Bracketology blackout for CofC in CAA

College of Charleston's Joe Chealey blocks the shot of William & Mary's Terry Tarpey during the Cougars' 80-72 upset victory Thursday at TD Arena. Charleston is last in the CAA with a 2-9 conference record. Paul Zoeller/Staff

The College of Charleston is best known for two decades: The 1770s (roots that predate the Declaration of Independence) and the 1990s (basketball tradition forged with four NCAA Tournament and two NIT appearances under John Kresse).

But legacy has limitations. There is no Tomb of the Unknown Huguenot on campus, and the present-day Cougars go with March Madness conversation like antebellum ESPN3.

Even with a nice John Kresse Court victory over William & Mary on Thursday night, the College of Charleston remains in last place in the Colonial Athletic Association going into Saturday’s home game against Drexel.

What a difference a conference makes.

In the CAA, the Cougars are 2-9 (7-17 overall) after going 6-10 (14-18 overall) last season, their first in the league after bolting the Southern Conference.

In the SoCon, the Cougars clearly would have challenged for a championship last season, and probably again this year. That would have meant two full basketball calendars of NCAA Tournament speculation that goes with Bracketology updates offered by ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi, CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm and others.

Not to mention all the Charleston chit-chat on sports talk shows, social media and around old-school water coolers. It’s a gift that gives when you make the NCAA Tournament or get far enough to get upset in the conference tournament.

Bracketology is the coin of the college basketball perception realm.

It’s free advertising the College of Charleston can’t afford to buy. It’s a prodigious dividend none of the smart people in school management or on the board of trustees even slightly considered when deciding that what was largely a basketball move to the CAA was in the best interest of drawing positive attention to the College of Charleston.

There were accountants and economists in the room, a president and an athletic director. But not a bracketologist.

True, the CAA is a better basketball league than the SoCon. A few Cougar games are televised live on the NBC Sports Network.

But empty seats seem to outnumber humans at TD Arena these days. It’s a baseball school, with only half of that credit going to the baseball program. Question: Make the NCAA Tournament while having to apologize for a weak league or lose a lot? The turnstiles know the answer.

Oh, what might have been.

While stumbling to 8-20 against CAA foes (including a first-round CAA Tournament loss last March), the Cougars are 5-0 over the last two seasons against SoCon opponents.

Last season, they beat Davidson by 12 points on the road before the Wildcats went on to a 15-1 SoCon record and a regular-season title (Wofford won the SoCon Tournament championship).

The eye-test and number crunching combine for little doubt that the College of Charleston would have been atop or near SoCon standings last year.

Which, of course, probably means Doug Wojcik would still be the Cougars’ head coach; player complaints tend to fall on deaf ears within a winning program.

First-year head coach Earl Grant has had terrible luck this year, including five losses by a total of 13 points prior to the Thursday night win over first-place William & Mary.

But even at a lowly No. 250 in USA Today’s Sagarin computer rankings, the Cougars are above five SoCon teams (293 Samford, 301 Furman, 302 VMI, 308 The Citadel, 317 UNC Greensboro) and just behind Western Carolina (235).

It’s likely they would have won the close games they lost in the CAA, and thus had a better computer ranking.

Outplaying and outsmarting Wofford in the SoCon Tournament is never an easy task, but the defensive-minded Cougars with healthy point guard Anthony Stitt back in the lineup certainly would be in the Bracketology conversation.

Which is a lot better than being buried deeper than The Unknown Huguenot.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff