Fairfield (70) vs. William & Mary (47) 12/12/2021

Game #102 of 358 29% complete

This was the third game on this trip interrupted by a peaceful sleep Saturday night following 2 Saturday afternoon and night games 2 hours apart. I was hoping to visit the Civil War Museum in Richmond Sunday morning. Despite the web site stating that it would be open 9AM, I was greeted by an empty parking lot and a closed visitor center. COVID has struck again. I decided to head over to Colonial Williamsburg and stroll the tourist area. There were a few folks walking the grounds many with dogs on a leash. I was glad that I did not buy a ticket for the privilege of entering some important buildings with tour guides dressed up as a colonist because many of the buildings were closed. Anyway, it was a nice day to walk on this uncharacteristicly sunny December day.

I was lazy and did not do a Google map of the arena ahead of time. I simply looked at the address on the digital ticket which pointed to an address on Prince George Street. I saw this street on the tourist map and proceeded to walk over to it just to see where Kaplan Arena is. Much to my surprise, the address was for a bookstore which may be the source of tickets to the basketball game. In a sense of panic, I googled the arena to find it about 15 minutes away. I scurried back to the visitor’s parking lot and headed over to the arena stopping for lunch on the way.

Kaplan Arena checks off one of the boxes for the perfect arena to visit. The parking lot is free and next to the arena.

WIlliam & Mary has never made the NCAA tournament and has a very unattractive win/loss record over the years. These small schools who have not much success have always drawn two types of folks to the game:

  1. Senior citizen couples who can barely make it to their seats adorned in school colors.
  2. Mom and Dad with the kids looking for a cheap afternoon out.

Both of these group’s cheered for the Tribe no matter what the score which is great to see.

Speaking of the Tribe team name, I present to you the mascot for William & Mary. Is this what a “Tribe” looks like? The Tribe mascot is actually representing a Griffin – a mythical creature with the head of an eagle and the body of a lion. You guessed it.  In 2010, the National Collegiate Athletic Association determined that William & Mary could keep its Tribe nickname but had to do away with its logo because it could be offensive to native Americans.

This game was quickly over with Fairfield dominating throughout. One can see the difference in physicality between the Fairfield men and the Willaim & Mary boys. I give the Tribe much credit for fighting all the way and never giving up. The crowd cheered for them right to the end.

I enjoy getting my steps in at half time walking around the perimeter of the arena. One bad check mark for this arena is that you cannot walk all the way around. One end is populated by a members only club with cushy seats, food and refreshments blocking the way.

My walk did include a look at the Hall of Fame wall. My eye caught one individual named Melville Bryant a football player from 1937. He had that look about him that probably made women swoon and men wanting to be him. His sly smile held many secrets.

I could find no history of him, but I was wondering if he died in WWII, became a successful businessman and raised a family or perhaps became a drunk living on the street. Here is a toast to you Melville!

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Toledo (69) vs. Richmond (72) 12/11/2021

Game #101 of 358 29% complete

This was the second game today preceded by a 2-hour trip from the west at VMI back to Richmond. This 2-game approach saves money but does not allow for getting a bite to eat between games in most cases. You are at the mercy of the concessions at the arena. Having arrived about a half hour before game time, I got quickly in line and saw that the Papa John pizzas were ready to go. I ordered a cheese pizza and headed to my seat. I kid you not that if I had eaten the cardboard box the pizza came in, I would not be able to tell the difference between that and the pizza. Holy dry mouth!

Jacob Gilyard was honored before the game as the all-time NCAA Division I career steals leader. A banner was unfurled in his honor. As I watched him during the game, I can see how his quickness and fast hands contributed to that title. His key steal at the end of the game from a Toledo player driving the lane was icing on the cake. He also sunk the game winning shot with 34 seconds left to win the game.

Toledo was down 19 points in the second half but came back to win spurned on by a loud crowd. I was told that there was an impressive pre-game show involving a spider which I missed waiting in line for cardboard pizza.

