When Clemson played rival South Carolina back on Nov. 25, nearly 83,000 fans crammed into Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia to watch the 10-1 Tigers take on the 8-3 Gamecocks.
That’s the kind of crowd one might expect when two rivals, who are both having good seasons, play one another. Though not to the level of the football crowd, one might expect a packed house in Clemson Tuesday night when the 9-1 Clemson men’s basketball team hosts the 8-2 Gamecocks at Littlejohn Coliseum.
“It would be great. It should be,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said on Tuesday. “It should be sold out tomorrow. We are playing our rival in a very important game. Two teams that are playing very good basketball, it will be competitive.
“It will be a heck of a competitive game, and I don’t know why you wouldn’t be here.”
One reason, say some, is because the game is being played on a Tuesday night (7 p.m.) instead of on a Saturday, and another is because it falls on Dec. 19, when everyone is still Christmas shopping or is trying to get ready for the holiday season.
When Brownell got to Clemson the game was played earlier then it was now and still no one showed up for the games. Brownell and South Carolina head coach Frank Martin moved the game to where it is currently played on the calendar, and though the crowds have been better, both coaches have been frustrated with the turnouts.
“I don’t know what the perfect date is or what the perfect scenario is,” Brownell said. “I think we both at times are a little disappointed. If one of us is not having a great year then they use that as the excuse.
“Sometimes there are games, like the last couple of years, where we both have been 8-2, 9-1 and both teams are playing well and we do not get talked about as much as it should be talked about. I know (Martin) has been frustrated about it and has voiced some frustration. I’m a little frustrated by it a little at times.”
Of course at Clemson and South Carolina, both fan bases are still talking about football. The Tigers are ranked No. 1 in the country and are playing Alabama in the Sugar Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff, while the Gamecocks are playing Michigan in the Outback Bowl.
Then there is the new early signing period in football, which will begin on Wednesday morning.
“We understand that we have very good football programs and those are important, and obviously, if you are still playing at this time of year they are huge games, but I don’t know if there has been a perfect date (for basketball),” Brownell said. “We have tried earlier and that has not always worked. Sometimes that is better. It feels like you have students, but those have not always kind worked out great. That’s what it was when I first got here.
“Then we have done this area and have had a little better success. I’m anxious to see what our turn out is tomorrow. I’m certainly hoping for a very good one. We can’t get too much later because it fringes on league play for both of us. They already play a game, I think, in their SEC/Big 12 Challenge that is later and I don’t know if I want the Clemson-South Carolina game in the middle of the ACC season.”
Brownell says he and Martin are doing all they can by putting two good basketball teams on the floor in a game that has been very competitive, and with some good basketball teams in recent years.
“I just think that everybody in the state of South Carolina, if they want this to be a big game, they got to help make it a big game,” Brownell said.
—Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY