Cougar Madness: Live Blogging CofC’s Big Dance

Cougar Madness: Live Blogging CofC’s Big Dance

Not making the trip to San Diego to see the Cougars take on Auburn in the first round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament this Friday?

No worries. The College of Charleston is sending a cadre of creatives out West to cover the basketball team’s trip – from boarding the bus on Meeting Street to what we hope will be an historic, bracket-busting run through the tournament. 

Check back here regularly for anecdotes, interviews, photos, videos and social shares. #CougarMadness


10:26 p.m., Friday, March 16

“Our guys played with a lot of heart and toughness. We left it all out on the court tonight.”

–CofC Head Coach Earl Grant.

 

8:26 p.m., Friday, March 16

6:30 p.m., Friday, March 16

The Cougars leave the hotel for Viejas Arena. Game time!

1:30 p.m., Friday, March 16

CofC in San Diego By the Numbers:

CofC West!

7 – Number of College of Charleston logo stickers plastered around the lobby of the Courtyard Marriott, the CofC host hotel in San Diego

13.65 – Cost in dollars of an Uber ride from CofC’s hotel to Viejas Arena, where the Cougars play tonight.

12,414 – Seating capacity of Viejas Arena, home of the San Diego State University Aztecs Men’s Basketball Team 

350 – Number of seats allotted to Cougar fans in the arena’s “S” section (located across the court from the Cougar’s bench)

10 – Number of NCAA basketball tournaments attended by CofC Athletics Director Matt Roberts

0 – Number of times Matt Roberts’ 10-month-old son Tucker has seen the Cougars lose a game

61 – Forecasted temperature in San Diego at game tipoff (7:27 EST)

 

10:15 a.m., Friday, March 16

Everett German knows that he will have a lot of people hanging on his every word tonight. And that’s OK with him.

As the play announcer for College of Charleston basketball, German is used to being the eyes and ears for CofC fans far and wide. Now in his third year as the “voice of the Cougars,” German says getting ready to call an NCAA tournament game is really no different than calling a regular season game. The only difference will be in the preparations.

“The fact that we have not played Auburn this year means that it will take a little more time to get ready for this game,” he says. “I’ll do a little bit of research by watching some film on Auburn and compiling stats on two sheets so that I don’t have to search for something during the broadcast.”

German says he’s spoken to several play-by-play colleagues for advice on tonight’s upcoming broadcast, including former CofC announcers Tony Ciuffo and Jeff McCarragher. “Basically, they told me to soak it all up, continue doing what you have been doing, don’t try to do too much and have fun.”

German’s radio broadcast of the College of Charleston/Auburn basketball game can be heard on ESPN Radio 94.7-FM/910-AM in Charleston. 

Everett German

Everett German

3:45 p.m., Thursday, March 15

Walking through the lobby of the Courtyard Marriott in San Diego, the host hotel for the College of Charleston, you hear a lot of people discussing and arguing about basketball brackets. But a new fight is bubbling to the surface, and it could even divide parts of Cougar Nation visiting San Diego this week. Call it “the burger wars.”

President McConnell is partial to In-N-Out Burger.

Battle lines are being drawn over which is the better burger joint in San Diego: In-N-Out Burger or Shake Shack.

In-N-Out Burger is a California tradition established in 1948. It’s a basic burger, fries and drink establishment that has a massive following on the West Coast. This is the choice of CofC President Glenn McConnell, Cougar Club President Jerry Baker and Cougar play-by-play radio announcer Everett German.

Shake Shack is the new kid in town. Based in New York, it has slowly migrated west. It features New York-style hotdogs, hamburgers, hotdogs, fries and its namesake milkshakes. 

Like a good match-up between a No. 8 seed and No. 9 seed, the burger wars features two worthy competitors. But eventually you need to pick a winner.

 

3 p.m., Thursday, March 15

Osinachi Smart

Osinachi Smart

It is strange to think that CofC redshirt freshman Osinachi Smart is not the only player from Umuahia, Nigeria, playing in the NCAA basketball tournament this year. It’s even stranger when you realize that he’s not even the only person in his family playing in the tournament this week.

Smart’s older brother, Ikenna Smart, is a forward for the University of Buffalo. The No. 13-seeded Buffalo Bulls will take on the No. 4-seeded Arizona Wildcats today in Boise, Idaho.

1:30 p.m., Thursday, March 15

Among the many Lowcountry residents who made the 2,462-mile trip from Charleston to San Diego this week for the NCAA Basketball Tournament is Mount Pleasant resident and longtime basketball analyst Debbie Antonelli.

Jarrell Brantley

Antonelli is a member of the truTV broadcast team for the College of Charleston/Auburn University game. Though she’s been covering college basketball for more than 30 years, Antonelli has never called a CofC game for a national audience. As she prepares to commentate on her hometown team, she’s been studying the Cougars more closely. And she’s impressed with what she has seen.

“They are very good in the backcourt with senior gritty guards” she says. “J.B. (Jarrell Brantley) also gives them an element that not many teams in the Colonial conference have.”

As for the College’s entry into the tournament after a 19-year absence, Antonelli says it’s a great moment for the entire Lowcountry.