I always have difficulty always with parking on campus. Most lots are not clearly marked if they are free for peons like me or for donors who have parking privileges. It is not always easy with cars behind you to stop and ask where I can park. Give me the small schools with free lots next to the arena (see next post for William Mary).

The gun above was shooting out t shirts to the crowd in rapid fire and shooting flames. This was the most awesome way to deliver t shirts to the crowd vs. cheerleaders who length of throws usually leaves much to be desired.

I have decided to replenish my t shirts back home with one new t shirt per trip. I was not a fan of the bright red Richmond colors, so I passed till next game.

Richmond is the only school with a spider as a mascot. The mascot walking around with dangling legs was fun to watch.

I neglected in my fatigue to take a camera shot of the final score. Mea Culpa!

Gardner Webb (61) vs. Virginia Military Institute (64) 12/11/2021

Game #100 of 358 29% complete

Six years ago, I began this journey not quite sure if it was the best way to spend my retirement time. The goal seemed so far away yet after the first few games, it became my passion. The joy of traveling and seeing this great country of ours combined with my love of ANY college basketball game has never receded despite pitfalls and curves along the way. This mission has taught me patience and the ability to pivot when plans go awry especially in this COVID era. Today is my 100th game! Many others on this same journey have far exceeded that number, so I am in good company.

I have been trying to get three schools on one trip to minimize travel and hotel costs as I venture further and further away from Connecticut. On this Virgina trip, I saw VMI, Richmond and William & Mary. Since I flew into Richmond and stayed there, the first game at VMI was a 2-hour trip by car in the opposite direction, in the western part of the state. Putting on my podcasts and enjoying the rolling hillsides, I pulled in about 11AM, a couple of hours before game time.

Finding a parking spot in a public area after driving around for a few minutes, I ended up near my tourist visit to Stonewall Jackson’s house. The house was small, and the self-guided tour was done in about 45 minutes, but it was cool to see many of Jackson’s personal artifacts. The poor guy was accidently (or maybe not) shot and killed by one of his own soldiers during the civil war.

Walking around the downtown area, the small town of Lexington VA (about 7,000 folks) reminded me of an historic neighborhood in Boston with cobblestone streets and old buildings dating back to the 1700’s.

After grabbing a brew and steak sandwich at The Palms, I took the 10-minute walk over to Cameron Hall. Outside was a line of impeccably dressed cadets waiting to get in.

Known as the “West Point of the South” by honest Abe, half of the graduates last year received a commission in the armed forces.

From Wiki: Prospective cadets must be between 16 and 22 years of age. They must be unmarried, and have no legal dependents, be physically fit for enrollment in the ROTC, and be graduates of an accredited secondary school or have completed an approved homeschool curriculum. The Class of 2022 at VMI had an average high school GPA of 3.70 and a mean SAT score of 1210.[73]

That being said, I have never seen such a rowdy and loud output from a student section yet (I have not done Duke yet). I was out of earshot of their verbal onslaughts but reading lips occasionally brought to mind a dichotomy of the upright and proud image of a cadet vs. the unruly loud student fan.

Many schools are using virtual programs these days. One scans the OCR code to bring up the program in a browser. I get it with idea of saving paper and eliminating the pitfalls of COVID transmission, but I miss holding a paper in my hand giving the relatively small size of my IPHONE.

Gardner Webb put up a valiant battle this game only succumbing in the end. A game-tying 3-pointer from D’Maurian WIlliams rimmed out at the final buzzer. Jake Stephens, the Cadets huge 6’10” center was too overpowering underneath for the smaller Bulldogs. His foot work in the paint was impressive. The senior is a pre-season second team SoConn league pick.

VMI had won its previous two games on a west coast trip. The cadets earned John Rothstein’s “epitome of brutality” label by beating Portland. Like similar armed forces teams, you can tell that the VMI boys put in a lot of work at the gym.

The cadets are headed back to their dorms after the game.

