As we kick start conference play I will be starting a new feature on the site with recollections of the handful of ACC basketball trips that I will be making this spring.
The trip to Greenville this past weekend was my second of the season, the first being the Rupp experience the day after Christmas. Going into Lexington, everything was pointing toward this being the year we would pull it off against Cal, but I was nervous about wearing UofL gear in the upper corner of Rupp Arena. To no surprise, the classic jabs of "Loserville" were thrown our way, and there were plentiful reminders that we are currently being investigated by the NCAA. Children also pointed and asked their parents why Louisville fans were at the game. That said, the blue clad folks that engulfed our section were actually quite respectful about my buddy and I being there and cheering passionately throughout the game for the Cards, and were reasonably polite as we walked out of the arena after the heart-breaking defeat.
The Clemson experience was much more docile. After a quick six hour trek through the mountains, my dad and I arrived at the Hyatt downtown just in time to watch Jawon Pass lead his East squad on a touchdown drive in the Army All American game. Once we got settled in, a Carolina BBQ was on the menu at Sticky Fingers in downtown Greenville, then a trip to a nice sports bar called Carolina Ale House was the next stop to take in the Bengals-Steelers matchup. A couple of other Cards fans from the area who were at PNC Arena in Raleigh for the Thursday night game had the same idea. They relayed how lousy the atmosphere was for that game outside of the students, but they were impressed with the arena.
Saturday night in Greenville was a success. It is a quaint town of about 60,000 with a great stretch of bars, restaurants, hotels and an outdoor amphitheater on Main Street. I highly recommend that you look into staying there if you have plans to catch Dabo vs Bobby in the fall live from Death Valley.
Clemson is currently in the process of a $63.5 million dollar renovation of Littlejohn Coliseum on campus, hence the game being played at Bons Secour Wellness Arena (home of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits minor league hockey team). The arena is comparable to Broadbent Arena at the Fairgrounds, just double the size, with a half capacity crowd for Sunday's game against a then-top 20 Louisville squad.
I chose to give the Clemson fans the benefit of the doubt, as tens of thousands of them had already made the trip to Phoenix for the national championship football game; I expect better for Duke on Wednesday (check) and Saturday against Miami. Moe's and Bojangles were served at the concession stands, and beers were a quarter cheaper than the Yum Center at $6.25 a pop.
There was no atmosphere at all Sunday afternoon as there were only about 80 students who took the 45 minute bus ride from campus to the game and sat in the end zone. I would estimate there were about 500 Louisville fans in attendance, with most of them being from surrounding areas. Two families from Charlotte sporting Cards gear behind us at the gate to get in were expressing how relieved they were that the Big 12 passed on us and we landed in the ACC for the sake of getting to games. I feel like not too many of us are disappointed that we don't have to make the trips to Lubbock and Waco for Cardinal basketball.
Once again there were about two dozen Kentucky fans who took time out of their busy and meaningful lives to make an appearance at a UofL game decked out in their Walmart UK gear and Starter jackets.
The coolest part about Sunday was that Clemson sponsored a military appreciation day honoring veterans and active duty military members at every media timeout. There was even a homecoming during one of the media timeouts, which was awesome and deservingly brought about the biggest roar from the crowd all game. We have established throughout our football match-ups with Clemson that they have one of the most courteous and hospitable fan bases in the conference, and that reputation stood true for this whole trip as they were very complimentary and surprised that people traveled for basketball road games.
The worst part about the game day experience was the in-house DJ that blasted Hip-Hop for the duration of pre-game, halftime and during timeouts. Dabbin' hit its pinnacle once Bobby and Beamer pulled it off the last weeks of the college football season.
We have already broken down the game plenty so I won't go into much detail, but if Nanu stays out of foul trouble and Lee/Lewis combine for their season averages we would have won quite handily. It was obvious that the Clemson defense was disrupting our offensive flow and the refs did not evenly call the touch fouls, but that ultimately did not cost us the game on a poor shooting day.
Let's have a raucous crowd Thursday night at the Yum as we have our first big home matchup. The next chronicle from the road should come after next Saturday's contest in Atlanta against Georgia Tech. I suspect many Card faithful will be in attendance as was the case last year. I hope that everyone can find a way to make an ACC basketball road trip this season, and as always: Go Cards, Beat Everyone!