Receive a comparison to Hall of Famer Willie Mays, arguably the best player in Major League Baseball history, and it’s smiles for days, weeks and perhaps always. There is one notable exception. The sight of Mays stumbling in the outfield during his final season is the classic sports example of an athlete’s fade fans wish would never have occurred.
We’ve reached that stumbling point with the BB&T Classic, the long-running college basketball event in the D.C. area that supports the Children’s Charities Foundation. Though noble in its giving ways and local hoops promotion for 24 years, the event is past its prime. It’s certainly moving on without the one local program here for virtually all of it. The other one shows little interest in helping elevate the basketball aspect.
Whether in tournament format, as was the case in from 1995-2004, or standalone matchups, the best of the best past through the venue now called Capital One Arena. Juan Dixon, Caron Butler and Marcus Camby played before raucous crowds. Gary Williams and Maryland beat No. 2 Kansas in 1997. George Washington upset a Tom Izzo-coached Michigan State team that eventually reached the Final Four.
Sunday’s slate of Temple-George Washington and Coppin State-Georgetown, a doubleheader in name only, offered no such buzz even with the new addition of Hoyas head coach Patrick Ewing. The decline isn’t a one-year issue and there’s zero evidence to think a reversal is coming.
There’s the drop in collective matchups, especially once Georgetown took over as the headliner in 2014 after Maryland bowed out.
Several hundred fans inhabiting a building designed to house over 20,000 doesn’t generate the desired atmosphere. It’s conceivable one could count the number of ticket holders who stayed all day on both hands considering the planned four-hour gap between start times.
Temple-GW tipped at 2:30 p.m. Coppin-Georgetown started after 6:30 p.m. The logistical scenario essentially told fans we in no way care if you stay for both games. Neat.
Those that hung around witnessed Jessie Govan’s 26 points and 16 rebounds as the Hoyas defeated Coppin 76-60. It’s hard to say if they showed improvement in its latest victory against an overmatched opponent, but Georgetown’s improved to 6-0. The MEAC program is now 0-8. Fun.
George Washington participated for the 23rd time in the event’s 24-year history despite never being the local school which organizers based plans. The Colonials fended off Temple 71-67 for its latest upset win in the BB&T Classic -- and likely final game in the event.
Over the years the BB&T provided George Washington head-to-head opportunities against power programs or RPI-friendly opponents that might not have happened otherwise.
Maurice Creek thrilled the Foggy Bottom faction in 2013 with his game-winning jumper for a win in Maryland’s final’s appearance. The Colonials were 11-point underdogs Sunday against the Owls. Impressive 3-point shooting early and needed poise late carried the day.
“It’s been a good event for us,” coach Maurice Joseph said. “I think back to the Maurice Creek shot against Maryland. Obviously, this is going to be a win that we remember.”
The Colonials are not scheduled to participate in any future BB&T Classics. When an out-of-town heavyweight demanded a return game and either Maryland or Georgetown passed, GW took the hit. The same scenario often occurred with rank-and-file opponents, thus crimping the Colonials’ scheduling plans.
“Playing in this arena has been tremendous, but I’m looking forward to our future and being able to be a little more creative with our schedule,” Joseph said. “Doing some things that maybe we haven’t done before and getting an opportunity to play some different teams and different venues.”
Maryland typically played a who’s who of opponents along with the occasional matchup against George Washington or George Mason. In its four years, Georgetown went with the who’s that scheduling approach: Towson, UNC Wilmington, Elon and Coppin State.
Ewing kept up the tradition with Coppin State, but this matchup fell in line with the overall 2017-18 plan of avoiding formidable non-conference opponents. The Hoyas rank 351, or last, in strength of schedule among all Division 1 teams.
Georgetown believes in helping kids so let's not get this twisted. If the Hoyas believe scheduling light is best for their program, cool, but that’s just not in the historic spirit of this event.
Seeing as Georgetown only led by five points with 9:04 remaining before pulling away, Ewing’s postgame focus was more on things like rebounding and shot selection rather than the BB&T’s future.
“This is my first time in it,” Georgetown’s first-year coach said. “It was a great night. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the future.”
The meeting with Coppin State meant that Dixon, the hero on Maryland’s 2002 national championship team, became the first person to serve as player and head coach in the BB&T.
“It was awesome,” Dixon said of his return. “I got to see it from both sides. I was a student-athlete participating in this tournament. I think it’s an amazing tournament. The cause, giving back. For me to be part of it as a coach means a lot.”
The giving back aspect is admirable and clutch for many. According to figures released by the event organizers, nearly $10.2 million has been raised over the 24 years. That’s fantastic. This column certainly isn't about ending charitable endeavors. Hopefully, that mission can continue in some form. Just not this one. After years of greatness, we’ve seen enough stumbling.
Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.