That’s a wrap. Back to Richmond for a two-hour ride hoping to get there for a 6PM start!

Rhode Island (79) vs. George Mason (64) 01/28/2020

Game #90 of 353    25% complete

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The star of this game was the George Mason band. I saw violins, a lighted drum set and a ton of instruments accompanied by singers belting out tunes. The band director was entertaining to watch directing the band with hilarious gyrations. This was the best band that I had ever seen at a college game. I even hung around at the end of the game to hear their final tunes.  They had one kid stomping on the bleachers with both legs when the Rhode Island player was shooting a foul shot. Unique at first, annoying in the end!

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I had a pre-game burger at Brion’s across the street from the Eagle Bank Arena. I sat near four guys at the bar who complained endlessly about their George Mason team. As a member of the UConn Boneyard message board, I realize that bitching about your team is a universal language that always occurs regardless how well your team is playing. I was tempted to interject with an introduction about my mission but they were very worked up so I left it alone. I was also not up to ribbing about the 2006 UConn heartbreaking loss to the Patriots who eventually went on to the Final Four.

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The pennants in the arena brought back the bad taste in my mouth of UConn’s upset by George Mason in 2006. Some knowledgeable fans consider the 2006 UCONN team the most talented ever in Husky history.

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At the end of the first half, a George Mason staff women came up to our section offering a free seat upgrade. I am thinking like what is the catch here. There was none so I moved down to four rows from the court behind the Rhode Island bench. Kudos to George Mason for offering this. More schools at the risk of pissing off the season tickets holders in the good seats should be doing this. That being said, the huge Eagle Bank Arena was very empty with certain sections covered up. It appears that the Patriots fans following has not kept up with the capacity of the arena.

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I was very impressed with this Rhode Island team. At 15 wins and 5 losses, they are off to a fine season with a well-balanced team that can shoot the ball and play tough defense. The team also drew a large fan contingent on the road. They have not lost a beat since Dan Hurley left the club two years ago. George Mason had no chance in this game falling behind early and never catching up.

Two Rhode Island players caught my eye. There was Fatts Russell who at 5’10” 165 pounds belies his name but was too quick for the George Mason guards. There was Atwan Walker who name sounds like Antoine Walker the Kentucky collegian who had a successful career in the NBA. Was Antwan possibly the son of Antoine?  Nope.

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Next Game: Long Island at Merrimack 02/01/20

Virginia Tech (49) vs. Virginia (67) 02/09/2016

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#30 of 351

This is the first game of three games planned for my Tennessee road trip from Connecticut. To break up the ride down in my friend Kevin’s truck, we stopped overnight in Charlottesville, Virginia to catch a Virginia game. Virginia is the 7th ranked team and has been a perennial powerhouse in the ACC. I was looking forward to my first ACC game between two traditional rivals.

Before the game, we had a great burger and beer at Boylan Heights pub located in downtown Charlottsville. There were many Virginia fans in house in attendance. I enjoy finding these places before games because it adds to the excitement of the game.

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The fans kept yelling “hoos” throughout the game. I obviously had to look up the meaning of this. From Wiki, here it is:

The media generally refers to the University’s athletic teams as simply Virginia for short, and the name of Cavaliers represents the University’s official mascot of a mounted swordsman. An unofficial moniker, the Wahoos, or ‘Hoos for short, based on the University’s rallying cry “Wah-hoo-wah!” is also commonly used. Though originally only used by the student body, both terms — Wahoos and ‘Hoos — have come into wide usage with the local media as well.

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Virginia completely manhandled Virginia Tech throughout this game. Surprisingly, VA Tech had beaten Virginia earlier in the year. The VA team is well balanced led by Malcom Brogdon and Antony Gill. They will be their usual tough out in the NCAA tournament. I was impressed by how loud the noise was in the arena no doubt helped by the steep upper level stands amplifying the acoustics.

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The scoreboard should be a model for scoreboards all across America. Are you listening – XL Center in Hartford? It has everything you would want in an organized palette.

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