Big South Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

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

Standings

  1. Coastal Carolina           15-3 / 26-5
  2. Radford                        13-5 / 18-11
  3. Winthrop                      12-6 / 16-13
  4. UNC Asheville             11-7 / 14-15
  5. High Point                    10-8 / 15-14
  6. Liberty                         10-8 / 15-15
  7. Charleston Southern       7-11/ 13-16
  8. VMI                               5-13/ 10-18
  9. Gardner-Webb               5-13/ 8-21
  10. Presbyterian College       2-16/ 5-26

Top Storylines

Tournament Time.  The Big South races resolved themselves, the seeds have been set, and it’s time for the second season.  At the top, Coastal Carolina held its lead and held off all comers to win the regular season title with a remarkable 15-3 and 26-5 record.  Preseason favorite Radford defeated Winthrop in the season’s last game to settle the issue of seeds number two and three, while Asheville narrowly edged out High Point and Liberty for the right to be the final home team in the tournament’s first round.  At the other end of the line, VMI had the tiebreaker edge over GWU for the eighth and final tourney position.

Award Winners.  The Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the Big South were each well-deserved repeats of the previous season: Art Parakhouski of Radford and Mantoris Robinson of Winthrop, respectively.  Coach of the Year went to Cliff Ellis of Coastal, naturally, for his remarkable season with the Chanticleers.  Jeremy Sexton of CSU took the Freshman of the Year honor, while Phillip Martin of Radford earned the Scholar-Athlete of the Year award.

Big South All-Conference.  The First-Team All-Conference list matched four of the six (due to a tie for fifth) named in the preseason:

  • C Art Parakhouski-RU
  • F Joseph Harris-CCU
  • G Nick Barbour-HPU
  • G Jamarco Warren of CSU.

The new name to the squad was Harris’ Coastal teammate, F Chad Gray.  Of that lineup, Parakhouski and Harris are seniors, Gray and Warren are juniors, and Barbour is the lone sophomore.

Looking Ahead

The first-round match-ups look like this:

  • VMI (8) at Coastal Carolina (1) – CCU routed VMI on the season’s last day, and the Keydets just stayed in town for the rematch rather than commute.  It’s the 1-8 game, so why think the outcome could be any but the obvious?  Well, as Coach Ellis said himself this week, VMI can make you change your game, and they’re an aggressive shooting team—if they get hot, look out.  Even so, Coastal just played at VMI’s relentless pace and won by 30… it seems unlikely this would be an exit for the Chants.
  • CSU (7) at Radford (2) – Radford had some unsteady moments during the season, but we’re guessing this won’t be another one of those.  RU had a taste of the Dance a year ago and shouldn’t bow out quickly this season—especially not with Player of the Year Parakhouski in the middle.  CSU had its peak early and has been struggling late in the season.  It would take a great game by the Bucs to power an upset here.
  • Liberty (6) at Winthrop (3) – Coastal and Radford may be the top seeds, but Winthrop is the team no one wants to play.  If not for a dreadful ice cold shooting stretch on the season’s last day, we’d be talking about the Eagles as the two-seed.  WU got pushed to the side last year after a long period of dominance… it would seem Randy Peele’s squad would like its shot to return to the top.  Liberty has been a team without consistency this season—and it would seem this group’s better days may be ahead of it.  This could be a good game, but most common indicators would favor Winthrop to prevail.
  • High Point (5) at UNC Asheville (4) – 4-5 games are almost always close and competitive affairs, and we don’t expect any different when the Panthers and Bulldogs cross paths.  For Asheville, the key is teamwork—these guys all produce.  If they don’t have four guys (or more) in double figures for a game, they figure something’s not right.  Getting the home court may give them the comfort level they need, while the home-road Jekyll-and-Hyde act of HPU has grown a life of its own this season.  First-year coach Scott Cherry can say that it’s different for the postseason, but we still see how poorly the Panthers have played away from home and say they need to prove it to change anyone’s mind.

After that?  We know the semifinals will be in Coastal’s gym—because those games go to the top seed’s location (even if they don’t advance).  The finals go to the home of the higher-seeded survivor, meaning CCU can host as long as they keep winning, but RU is next in line for the home court.  Winthrop would need plenty of help to get the final game, and scenarios after that get harder and harder to swallow.  Technically speaking, the top seven seeds are all alive for the possibility of hosting the final game—only VMI as the lowest seed has no shot.  Practically speaking, it would be a stunner if it fell below #3, and seems unlikely to get beyond the grasp of the top two (one could falter, but both?).

Looking Back

As cited above, the pecking order of the league got all sorted out, so we’re not just looking behind as much as seeing who’s LEFT behind: Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian College.  PC is still in transition to D-I, so the Blue Hose knew this year, just like last year, they would not make the tourney field.  The disappointment is real for GWU, however, as the Runnin’ Bulldogs ended up the ninth team in an eight-team party.

Team Capsules

  • Charleston Southern the Bucs have junior All-Conference guard Jamarco Warren and Freshman of the Year Jeremy Sexton, so next year looks pretty good for CSU…the development of Sexton will be key for Coach Barclay Radebaugh.
  • Coastal Carolina – they’ll miss Harris when he’s gone, but Coach Ellis showed he has plenty more in his bag of tricks for the Chanticleers.  Junior Chad Gray should be a strong leader for this bunch next year, and All-Freshman team member Kierre Greenwood will have more seasoning to help out.
  • Gardner-Webb – things just sort of fell apart for GWU this year, didn’t they?  More bad news in Boiling Springs: no Runnin’ Bulldogs on any of the All-Conference teams, including the freshman squad.
  • High Point – Coach Cherry has a star baller in the making with Nick Barbour, and seems to have a good grip on growing an improving team at HPU…now if they could just straighten out the home-road thing…
  • Liberty –  after so much turnover from last year, the Flames got one man on Second-Team All-Conference in 2010: senior Kyle Ohman.  The better news for the future of the Lynchburg faithful is that they have All-Freshman Evan Gordon to help Coach Dale Layer in the second year for each at LU.
  • Presbyterian College – it’s “all in” for PC next year—they mortgaged this season to go big next year by redshirting strong players for the school’s final year without postseason eligibility.  If next season does not show incredible improvement, then something is radically wrong in the universe.
  • Radford – the future is now for RU, because the days are numbered for “Big Art.”  Parakhouski should be in the NBA next year, and while the Highlanders will be far from empty-handed without him, their best chance of great things would seem to be with the Belarussian in uniform.
  • UNC Asheville – the Bulldogs are buying what Coach Eddie Biedenbach is selling—and why not?  He’s the Big South’s all-time winningest coach and he’s put together a winning formula by spreading the workload evenly.  No reason to think that won’t continue for UNCA going forward…
  • VMI – take heart, Keydets—All-Freshman forward Stan Okoye is exactly the kind of guy Coach Duggar Baucom can rebuild his perpetual motion scheme around… so while this season fell far short of last year’s successes, there’s a chance the corps may march up the ranks again.
  • Winthrop –  the good news for the Eagles is that Mantoris Robinson accepted the challenge of being his team’s leader—and in doing so, became the Big South’s first two-time winner of Defensive Player of the Year…the bad news for WU? Robinson is a senior, so he’ll leave a void behind in Rock Hill.
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