Checking in on the… Big SouthPosted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2008
Mark Bryant, the Coordinator of New Media for the Big South Conference and writer for Big South SHOUT, is an RTC correspondent.
The launch of the 2008-09 season has seen some national attention and notable success for the Big South, mixed in with some results below expectations as well. Here’s the rundown:
Out of Conference…
After well over a dozen games so far against major conference squads, most have naturally gone to the favorites on their home courts, but Big South squads certainly turned heads with two quality upsets. VMI struck first by dumping Kentucky 111-103 at Rupp Arena. It was the first win for the Keydets against a team from the SEC since 1975-76 (Tennessee). Of course, it’s the second consecutive year for the Wildcats to fall to a current Big South school: Gardner-Webb defeated UK as an Atlantic Sun team last year. Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, Liberty added a notch in the upset column for the Flames by upending the Virginia Cavaliers 86-82. UVa had already collected wins over VMI and Radford, but the ACC’s Cavs failed to sweep the Virginia set of Big South hoopsters thanks to LU. Outside of those two big games, there were some close results, but let’s not resort to discussing any clichéd “moral victories” versus the big boys of the ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, etc. (Note—major upcoming match-ups between Thanksgiving and Christmas include a trio of biggies for UNC Asheville: North Carolina, Tennessee, and Duke!)
Looking in the opposite direction, the Big South teams have won most of their games over smaller schools or lower-level teams, so we won’t dwell on those games—those are the wins they are “supposed to get,” right? And yes, we said “most”, not all – Coker College downing Coastal Carolina is a game that gives one pause, for example.
It’s the mixed-bag of results against what one would consider peer conferences that has generated more than a fair amount of head scratching. With the up-and-down performances against teams in the Southern, Colonial, and similar leagues, it has become hard to draw a firm bead on where the Big South stands to this point.
Believe it or not, the Big South started Conference play in November…well sort of. Thanks to the ESPN 24 Hours of College Basketball event, there was a national TV game from the Justice Center in Asheville, where UNC Asheville (9th in the preseason poll) proceeded to thrash Liberty (4th in the preseason poll and featuring Preseason Player of the Year Anthony Smith) 84-56. UNCA jumped out 7-0 and kept expanding the lead wider and wider, just as eyes around the league were opened ever wider. The young Bulldogs team was led by a spirited performance from freshman J.P. Primm, who turned in a game-high 21 and kept the crowd fired up throughout the contest. The Flames got double-digit point production from senior Anthony Smith and freshman Seth Curry, but both stars suffered from the shooting woes that plagued the whole squad from start to finish. Because of that result, UNCA put itself into the conference lead for at least two weeks—the amount of time before any other Big South games would be played.
Speaking of the schedule, the Big South has eight games on the slate from 12/1-12/6, and then takes a breather from conference play until January. At the close of the upcoming week, all ten member teams will have at least one Big South game under their respective belts.
Players of the Week winners: Travis Holmes (VMI Senior Forward) and Jamarco Warren (CSU Sophomore Guard). They are also the first two players with three 20-point games this season—and three consecutive games apiece at that.
Freshmen of the Week winners: Keith Gabriel (VMI Forward, 20 points in the win over UK) and Joshua Henley (GWU Forward, 15 points/12 rebounds at Oklahoma, playing ALL 40 MIN in the narrow loss).
Seniors Chavis and Travis Holmes are currently the 4th-highest scoring set of twins in NCAA history, and they have the Grants (Horace and Harvey) at 3rd place in their sights. In addition, C&T Holmes are 1-2 among active scorers in the Big South, with Anthony Smith in third. Chavis Holmes is at 25th on the all-time list, sitting within 250 points of the top ten.