Friday, March 5, 2010

This Time It's Personal for Rivals

We all love rivalries--from the outside.

When two long-time foes square off and it's well-known that the opponents have faced each other in emotional battles for years, well, that's good theater, isn't it?

All hands on deck for the biggest and best: no one wants to miss the action, or at least the results, of Duke-UNC basketball, Ohio St.-Michigan football, Red Sox-Yankees, and so on.

In our neck of the woods, one of those conflicting match-ups is Winthrop-Coastal Carolina.
Doesn't really matter what the sport is...could be the 200 yard board game medley for all the fan bases care--because the order of the day is "BEAT WU/CCU".

Yeah, these clashes are fun from the outside--on the inside, there's emotion and tension and risk and reward. You can't wait for it to start...or end.

The fact that this is men's basketball ups the ante a bit (at least until whatever far-flung future date these Palmetto State rivals can collide on a football field, if ever).

For Winthrop, the NCAA berth felt like a given for a while--after all, the Eagles won eight Big South tourney championships in ten years (two four-game streaks separated by a two-year gap) before falling short last year. The WU faithful see this as an opportunity to regain a dynasty, reclaim a throne...the fact that they could do so on the court of their rival is just a bonus.

For Coastal Carolina, true basketball success has been more elusive. WU makes its 11th appearance in the final game, CCU its 5th...WU has 9 titles, CCU has 4...etc. In addition, Saturday's game will be the third time in the five final appearances that Coastal's path crossed with Winthrop's (they split--with CCU winning in 1993, Winthrop in 2006). Winning a title AND denying Winthrop amounts to the "daily double" for the Chanticleers--and they'll be on the home floor in "intimate" (or cozy...or do you prefer small?) Kimbel Arena.

Each of these teams controlled its respective semi, with Winthrop holding off Radford and the miserable shooting performance of the Highlanders (sorry, Radfordites, they went 15-60 from the field, the numbers don't lie)...and Coastal dominating Asheville throughout, in virtually every facet of the game (sorry, Bulldogs folks, saw it in person, it was that one-sided, at least until UNCA cranked up the urgency--too late in the game).

Now it's head-to-head for the title...the historic leader vs. the current frontrunner, Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina with everything at stake...and they wouldn't have it any other way. Enjoy the game.

WATCH - Saturday, 3/6/10, 4pm, ESPN2
(with postgame interviews streaming live on the Big South Network)

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