SAPAKOFF COLUMN: Louisville contrast too much for C of C — in realignment and football, too
The festive frenzy featured students who waited in an unprecedented line that extended from TD Arena doors a few blocks away down King Street. The College of Charleston crazies blasted Louisville head coach Rick Pitino from the opening tip Tuesday night and never let up.
Unfortunately for the Cougars throughout a muddy 80-38 loss to the No. 5 Cardinals, the contrast in style was too much.
Louisville pressed relentlessly and the ball-bobbling home team took too long to adjust.
“They played a bad game,” Pitino said, “we played a great game.”
Coincidentally, the teams mirrored the way their athletic departments have gone different ways on the slippery realignment map.
The Cardinals will fly South.
Coming soon: many return trips to the Carolinas for Atlantic Coast Conference games against the Tigers, Tar Heels, Blue Devils, Deacons and Wolfpack.
Pitino vs. his old nemesis Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium?
Louisville-Syracuse in the ACC tournament?
Cardinals at Clemson?
In football? Great move.
“I'm going to miss the Big East, but the Big East isn't the Big East anymore,” Pitino said. “I'm looking forward to the ACC. I'm 60 years old, but I've never been to Cameron, never been to Clemson, never been to Blacksburg.”
The Cougars — brrr — head North to Northeastern, Drexel and Hofstra. So long, Southern Conference.
Hello, Colonial Athletic Association.
Profit from the TD Arena sellout crowd of 5,117 probably will help defray CAA travel costs and give all Charleston head coaches their obligatory move-up-in-competition raises.
Few people left early, thanks to a hearty second-half effort. It wasn't enough to make up for Louisville's dynamic backcourt duo of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith outscoring the Cougars for much of the game.
“I never use the word mid-major,” Pitino said. “The College of Charleston is not a mid-major, and neither is Butler, and neither is Illinois State. This is one of the best small arenas in college basketball.”
There were some ESPNU classic moments for College of Charleston. Matt Sundberg drilled a long shot from the corner and had to run back between the Louisville sideline and the dapper Pitino.
Otherwise, the tussle frequently resembled football.
Pitino's rattle and hum defense has worked to the tune of 636 victories and a Basketball Hall of Fame reservation.
You have to admire College of Charleston head coach Doug Wojcik's persistent emphasis on rebounding and guarding. For instance, improving sophomore Adjehi Baru fought off various pursuing Cardinals for a precious offensive rebound in the second half, drew a foul and dropped two free throws.
But football isn't the preferred comparison to tough-guy basketball around the College of Charleston these days.
Louisville gained a unanimous ACC approval vote partly because of its respected football program, bound for the Sugar Bowl and a clash with Florida.
The College of Charleston awkwardly jumped to the CAA, limited in the realignment poker game without football chips.
Six prominent college athletic directors in South Carolina think the College of Charleston's move to the CAA is unwise.
The College of Charleston, despite its enrollment bulging over 10,400, is that rare non-football playing school in a football-mad state.
Maybe our state's oldest college has the smartest administrators.
It looked that way Tuesday night. Somehow, a little Southern Conference school got Rick Pitino's big-time Louisville Cardinals to show up, draw a raucous crowd and offer multiple contrast lessons.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff