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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Most Unkindest Cut of All

Chances are, you have an ex. And if you do, it's likely that person still knows how to cut you the deepest, even months or years later.

Louisville is that ex.

In the strongest year in USF basketball history, our women's team went to the tournament as a 6 seed and in the round of 32 met the Louisville Cardinals. While I don't have the stats to back this up, it wouldn't surprise me if Louisville is our most faced opponent. After all, we've been conference foes in the Metro, Conference USA, and the Big East/American. And while familiarity can breed contempt, I've personally thought of Louisville as an amicable foe, unlike my blinding hatred for Rutgers and intense annoyance at C. Florida. So when the Cards' card was pulled and they got the callup to the ACC, I was generally happy for them. They were the best choice and I wished them well.

Fast forward to last night. Through a scheduling anomaly - Louisville hosting first and second (yeah I said it) round action in the men's tournament - the Cardinals had to travel to Tampa to face the Bulls on what I'm told was a raucous home court. In the waning moments of the game, the home crowd, ever supportive of a team that was soon to succumb to the higher seed, began a chant of U-S-F. The Cardinal faithful had a rebuttal. Not U-of-L. Not C-A-R-D-S CARDS.

A-C-C.

Ouch.

Conference chants aren't new, nor is conference pride. But this was more than that and they knew it. This wasn't conference pride, this was every bit of "we made it, and you didn't." It stung. And it stung most because it's true. I immediately dismissed it as boorish and new-money of them, but the fact of the matter is, they kicked us right where it counts. The chant cut us down exactly as it was intended to.

I'd be remiss if I didn't include positive denouement. It was said that the chant was started by the Louisville pep band. That made it a bit tougher - and in my opinion, a tad inappropriate, as they are an official representative of U of L athletics. To their credit - and full disclosure, I've become friendly with their Twitter presence - they owned up to it and apologized to the team, band, and athletic department.




I wish them well in the Sweet Sixteen. But in case you forgot: Birds don't have teeth.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

It's a Celebration

While its existence may have been the worst-kept secret since January, It has now been officially announced that the MEAC and SWAC champions will play one another in what has been dubbed the Celebration Bowl. With all respect due to Tennessee State, the CIAA, and the SIAC, the Celebration Bowl seeks to accomplish what the Heritage Bowl before it rarely did: a black college football national champion.

A challenge to previous matchups between MEAC and SWAC champions has been the MEAC's participation in the FCS playoffs. The decision to forego that participation is an interesting one: On the one hand, except for the possibility of Tennessee State or a MEAC at-large bid, the move pretty much guarantees that HBCUs will be absent from the FCS playoffs. But the Celebration Bowl offers the opportunity for a MEAC school to do what has only happened once in the FCS playoffs: be called a champion. It's a judgment call that may have no right answer: Save for dynastic runs that have involved victories over FBS programs (Appalachian State, North Dakota State) the general media cycle ignores the FCS champion - much less the playoffs - outright. Will the fate be any different for black college football's champion?

The Celebration Bowl will be held on December 19 in the Georgia Dome. The venue is interesting because while there are no schools located there, Atlanta reads to me solidly as a MEAC city, at least when compared to the SWAC. Atlanta's role as a de facto black capital plays into this, and it already hosts major HBCU events in the Atlanta Football Classic and the Honda Battle of the Bands. But Atlanta also serves as a crossover market: Home to the SEC Championship, Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl, and the College Football Hall of Fame, which served as the venue for today's announcement.

At present, the MEAC enjoys what could be another advantage: While the SWAC championship game will take place just two weeks before the Celebration Bowl, the MEAC will have ended its season back in November. No telling if in future years, the MEAC will look to extend its schedule or even add a championship game of its own.

Finally - and this wouldn't be 80 Minutes of Regulation if I didn't go there - the Celebration Bowl festivities will no doubt include a battle of the bands. In fact, both because both conferences host major classics and the Georgia Dome hosts other major football events, some care will need to be taken to ensure this game isn't just another from one of those ranks. It will be interesting to see how the event organizers - notable among them, ESPN - create the full atmosphere of the on-the-field black college football national championship.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Godspeed, ACC Tournament

That which I once called a twitrospective has taken on new life, and has come to be a roundup of the various types of social media I engage in. This past week, I attended the first two rounds of the ACC men's basketball tournament, and here's what I had to say across platforms:
Since then, the Coliseum has gone silent. Last night, conference newcomer and part-timer Notre Dame took home the championship, and save for games vs. UNCG or neutral site tilts to rally the Triad base, ACC men's basketball won't grace the arena until 2020.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Gone Baby Gone

Tournament Town is about to be short a tournament.
I spent today at opening day of the 2015 ACC men's basketball tournament, the last of its type to be held in Greensboro for five years. Knowing the tournament isn't long for this city is bittersweet, and while it's probably in the ACC's interest in a lot of ways to court a larger market. my interest lies with Greensboro, not the league, and I hate to see them go. i see the next decade or so for the ACC playing out like so: The next five have already been slated: 2016 will be in DC, 2017 and 2018 in Brooklyn, and 2019 goes to Charlotte before returning to Greensboro in 2020.

In the half decade to follow, I predict we'll see Brooklyn again, if only to keep their eye across the bridge. The south gets a nod, probably in the form of Atlanta, especially since the SEC would return after 2025 at the earliest. We may even see them throw a bone to the northern/western contingent of the conference, in the form of, say, Pittsburgh.

I think it come back home to Greensboro in 2025, not unlike the every-five-years schedule the NCAA has with their home base in Indianapolis. We may even get it in 2026.

And it will be the last time we see it.

Why 2026? It's in that magical year that the reportedly ironclad contract between the conference that calls itself the Big East and Madison Square Garden is up. Knowing the Garden is in the habit of long term contracts, I foresee the ACC signing on the dotted line in Manhattan and never looking back.

I'd love to be wrong about this, but I think the attraction between the east coast's premier league and the east coast's premier city will be too strong.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hindsight

They say a dog is always happy to see you when you come home.

It's fitting, then, that my wife and I, both UMBC alumni, were welcomed with open arms when we headed back to campus last weekend for the 2015 Spirit Groups Alumni Day. I made the trip alone two years ago (the destination of my 2013 Basketbinge) but this time we made a family trip out of it, spending the weekend with my in-laws.

While I wasn't there in the very beginning, I joined the Down and Dirty Dawg Band in just its second year of existence, meaning that the folks gathered there, especially when I come through as the designated old guy, span nearly the entire history of the organization. There were members I had met on the last trip, others I had connected with on social media, still others who shared the stands with me during my time in the band. And among us all, and even those to whom I never spoke a word, there was as shared experience, a pride in the teams we support (even the one that would move from three to four wins on the season that day) but just as importantly, in ourselves, a band that is routinely mentioned by television announcers and regarded at the top of our conference. Head men's basketball coach Aki Thomas and assistant coach and former player Jay Greene even came and spoke at our bruncheon, a mere hour an a half before tipoff. The fact that they would take such a break from a gameday routine to address us all - and while my experience was with the pep band, the day included the dance team, cheerleaders/tumblers, and Fever Retrievers as well - shows that they support us right back.

Musically, I spend a few tunes on drumset, including my once-signature Sing Sing Sing, and while I ain't as good as I once was, I can still get by. I also got to jam out some with the rest of the rhythm section, some of which made it to the ESPN3 broadcast. And while my son stayed with his grandparents, my daughter got to enjoy campus with us and even hang out with "the doggie".




If I had known that the snow that arrived while we were on campus would make a 25 mile trek around the beltway take three hours, we might not have gone. If I had known we'd return to Greensboro to the gushing water of burst pipes, we might not have gone. But while both of those were unfortunate, I'm glad I was able to return home.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

#marchbandness

March is once again upon us. If you're in the northeast - or hell, most of the rest of the country - you're awaiting the coming of spring and some respite from what's been quite a winter. But for college hoops fans, it means the coming of another season - the postseason. Regular seasons are wrapping up, conference tournaments are on deck, and one thing is clear: It's time for March Madness.

For me, conference tournament season began in the Northeast Conference, during my undergraduate days at UMBC. As a resident of Tournament Town, we're typically talking ACC - both men's and women's - here. I've made the trip up the mountain to the SoCon tournament in Asheville, and at least been in the neighborhood of CIAA and MEAC festivities. Greensboro's also no stranger to actual NCAA action, having served as a first and second round site for the men and this year hosting a regional for the women.

