GREENVILLE, SC – This weekend I witnessed the 2001 Mountain Dew Southern Conference Basketball Championships from the grocery store arena, otherwise known as the Bi-Lo Center. In all, the tournament, hosted by Greenville and produced by the Southern Conference, was a success despite the negative returns in the pocketbooks of many involved.
This year’s tournament saw the early exit of its number one seeds; East Tennessee State was ousted by Georgia Southern, and the perennial powerhouse College of Charleston was sent packing by the near-Cinderella Davidson College Wildcats. The quarterfinal round dismissal of the Bucs and Cougars had many involved with the tournament concerned about the monetary well-being of the nation’s oldest conference tournament, and with good reason.
Sunday’s championship attendance, which pitted the Spartans of UNC Greensboro against the south divisions Chattanooga Mocs, was smaller than C of C’s quarterfinal match-up against Davidson.
Conference officials were also worried about the NCAA play-in game, which puts the sixth-fourth and sixth-fifth seeds in to the tournament against each other in Dayton, Ohio next Tuesday. The RPI ratings of both Chattanooga and Greensboro aren’t the best in the world, so they are concerned for good reason.
But in the end, the tournament ended with a bang. Chattanooga, trailing by one after G’s Courtney Eldridge missed a free throw, drove the length of the floor to score a lay-up with 2.6 seconds remaining. The tally seemed to have the Mocs dancing into the tourney. However, their premature celebration was deflated only 2.2 seconds later as a right-handed David Schuck sank a left-handed runner in the lane with .4 seconds.
Mass hysteria. Greensboro fans jumping out of the stands only to be met with the stiff right arms of event staff security. Jubilation from all of Greensboro’s players, and me right in the middle of it.
Did you happen to catch the white T-shirts and navy blue hats being donned by the champions? Well, those were handed out myself amidst the dancing and partying of Spartan players.
All in all, the tournament was good. The move to Charleston, which can’t really be helped due to contract law, etc., couldn’t come at a worse time.
Making HeadlinesWestern Carolina turned the heads of many people this weekend at the SoCon tournament. For one, USA Today featured a picture of sophomore Kori Hatcher gliding down the lane for two points in the win over The Citadel. Featured in the background of the picture were two members of “THE” FANS who made quite an impression on the tournament in their own right.
That’s not where it ends, however. The subhead stated, “Southern Conferences’ worst team (6-25)…”
In Sunday’s Greenville paper, the Greenville News, the WCU Cathouse band was featured as having the best attire of all the bands that were present. They forgot to mention, though, that they also are simply the best band in the conference.
Just like High SchoolAfter three days of competition both at the Bi-Lo Center and Furman’s Timmons Arena, Championship Sunday had a high school flavor. How, you ask? Both Chattanooga and UNC Greensboro had teams in the finals competing for the titles. So, Sunday started out with the Mocs completing their season by defeating UNCG by one, with the finale going the way of the G in another one-point spectacle.
Yet, I couldn’t help but be reminded of sitting in my old high school gym watching our varsity boys and girls playing back-to-back games.
NIT Bound?Reports out of both Columbia and Charleston state that the College of Charleston is clinging to hopes of receiving a National Invitational Tournament bid. The stories said that Cougar head coach John Kresse was lobbying for a bid into the nation’s older, yet less- publicized tourney, pushing the North Charleston Coliseum, the site of next year’s SoCon championships, as a host venue.
Kresse also stated that his team would practice in preparation for the NIT all this week.
Sorry, Coach, losing to fourth-seeded Davidson at the end of the regular season and in the tournament will not get you anything but a tee time on Hilton Head Island. So, Coach, until next season: Sand traps and water hazards…
Cleanup on Aisle 4Following the semifinal match-up between Greensboro and Davidson College, a fight ensued in the ironically named “cooling-off” area. Apparently DC coach Bob McKillop and Greensboro player Luke Boythe had to be separated by conference officials, including WCU’s own Fred Cantler.
According to sources, Boythe and several other Spartan players were making statements during the post-game handshakes that didn’t sit well with McKillop. Then, once off the floor, sources stated that Boythe said something else to the Davidson coach that sent him into the frenzy.
Quotes from the Tourney“You people are nuts!” -an event security staff member commenting on the Cathouse Band.
“Come on guys… Play some f***ing defense!” -UNCG guard Courtney Eldridge shouting at his teammates during the Greensboro-Davidson semifinal game on Saturday
“Dis-quali-fied! Dis-quali-fied!” -Chattanooga fans in response to a GSU player fouling out during Saturday’s semi-finals. The chant refers to the final regular-season match-up between UTC and GSU when the Eagle head coach called the Chattanooga PA announcer an A-hole, following the announcer’s statement “And he is disqualified,” after every Eagle player fouled out.