Checking in on… the Big South

Posted by jstevrtc on January 8th, 2010

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

Updated Standings

  1. Coastal Carolina        5-0  Big South ( 15-2 overall)
  2. Radford                      4-0    (8-5)
  3. High Point                  3-1   (7-6)
  4. Liberty                        3-1    (8-8)
  5. Charleston Southern  2-3 (7-8)
  6. Winthrop                   2-3    (6-9)
  7. VMI                             1-3    (4-8)
  8. UNC Asheville           1-3     (3-11)
  9. Gardner-Webb          1-3    (4-10)
  10. Presbyterian College  0-5     (2-15)

Top Stories

The Chanticleer’s Tale — Coastal Carolina is now the fastest team to 15 wins in Big South history.  In addition, the Chanticleers are 5-0 in conference for the first time since 1990-91.  It’s a storybook start to the season, appropriate for a mascot plucked from classic literature (if you’re not up on your obscure nickname trivia, it’s from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales).  But can Coach Cliff Ellis get this kind of production when it counts at season’s end?  Looks like we may have to finish the book to find that one out, but CCU is getting the right mix of dominant play from Joseph Harris and clutch shooting by Chad Gray, so they might be able to stay strong all the way through the campaign.

Art Show — Senior big man Art Parakhouski of Radford is starting to have more dominant performances more often this season, a dangerous sign for the rest of the league.  Radford’s success a year ago owed a great deal to Parakhouski getting better as the season progressed.  Now that he’s clearly in top form, as demonstrated by back-to-back 30-point performances in the last week, RU may keep rolling.

A Look Back

Life has been mostly good for the home teams since Christmas:  all 13 games involving Big South teams in the final week of December were won by the home team or on a neutral site — no road wins.  Turn the calendar to January and it gets only slightly better in the new year:  10 of 13 Big South games (these were all in conference play) were won on the home floor.  Last season was a fairly successful one for Big South road squads, but there definitely seems to be a stronger than usual home-court advantage in play right now.

The last significant batch of out-of-conference games didn’t really offer any major moments, but did include a win for Radford over George Mason, the only win for the Big South against the Colonial this year, and a victory for Coastal Carolina over Georgia Southern–making CCU not only 5-0 in the Big South, but 4-0 in the SoCon this year as well!

Conference play established an early schism in the group — there’s a top four and a bottom six at the moment: CCU/RU/HPU/LU are a combined 15-2, while CSU/WU/VMI/UNCA/GWU/PC are a combined 7-20 in the Big South.  Unless some patterns start to change, we already have contenders for hosting the first round games in the Big South Tournament, as those go to the top four seeds.

A Look Ahead

The top teams haven’t crossed paths much–of that leading foursome, only one game has matched any of those teams head-to-head: Coastal over Liberty on Dec. 5th.  That will start to change in the next two weeks; watch out for these important games:

  • 1/9         Radford at High Point
  • 1/14       Radford at Coastal Carolina
  • 1/16       High Point at Coastal Carolina
  • 1/21       Liberty at High Point

And if you’re looking for another team that could shake things up, that honor belongs to Charleston Southern — outside the upper group but certainly not out of contention at 2-3.  The Bucs’ schedule includes home games against High Point and Radford within the next two weeks, giving CSU the power to insert itself back in the race.  All of which would make the Jan. 23rd match-ups of CSU at CCU and LU at RU very interesting indeed.

Team Breakdowns

Charleston Southern — As cited just above, CSU is a pivot team right now…the Buccaneers have games in front of them that will allow them to climb the ladder, but could just as easily find themselves going the wrong way.  Jamarco Warren continues to put up points and is unafraid to take his shots every game.

Coastal Carolina — It just gets better for the Chanticleers every time we write them up so far… no one expected them to be quite this hot.  If/when they falter, how they handle that may be a critical factor in the season’s outcome, but right now we should all enjoy the ride.  CCU has won ten straight and has earned its position in the mid-major poll (currently 21st with Collegeinsider.com).  Meanwhile, Coach Cliff Ellis eclipsed the 650 career win mark this week.

Gardner-Webb — The Runnin’ Bulldogs have not been going the right direction lately, but finally eked out a win to end a ten-game skid, their longest since 2002-03. This is a team needing a break and a little momentum — something not to be found previously against the likes of Texas and other powers on the out-of-conference slate for GWU this season.

High Point — The Panthers have been doing more than lurking on the outside lately — this is a squad that will likely have a major say in the Big South race down the stretch and in the tournament.  The first big test along that path is with Saturday’s visit by Radford, when a lot of eyes will be on the Millis Center and how HPU handles that match-up.

Liberty — Year-in and year-out, you just can’t count out the Flames.   Even when they’re not at their best, this is always a squad that can bring it on any given night.  They’ve done just that in winning three of four to start Big South competition.  Jesse Sanders is doing a lot to keep the team going strong these days, ranking in the Big South’s top ten in both assists and rebounding.

Presbyterian — It’s widely known that PC is essentially saving itself for next year and the arrival of postseason D-I eligibility for the former D-II school, with prominent players redshirting this season to take advantage of the next.  That said, this is rapidly becoming a totally lost year for the Blue Hose, faltering to 0-5 in the Big South and only 2-15 overall.

Radford — The Highlanders have won them close and they’ve won them going away, but the bottom line is that they’re winning, at least when it comes to conference games.  RU scheduled strong outside the Big South and did not always get the better end of that set-up, but it has steeled them for competition among peer schools.  In addition to an unblemished Big South record this season, the Highlanders have a streak of 11 road wins in the league dating back to last year.

UNC Asheville — The Bulldogs played Coastal Carolina within a point on Thursday, but regardless of the margin, it’s still a loss, and makes three of those in a row in Conference play for UNC Asheville after the school’s surprising opening win in Big South play.  Coach Eddie Biedenbach’s group will work hard for every game, but it’s hard to say this team has enough to change its direction this season.

VMI — The pace continues to be blistering in VMI games, although it’s still not working out on a regular basis for the Keydets, even as they hold the top scoring rank in the country (again).  They can push the pace, but VMI opponents have not blinked.  Liberty beat VMI 110-102 last Saturday, and Winthrop took advantage of the high pace and cold shooting of the Keydets to streak to a 96-63 win on Thursday (only the third time in 12 games VMI has been held under 85).  Last year, that strategy propelled the Keydets one game short of the Big Dance, but the Holmes twins are not on this team to hit those shots any longer.

Winthrop — Still looking forward to finding out which Winthrop we’ve really got here…they pushed Radford to the brink earlier this year and ran VMI all over the floor this week, but that latter feat was done only after five losses in a row with fewer than 60 points in each game (ouch).

jstevrtc (547 Posts)


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