Checking in on the… Big South

Posted by rtmsf on January 10th, 2009

Mark Bryant, the Coordinator of New Media for the Big South Conference and writer of Big South SHOUT, is an RTC correspondent.

VMI = Very Much Interest (in the Keydets)

In December, we advised fans to keep an eye on the Keydets and to take them seriously as contenders for the Big South crown this year. Well, it remains early, but the message stands: VMI has not let up and still holds the Conference lead—along with an eight-game winning streak (4-0 Big South / 11-2 overall). VMI is also undefeated at home this season (6-0), a fact which becomes even more notable when one sees that three of its four Big South wins have come away from Lexington.

Your players to watch on the Keydets may give you double vision, as the Holmes twins, Travis and Chavis, each hold Big South Top Five slots in scoring, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and steals. How outstanding have their performances been? The Big South has had seven Player of the Week awards given this season, with the Holmes brothers account for 3.5 of those (Travis has two and Chavis 1.5, as he was co-winner this week with Coastal Carolina’s Joseph Harris). Add in young guard Keith Gabriel and his two Freshmen of the Week honors tallied so far, and you should have a good idea how Coach Duggar Baucom is getting it done this season. VMI leads the league in scoring (97 ppg), point margin (+11.8 ppg), field goal percentage (.476), 3-point percentage (.386), assists (19/game), steals (14.5/game), and turnover margin (+8.15/game).

Flames = On Fire or Getting Burned?

Although they are the only two Big South teams holding winning records overall, the flip side of VMI’s consistency right now is Liberty’s split personality. The Flames have mounted an impressive 9-0 record on home and neutral courts—and a 1-6 mark on enemy floors. It does not help LU that the road losses include that memorable November loss at UNCA on ESPN and, more recently, dropping a squeaker at cellar-dwelling Winthrop (more on the Eagles in a moment). Yes, senior Anthony Smith gets his points, and freshman Seth Curry has also demonstrated an early flair for good numbers and dramatic moments, but there’s still a real Jekyll-Hyde factor for the Flames.

Grounded Eagles

Long-time observers of the Big South have gotten used to seeing Winthrop at the top of the conference standings in recent years. “Bracketologists” have likewise become familiar with penciling in the Eagles for a berth. Forgive those folks if they think we’ve turned the standings upside-down. Even the preseason poll of coaches and media members returned a prediction of Winthrop in first—perhaps out of habit if nothing else, a default position in an otherwise wide-open field this year. Right now, the Eagles sit at 2-10 on the year (including 1-2 Big South). WU won its opener back in mid-November, and then proceeded to DROP TEN IN A ROW…and only a couple of those were even close margins. So what happens next? Last weekend Liberty came to visit and Winthrop pulled out a narrow victory to “improve” to that 2-10 mark. Both wins came at home—the Eagles have yet to show they can win on the road, which could be especially painful for the upcoming stretch of four games from Jan. 20-31, all away from home.

Additional Notes…

Beyond VMI, the other squads off to good starts in Big South play are UNC Asheville, Radford, and Presbyterian, all 3-1. PC’s position will be one to watch, considering that the Blue Hose can win the regular season crown, but are ineligible to hold a postseason seed (due to NCAA transition rules). So excluding Presbyterian, you will want to be aware of which teams have the top four slots because those teams will host quarterfinal games come Conference Championship time! The top seed (currently VMI) has the opportunity to host each round if it keeps winning—there is no predetermined central site for the Big South Men’s Basketball Tournament.

With the holidays well past us now, everyone’s naturally playing full regular schedules—and here are your key games in the next two weeks:

  • UNCA at Radford (1/10)
  • PC at VMI (1/12)
  • Liberty at VMI (1/17)
  • VMI at Radford (1/21)
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