the day of the Championship Game. The first few days of the Tournament, you’re spending basically ALL of your time in the arena watching basketball. The day of the Championship Game finally gives you a chance to explore the city you’re in. It’s a long day leading up to one game.
I spent most of my Championship Monday exploring the city of Charleston. I visited some parks, walked along King Street and Calhoun Street, found a place to eat some lunch, looked at some cool houses, and eventually decided to settle in at a local coffee shop and get some writing done.
The Championship Game started at 7pm. A matchup of the CAA’s highest scoring team (UNCW) and stingiest defensive team (College of Charleston). It was announced crowd of over 6,000 at the North Charleston Coliseum, easily the largest of the Tournament. It was a great Championship environment, especially when you consider that they were playing at the home arena for the South Carolina Stingrays, a Minor League Hockey affiliate of the Washington Capitals. What would they know about providing a Championship atmosphere?
UNCW showed yet again that they have a lot of different guys that can hurt you on any given night. I really think they could be a dangerous team in the big dance. If I’m a 5- or 6-seed, I certainly don’t want to see them.
One cool thing about Conference Tournaments for the smaller, “one-bid” conferences… it’s really cool to see the pure jubilation from the team and their fans when they clinch that automatic bid. I call it a “Cathartic Moment of Happiness.” Barring something unexpected, the ACC Tournament Championship Game won’t feature that kind of pure joy. It’ll feature a team that wins and a team that loses, but the losing team will still most likely get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Last night, UNCW won, the students that made the trip to Charleston stormed the floor, and it was really fun to watch.
Day 3, CAA Semifinals
Semi-final Sunday featured a matchup of the CAA’s top two scoring teams (UNCW and William & Mary) followed by a matchup of the CAA’s stingiest defenses (College of Charleston and Towson). Game one didn’t disappoint, as UNCW beat W&M 105-94. UNCW has a LOT of guys that can make shots. Plus they have the CAA’s defensive player of the year in Devontae Cacok (who also happens to shoot about 80% from the floor). If they’re hot, I can definitely see them making an NCAA Tourney run (they’ve gotta win the CAA Tourney first, obviously).
CofC/Towson was ugly until it wasn’t. Both teams were shooting around 30% for most of the game. Towson built up a decent lead, but College of Charleston (specifically Joe Chealey) got hot late and won 67-59.
Since 9-seed Delaware beat 8-seed Hofstra in the Tournament’s opening game, we’ve seen nothing but chalk throughout the rest of the tournament.
Should be a fun Championship Game tonight at 7pm in front of a national audience on the CBS Sports Network. UNCW has easily had the largest “out-of-town” crowd all Tournament long, while College of Charleston has predictably had a “home court” (the North Charleston Coliseum is not where they normally play, but is still pretty close to campus) advantage in both of their games.
Day 2, CAA Quarterfinals
There is nothing in the world that I love more than four basketball games in one day in a Tournament setting. Nothing. The venue becomes your home for the day. It’s peak people-watching, as eight different fan bases (also important: eight different pep bands) come through the building. The section you’re seated in becomes your new family. You learn to be amicable with all the other fan bases (ok maybe not ALL the other fan bases). You get to listen to super fans from around the league spew information about players you never knew existed. I now know more about Northeastern’s CJ Williams (the CAA player of the year) than I ever thought possible. Oh, and you get to watch four basketball games.
The other day, somebody asked me if I’m a “beach” or a “mountains” guy. I wasn’t sure how to answer. I don’t have a particular affinity for either. Which is more likely to host a conference basketball tournament?
North Carolina note: North Carolina teams went 1-1 on the day. UNCW ran past Delaware to advance to the semi-finals. My Elon Phoenix led William & Mary for the majority of the day, but forgot how to offense down the stretch and dropped a heartbreaker. As an Elon alum and self-named Super Fan, it’s hard not to be optimistic about the future of Elon hoops. In just three years in the CAA, they’ve come a long way, finishing above .500 in league play for the first time this season. They had only one senior this season that played consistent, valuable minutes (Luke Eddy) and he wasn’t even a starter. Obviously, there are some other forces to be reckoned with in the CAA, but I’ve gotta think Elon has a chance to do some big things in the next couple of seasons. Look out!
Non-North Carolina notes: Towson beat Northeastern. College of Charleston sent home the CAA’s best pep band by beating James Madison.
Day 1, CAA opening round
The Colonial Athletic Association’s Conference Tournament got started yesterday with a couple of play-in games. Since neither of yesterday’s games featured a team from North Carolina (take a lesson NC State and Wake Forest), I figured it makes the most sense for the Day 1 journal to be about Colonialism. The staff at SportsChannel8 sent me down to Charleston because I’m their guy when it comes to the intersection of sports and the second half of the 1700s (also because I’m an Elon alum and I happened to be attending this tournament anyway).
The first game of the day featured 8-seed Hofstra and 9-seed Delaware fighting for the right to play top-seeded UNCW on Day 2. Delaware has the conference’s Rookie of the year in Ryan Daly and he didn’t disappoint, scoring 17 points in the first half and 27 for the game, along with 11 rebounds. How does this intersect with Colonialism? Well, Delaware was, of course, the first state to ratify the US Constitution in 1787. Yesterday, they became the first team to record a win in the 2017 CAA Tournament. History!
The second game of the night featured 7-seed James Madison and 10-seed Drexel. Drexel jumped out to an early lead and clearly frustrated James Madison offensively. Their frustration turned into some aggressive arguments with the referees. JMU was whistled for THREE technical fouls in the first half. Their head coach, Louis Rowe, was called for two of those techs, which resulted in his ejection. Historical Note: James Madison University is named after a guy named James Madison (imagine that), one of this country’s founding fathers. Madison is perhaps best known for being the author of the Bill of Rights–the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution. Madison’s first amendment included protection of free speech (among other things). Maybe it’s ironic, then, that the very school that honors the man who invented “free speech” was whistled for three techs while trying to speak their minds.
Stay tuned into SC8 today, as CAA action brings us two games featuring NC teams. UNCW will play Delaware at noon and Elon plays William & Mary at 2:30.