Checking in on… the Big South

Posted by jstevrtc on December 11th, 2009


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

Updated Standings (Conference/Overall):

  1. Coastal Carolina  (2-0/7-2)
  2. Radford  (2-0/4-3)
  3. UNC Asheville  (1-0/1-6)
  4. VMI  (1-1/4-4)
  5. High Point  (1-1/4-4)
  6. Winthrop  (1-1/3-4)
  7. Liberty  (1-1/4-6)
  8. Gardner-Webb  (0-1/3-3)
  9. Charleston Southern  (0-2/4-4)
  10. Presbyterian College  (0-2/2-7)

Top Storylines:

Joseph Harris, Double-Double Machine —  Coastal Carolina’s Joseph Harris graduated last year (Biology), but still had a year of eligibility in his pocket from a medical redshirt season.  He almost took that off to grad school at UAB, but changed his mind to play one more year for Coach Cliff Ellis and the Chanticleers, who must be very grateful by now.  In the season’s first four weeks, Harris earned Big South Player of the Week honors three times.  You read that right–three PoW awards in just one month…not too shabby, huh?  Harris is the league’s top active scorer and rebounder, with more than 1,000 points and 900 rebounds.  He holds the #3 career spot in rebounding (919) and stands an excellent chance of taking the top position from Arizona Reid (1013) early in 2010.  Harris would join Reid as the only players in Big South history to surpass both the 1,000 point and 1,000 rebound plateaus.  Harris currently leads the conference in 20+ point games (six) and 10+ rebound games (seven) this season, just one game ahead of Preseason Player of the Year Art Parakhouski on both counts.

Home Court (Dis)Advantage? — The first weekend of Big South Conference games favored the travelers more than the hosts.  Of the nine games played, the road team won six.  Of those six, four wins belonged to Radford and Coastal Carolina, who each pulled down a pair of road victories.  RU, in fact, has run its Big South road victory streak to eleven games now, the longest such run since Winthrop reached 11 from Jan. ’05 to Jan. ’06.

A Look Back:

So with most of the Big South teams getting past a second conference game, it’s a mixed bag of results.  Radford is 2-0 in the Big South, which would not surprise many — but the need for overtime at Winthrop and a comeback at PC clearly tell us it won’t be easy for the Highlanders to impose their will on the competition.  More intriguing at the 2-0 mark is Coastal Carolina, 7-2 overall.  The Chants outran VMI and held off Liberty for a pair of good wins away from home.  An even greater surprise at standing undefeated in conference play is UNC Asheville.  The Bulldogs got their only win (1-6 overall) this season with a tip-in falling in the dying seconds at Gardner-Webb.  That makes the top three teams 5-0 in the Big South, with all five wins coming on the road!  The typical middle-ground of teams trading off wins includes VMI, High Point, Winthrop, and Liberty, all 1-1.  GWU would probably like to have a few more seconds back rather than staring at that 0-1 mark in conference for a month, but there it is.  The bottom pair of teams are CSU and PC, each 0-2, although it’s interesting to note that the Blue Hose were much closer to pulling out victories than the Buccaneers.

Out-of-conference woes continued, with a rough night on Wednesday the 9th, as the Big South went 0-3 against other foes:  SC State (over HPU), Virginia Tech (over VMI), and #1 Kansas (over Radford).

A Look Ahead:

The balance of December brings more non-conference games against a wide variety of opponents, from small teams coming in (Kentucky Christian, Barton College, etc.) to road games against larger foes (Seton Hall, North Carolina, and so on).  One of the better regional match-ups not involving a wild disparity between the teams is this weekend’s pairing of GWU and Charlotte.  The 49ers have been hot this season and will present a serious test for the Runnin’ Bulldogs, but Halton Arena should not be as daunting as the Dean Dome (in which they held their own against UNC fairly well; meanwhile, Presbyterian College has to face that same Carolina Blue crowd this weekend).

Team Breakdowns:

Charleston Southern — The Buccaneers have done a good job shooting the three and grabbing offensive rebounds, but opening conference play with a pair of double-digit losses does not bode well.

Coastal Carolina — As cited above, Harris is on fire for the Chanticleers.  Coastal is in the top two for scoring offense and scoring defense in the Big South, which translates to a league-best scoring margin of +15.8 overall — they are at or near the top of many other telling team statistics, so we would all do well to keep an eye on the Chants this year.

Gardner-Webb — Despite only playing one road game (at UNC!), the Runnin’ Bulldogs have faltered to a 3-3 record by winning the first three and losing the next trio.  Not the right direction for Coach Rick Scruggs and company.  They may not be able to right the ship effectively in the next month, playing six of the next seven on the road, including games at Duke, Penn State, and Texas.

High Point — First year head coaches have their share of ups and downs, but don’t blame Scott Cherry if he’s getting seasick with the Panthers already:  W – L – W – L – 2W – 2L.  The result of all that, strangely enough, is balance — 4-4 overall, 1-1 in the Big South, even 1-1 in a home-and-home with SC State played within a two week span.  One area you can see a split — home/road:  3-0 at the Millis Center, 1-3 everywhere else.

Liberty — By Christmas, the Flames should have received some presents from lower-level opponents, making up for the murderer’s row of early competition that Liberty faced.  Given the scheduling against the very ends of the spectrum, it may be difficult to get a really clear picture of Liberty to date, but try this nugget:  LU has the best team free-throw percentage in the Big South (.737).  That fact alone could become critical in the press of tight competition in the conference season.

Presbyterian — Okay, you say, PC is 0-2 and struggling again, move on…oh no, not that simple.  After all, it took a bold end-to-end effort against the clock for High Point to beat the Blue Hose, and Radford had to cobble together a 2nd half comeback to get past PC.  Let’s not talk moral victories, though, but the potential shown in those games.  This team needs to correct its problems in steals (6.56/game, lowest in conference) and turnovers (-4.11/game margin, lowest in conference) to help turn those close games around.

Radford — Overtime survival against Winthrop, 2nd half comeback at Presbyterian College, hmmm….  We’re not worried about RU yet — after all, they pulled out the wins in both those games, and they need to be pushed.  Good to see Joey Lynch-Flohr step up with a big game at Kansas (26 points).  The Highlanders added yet another big man to the mix, with the debut this week of Laz Trifunovic (transfer from Binghamton).  Put his 6-8, 225 frame in there with Lynch-Flohr (6-8, 220) and Parakhouski (6-11, 270) and you’re just not going inside on that.

UNC Asheville — After starting 0-6, the last-minute victory at Gardner-Webb was a welcome tonic for the Bulldogs. It was a squeaker, but the important part is that the slide ended.  Strangely, we should’ve seen it coming, as Asheville is 13-1 in Big South openers under Coach Eddie BiedenbachSean Smith’s three-point shot is working, so UNCA may have a brighter future than its start indicated.

VMI — As we said last time, get ready to run.  VMI hasn’t changed a thing:  the game will be fast on both ends, a style typified by the off-handed remark last year by Coach Duggar Baucom, “Shoot it before you turn it over.”  Combined scoring in each of VMI’s games this season has ranged from 162-210.  The Keydets have passed 90 points in all but two games (both losses).  Unfortunately for them, their opponents have surpassed 90 in all but one!

Winthrop — The Eagles had the league favorite on the ropes by taking Radford to overtime, but they let the Highlanders off the hook.  WU bounced back well, taking a 14-point win over High Point as solace.  That home win against HPU gives Winthrop fans some hope for upcoming games — before putting in 82 points that day, the Eagles had not scored more than 66 in any game.

jstevrtc (547 Posts)

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