Sights and Sounds from Day 1 of the Big South Tourney

The VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Basketball tournament is being held this week inside the HTC Center on the campus of Coastal Carolina University, but you already knew this. The Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce has spent months promoting the event within the local market and in the 12 markets of the participating schools. Here are a few thoughts from day 1.

The Atmosphere

It’s apparent from the moment you walk towards the HTC Center that this is no ordinary event along the Grand Strand. Before you even enter the doors, you’ll find a huge custom built Myrtle Beach/Big South/ESPN sand castle sitting near the entrance. Just to the right of the castle is a fan zone complete with bouncy houses and even a basketball goal to get in some warmup shots before entering the center. Once inside, the fans, cheerleaders, bands, mascots, and competition provide a level of entertainment that exceeds the price of admission. Simply put, everyone involved with this production has gone all out to impress, and impress they do. Proportionately, the Big South Tournament matches up with any of the major conference tournaments.

Overtime? Did someone say  Overtime?

Day one started with a bang. In the opening matchup, Radford and Winthrop took overtime to decide a winner, with Winthrop coming out ahead due to a successful layup with 1.5 seconds left. It would just be a hint of what the day would bring.

In the second game of the day, conference newcomer Longwood defeated two time defending champion UNC-Asheville in a shocker.

Game three of the day saw Presbyterian College come back from a miserable first half performance to force Campbell University into the second overtime of the day, off another late game shot. A steal with 4 seconds left almost produced the play of the tournament when Presbyterian stole the inbounds pass and got up a shot from the half court line that bounced off the backboard and produced a collective sigh from the crowd. Campbell would go on to win in OT, but Presbyterian made them earn it.

All of this seemed insignificant when compared to the energy of the crowd when Coastal shot out to an 8-0 lead to open the nightcap. Inside the sold out HTC Center, it seemed that  nearly everyone received the memo that this would be a CCU home game.

Team Ambassadors provide a local link

Each team during the tournament is assigned a “Team Ambassador” for the length of their stay. Campbell University was contacted well before their arrival by their local connection Chad Smith. Smith, who is heavily involved with the Beach Ball Classic and knows the importance of hospitality, is the 24 hour support person for the Campbell Camels. He’ll schedule meal locations, be available to answer any questions, and has even setup extra practice dates for the team while they are in town.

Did the Big South shuffle the schedule to accommodate CCU?

Indeed they did. Plenty of fans were upset because the pre tournament bracket had the seedings playing at different times than the final schedule. Dinner plans were made, arrival times were planned, and then just days before the tournament began, it all changed. The Big South had apparently changed things around so that the “Home” team Chanticleers played the later game, thereby increasing attendance. Message boards from different media outlets blasted the Big South. But what those people failed to realize is that it is standard policy for the Big South to give the host school the option of when they would like to play. This is the policy for all sports, not just basketball. The Big South didn’t do anything differently than they had done for every other tournament they put on. Every school knew this coming in, but apparently very few fans did.

Alternating Days

With the Men’s and Women’s tournaments both being held inside the HTC Center, the event will alternate days for participants. The women take the court tomorrow, followed by the men on Thursday, women on Friday, Saturday semifinals for both and finals for both tournaments on Sunday.

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