BOBBY CREMINS EATING a turkey burger on King Street is a fairly typical sight. The gregarious College of Charleston basketball coach likes turkey burgers. Almost as much as he likes shaking hands on King Street.
Cremins getting excited between bites about a basketball tournament not involving his own team? Now that's a little unusual.
But he likes the idea of the second annual ESPN Charleston Classic, citing three reasons:
The Nov. 18-22 event at the Carolina First Arena has an intriguing eight-team field led by South Carolina, Cremins' alma mater;
It's good for Charleston;
It's a big plus for the Cougars, too.
"Look at the field," Cremins said. "Look at the conferences these teams come from. South Carolina from the SEC, Miami from the ACC, Penn State from the Big Ten. And Davidson."
South Carolina opens against LaSalle. Other first-round games include Miami vs. Tulane, Penn State vs. UNC Wilmington and Davidson vs. South Florida.
The Cougars were a participant/host last November when Clemson won the first Charleston Classic and went on to play in the NCAA Tournament.
South Carolina, with All-America candidate Devan Downey at point guard, is poised to make a strong NCAA tournament case this season in Darrin Horn's second year as coach.
This version of November Madness is one of the highlights of a season of sterling college basketball attractions in town. Defending national champ North Carolina plays at the College of Charleston on Jan. 4. Defending national runner-up Michigan State, ranked higher than the Tar Heels in many preseason polls, plays at The Citadel on Dec. 7.
The Charleston Classic timing is right; South Carolina has a football bye weekend.
There is an official charity this year, MUSC Children's Hospital. The championship game will be televised on ESPN2.
Individual session tickets, good for two games, are $20 apiece.
The attendance incentive for basketball fans in general? Bringing the tournament back.
The draw for Cremins' Cougars is more pointed: As long as the Charleston Classic is at Carolina First Arena, the Cougars are more likely to get choice match-ups within other tournaments owned by ESPN. The College of Charleston will play in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu in December. ESPN also owns tournaments in Orlando, Fla., Puerto Rico and Anaheim, Calif.
A program can play in a given tournament once every four years. So look for the Cougars back in the Charleston Classic 2012.
"That's fine with me," Cremins said. "I don't want to play in our own tournament every year. I like traveling to places like Hawaii."
NCAA respect for the NAACP's theory that not having major athletic events in South Carolina is a good way to protest having the Confederate battle flag on S.C. Statehouse grounds is a topic for another day.
But minus the flag or boycott, the Palmetto State has a chance to host an NCAA tournament regional, as Greenville did in 2002.
Until then, this is about as good as it gets for a college basketball tournament held between Fort Sumter and Sassafras Mountain.
Maybe Cremins can get the Carolina First Arena concession stand to serve turkey burgers.