Wednesday, May 23, 2007

MEAC Attack

Yes, a day late, oops. Crazy week at the Pun City HQ.

Trip Recap #6 - March 6th, 5th day of the trip. This would be the longest planned day of the trip, starting in Richmond, proceeding to Durham (to visit Duke University), Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill), and eventually Raleigh (NC State's home stadium, hosting the MEAC); then heading back up to Richmond for the night (so I wouldn't need to change hotels and the drive to Atlantic City on March 7th would be manageable).

The drive from Richmond to North Carolina is pretty cool actually. Lots of wooded areas, relaxing drive for the morning.

This blog first headed to Durham, which was awesome. Really a cool campus to visit. School was in session, and the place was pretty full. Krzyzewskiville was not full of students though, since Duke didn't have any more home games remaining. This blog, as a huge fan of the Duke program, was in awe for the whole Durham visit. Of course, the best part was walking around Cameron Indoor Stadium. Certainly the coolest college hoops venue this blog has ever visited, and this blog can't really imagine finding a better spot. The only arenas that would even be in the ballpark might be Philadelphia's Palestra or Oregon's McArthur Court.

Throughout Cameron Indoor, entrances to the seating bowl were blocked with drawn shades declaring "Closed Practice". This blog was able to see through a couple of the gaps between the shade and wall, and noticed one player was wearing a jersey that said "Howard" on the front. This blog figured that it was Duke practicing, but because it was fairly late in the season, they were letting players wear their high school jerseys to practice. Upon further review, this blog noticed that all of the players were wearing Howard jerseys. This blog racked its brain for a while, eventually realizing that Durham is very close to Raleigh, and this blog was going to be watching a Howard game later that day. This blog had stumbled across Howard's final walk-through before their postseason began.

The Duke team shop was awesome too, Pun City got itself a tie there. It was around lunchtime, so this blog grabbed McDonald's at the Duke student union. Very cool union, the McDonald's was decorated with an old basketball floor, signed by members of maybe the 2003? men's and women's teams. Also, Daniel Ewing's McDonald's All-American Game jersey, autographed by the entire high school All-American team, hung in a display next to the counter. Awesome McDonald's.

Was able to watch some ESPN in the union, it was good to get a national perspective in the middle of the trip, this blog occasionally will lose sight of the rest of the country when it's in the midst of a specific tournament or three.

After the Durham visit, on to Chapel Hill. This blog parked in a remote lot, for visitors, which was fine except it ended up being on about the exact opposite end of campus from the Dean Dome. After an exceedingly long walk in the relatively warm North Carolina sun. Fortunately the UNC Bookstore was on the way, but this blog wasn't really in the market for any UNC gear, and they didn't have any really cool items that this blog had to have.

The Dean Dome was a good building. Large (probably 3' by 5') team pictures of every NCAA, NIT champion, or nationally ranked team were posted around the entire concourse. This blog couldn't get onto the court, since they fold up the first 10 rows of bleachers when the court isn't in use. Normally this wouldn't be enough to stop Pun City, but there was a crew working on the floor when this blog stopped in, so the combination kept this site off the court.

On to the evening and back to some games. This blog went to the RBC Center to watch the opening few games of the MEAC tournament. There were going to be 2 sessions this day, the first of which featured women's games, and the later session featuring men's games. This blog had tried to order tickets ahead of time but was dubious of Ticketmaster's claims that one would only need 1 ticket for both sessions. This blog was suspect of the claim because most tournaments don't work that way, and even the MEAC was charging separate admission for different sessions after this group of games. For this reason, (and this blog's belief that the games weren't hot sellers - online this blog could have gotten 3rd row seats only a week before the game), Pun City planned to walk up and buy tickets.

This blog pulled in to the RBC lot, and asked the attendants if Pun City could park until the end of the night session without having to leave and come back. The attendants were at first confused, but after Pun City assured them this blog's wasn't trying to park it overnight, they were cool and said to "Have fun." They seemed a little surprised that this blog was there at all. This blog soon found out what the strange encounter was about.

This blog walked up to buy tickets, and indeed you could buy one ticket for both sessions that day. The first session was about halfway over, but that was fine with Pun City since it was women's games. A ticket was 8 bucks. That was stunning, 8 bucks for 4 games. Oh yeah, and it was a 3rd row seat at halfcourt. This was a very good start.

This blog walked into the seating bowl, checked out the NC State and Carolina Hurricanes banners, and found its seat. The place was fairly empty, about like the Mid-Con during its women's games in 2006, except this arena was much larger so it seemed even more sparse than it was. This blog thinks that the strange reaction from the parking attendants was for the following reason: Pun City appeared to be the only white guy there that wasn't either working or playing. Pun City didn't think it was that big of a deal, and realistically there should have been a lot more people there in general, but sort of a cool experience.

RBC Center's food was pretty expensive, and this blog had a very difficult time finding a MEAC shirt. After about 3 walks around the whole concourse, this blog finally noticed a vendor setting out some MEAC shirts, and this was a great relief since this blog really likes to "prove" its attendance at each tournament by getting a shirt to commemorate the stop.

Some interesting notes from the two men's games:

1. The in-house DJ played a remix of Ashlee Simpson's "Pieces of Me," which was danced to by each cheerleading squad.

2. Hampton's band played the theme song from "The Family Guy," and "Glory Hallelujah"

3. Hampton was up 19 with 18:38 left and ended up winning big over Howard.

4. Bethune Cookman played Coppin State in the nightcap, and Bethune Cookman had a really scary mascot.

5. Coppin State had a player named Ethan Kennedy. Unlike his college, Kennedy was not historically black.

6. Coppin State was up 8 with 6:20 left. This blog decided to take off mainly based on the dwindling sleep window and the long drive ahead the next morning. Luckily, the rule held and Coppin pulled out the win.

7. Unfortunately, everyone's favorite conference mascot, Meackie, was not on hand.

A long drive back to Richmond at night concluded the night. The Atlantic 10 was on tap for the next day, and a long drive from Richmond to Atlantic City preceeding it.

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