For years ago, relatively deep in to the 2011 tournament, I started using the not particularly clever but concise hashtag #marchbandness. I realized quickly that there's also a radio station that uses that tag for a bracket style band showdown they run. So for the last couple of years, I've pondered switching to something that's not in use. Trouble is, I've got nothing. Nothing else so succinctly and perfectly relates to the pep bands of the postseason. So I'm done hemming and hawing. #marchbandness is here to stay. So while you're taking in your conference tournaments or NCAA action live in the arena or at home on TV, drop a #marchbandness to let them know you're paying attention!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Here's to Wake Forest

I've actually been holding this one close to the vest since it came to my attention. This makes me, I suppose, a horrible journalist, but a formidable confidante. I'll take that.

NightBEAT, the annual Tour of Champions event put on by Carolina Crown, has been relocated from Charlotte to Winston-Salem at BB&T Field, home stadium of Wake Forest football. As a previous ticket purchaser, I was invited about a month ago to take a brief survey gauging interest and likelihood of attendance in the event that NightBEAT were to make that move. I knew then it was a strong possibility, and sure enough, word came out on Friday that Winston would be the event's 2015 home.

I couldn't be more thrilled.

NightBEAT is typically a nearly two hour trek for me from my home in Greensboro. Not bad, to be sure, but the 45 minutes to Winston is far better. And while it's virtually home for me, it is home for friends of mine - and my usual NightBEAT crew - who work for a high school band there. In fact, there's a good chance they'll be a host site. I've longed for a drum corps show to make it here to the Triad, and now, even if it's a one year engagement, one is coming.

As for Wake Forest, I'm no stranger. Having good friends who are Florida State alumni, I've been there about every other year when the Noles come to town. I've already got my tailgate spot and everything. In fact, with a shorter trip, local friends, and my daughter being four and more up to a longer day, we may indeed return to the lot after a few years' hiatus before this one.

What's more, there's an undercard to the news that could otherwise go overlooked. While NightBEAT will feature the Tour of Champions' usual suspects, this year's event will also include the Madison Scouts. My only - albeit minor - qualm with my closest show being a TOC event has been that it doesn't give me the opportunity to see anyone outside of that group of corps. I'm glad the men of Madison will be making the trek this time around.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Talladega Nights

Perhaps it was expressed in their opening salvo from this year's Bacchus: They live for the applause.



I can sheepishly admit that when Talladega College was invited to this year's Honda Battle of the Bands, I needed a refresher on exactly who they were. Perhaps more accurately, I needed a fresher; the Marching Tornadoes were, after all, in just their third season at the time of the invitation. While I'm well-versed in the bands of the MEAC, SWAC, CIAA, and SIAC, Talladega hails from the NAIA's Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. But despite that, the college of just 1,500 students located a dozen miles south of the eponymous superspeedway fields a band that has been turning heads since they stepped on the scene.

I've made the metaphor before in other venues, but is the Marching Tornadoes Boise State of black college marching? Fans would tell you they took it to Southern at last year's Bacchus during Mardi Gras (Human Jukebox members would quickly point out it wasn't their full band) and in the video above, they seemed to serve up all the 'Box could handle this year as well. While both bands pull from a diverse repertoire, opening an HBCU battle of the bands with Lady Gaga is certainly a bit of a Statue of Liberty play. And like Boise State, Dega has been consistently punching above its weight. The only thing that remains to be seen is if they have the longevity to continue playing with the big boys.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Long Haul

I'm nothing if not consistent, it seems.

As a denizen of Tournament Town, I've been fixated on the ACC basketball tournaments - moreso the men's - since I made the mental switch to basketball when football ended. With a recently expanded conference tournament, I found myself wondering if schools that in the opening day - especially those who have to travel some distance - would send their pep bands. Turns out I've wondered that sort of thing before.

This year adds an additional wrinkle. To move the championship game off of Selection Sunday, the tournament will now tip off on a Tuesday, adding another weekday into the mix for bands that begin in the opening round and continue to advance. Again, I wonder: If you're in last place in the conference and making the trip from Chestnut Hill - Boston College's lot in life if the season ended today - do you send the pep band? Here's hoping.
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