“This is an exciting and wonderful time for the community of Charleston. Everyone feels like they are part of it. That is pretty much who Earl (Grant) is. He makes everyone feel like they are part of this success.”

 

12:15 p.m., Thursday, March 15

There’s a plane circling campus with a banner declaring “Go Cougs!” Cougar pride in the sky.

 

 

11:15 a.m., Thursday, March 15

The Cougars will get their first look at Viejas Arena this afternoon. Located on the campus of San Diego State University, the arena is where the College will play Auburn University in the Midwest regional of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.

The team will have an open practice at the arena at 4:55p.m. (PST). The Cougars will hold their first practice of the day at 10:30 a.m. this morning at the Jenny Craig Pavilion on the campus of the University of San Diego, where they also practiced Wednesday evening.

No word on the kind of food they serve in the concession stands at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.

 

6:40 p.m., Wednesday, March 14

The Cougars hold practice at Jenny Craig Pavillon on the campus of the University of San Diego. Photos by Mike Ledford

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3:38 p.m., Wednesday, March 14

CofC alumnus and television actor Matt Czuchry ’99 is expected to attend the Cougars’ game against Auburn in San Diego on Friday. When Czuchry attended a CofC game at TD Arena last season the Cougars won. No pressure, but we’re counting on you, Matt!

We’ll see Czuchry on campus again in May when he returns to his alma mater to deliver the Spring Commencement address.

3:38 p.m., Wednesday, March 14

The last time the Cougars were at the “Big Dance” was 1999. Watch some highlights from that basketball season in this video.

2:35 p.m., Wednesday, March 14

Debbie Antonelli
(Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

When the Cougars take the court against Auburn on Friday, CofC fans may see a familiar face on press row. Mount Pleasant resident Debbie Antonelli (@debbieantonelliwill be part of the broadcast team calling the game for truTV. A college basketball analyst for more than 30 years, Antonelli has covered the sport for ESPN, CBS, Raycom and Westwood One.

The other members of the truTV broadcast team are Carter Blackburn and John Schriffen.

 

1:50 p.m., Wednesday, March 14

Cougars Head Coach Earl Grant is staying busy with radio interviews this week. Here are two of the latest:

Sports Talk Radio Network

The Jim Rome Show

1:04 p.m., Wednesday, March 14

Otto German ’73

Beautiful story today by The Post and Courier’s Jeff Hartsell about CofC Assistant Athletics Director Otto German ’73. German, a Lowcountry native who was the second black student-athlete to receive a full basketball scholarship to the College, is in San Diego with the team this week. An excerpt from the article:

Three months after the death of his wife of 44 years, Albertha, on Christmas Day, German has watched with pride as the Cougars’ first black men’s basketball coach, Earl Grant, led College of Charleston back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 19 years.

“I am proud,” said German, who will accompany the team to San Diego for Friday’s first-round game with Auburn. “Earl is an African-American, and I never thought I’d live to see this.

“Everybody thinks Earl is the College’s first African-American coach, but in fact (former women’s basketball coach) Natasha Adair was the first. But with both of them, it was long overdue.”

 

12:15 p.m., Wednesday, March 14

Auburn Men’s Basketball Head Coach Bruce Pearl isn’t taking the Cougars lightly, according to the Auburn sports website AU Now. Referring to the high-scoring trio of Joe Chealey, Grant Riller and Jarrell Brantley as a “three-headed monster,” Pearl said his team’s defense could be the key to the game.

“It’s all about matchups with them. They’ve got three players that can one-on-one go by you at any time,” Pearl said. “So our ability to defend, and defend better than we’ve been defending, is going to be a real key to our ability to advance.”

 

11 a.m., Wednesday, March 14

How excited is Cougar Nation for the basketball team’s return to the Big Dance? So far, 19 CofC alumni chapters around the country – and in London – have organized local “watch parties” for Friday’s game. Watch parties are being organized for Atlanta, Charleston, Chicago, Dallas, Florence/Pee Dee, Triangle/Raleigh/Durham, Houston, London (UK), Nashville, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Upstate/Greenville, Washington, DC, and New York City, Asbury Park (NJ), Charlotte (NC), Las Vegas and Savannah.

Cougars fans in the Lowcountry are invited to a game-watch party in TD Arena.

7 p.m., Tuesday, March 13

The road to the Final Four begins with a single step. That single step was taken tonight as the men’s basketball team stepped onto the plane for a flight to San Diego, the site for the first round of the Midwest Regionals of NCAA tournament. As the sun was setting in Charleston, the team, cheerleaders, family members and fans boarded the chartered 737 jet for the five hour flight to San Diego. 

The long flight afforded the players some downtime to listen to music, watch movies, do some homework or to try to get some sleep. 

The first-round game against Auburn University may be days away, but already the players and coaching staffing are focused at the task at hand: As senior and team captain Joe Chealey said after Selection Sunday, the Cougars are happy to be in the tournament, but their mission is to win games.

The Cougars board a chartered 737 jet for the five hour flight to San Diego on Tuesday evening. Photo by Mike Ledford.

5:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 13

The basketball team, staff and coaches begin boarding busses on Meeting Street outside TD Arena for the trip to Charleston International Airport. A smattering of students, faculty, staff and fans lined the sidewalk to wish the players well.