RTC Conference Primers: #29 – Big South

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 6th, 2010

Mark Bryant of Big South SHOUT is the RTC correspondent for the Big South Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Coastal Carolina (14-4)
  2. Winthrop (13-5)
  3. UNC Asheville (11-7)
  4. Presbyterian College (10-8)
  5. High Point (9-9)
  6. Liberty (9-9)
  7. Charleston Southern (8-10)
  8. VMI (6-12)
  9. Radford (6-12)
  10. Gardner-Webb (4-14)

All-Conference Team

  • Nick Barbour (G) High Point
  • Austin Kenon (G) – VMI
  • Jamarco Warren (G) – Charleston Southern
  • Al’Lonzo Coleman (F) – Presbyterian College
  • Chad Gray (F) – Coastal Carolina

Sixth Man

  • Keith Gabriel (G) – VMI

Impact Newcomer

  • Mike Holmes (F) – Coastal Carolina – Holmes comes to CCU after being dismissed from South Carolina last winter and won’t be eligible to play until a big tilt against LSU on December 13. The senior averaged 10.8 PPG and 7.4 RPG in his last full season in a power conference (2008-09), so he’s very capable of being a force in the Big South as long as he keeps his act together. Until he proves that, however, he’s something of a wildcard.
Cliff Ellis led Coastal Carolina to school records in regular season victories and wins in conference play, but had to settle for the NIT in 2010. Such is life in the mid-majors. (TSN Archive)

What You Need to Know

  • Most folks would probably still identify Winthrop as the team of note from the Big South, with that school still having provided the conference’s only NCAA Tournament first round victory (over Notre Dame in 2007). Although they represented the Big South last year, the Eagles did not do so unchallenged.  Coastal Carolina, bitter rival of Winthrop, asserted itself last year and won the regular season title before falling to the Eagles in the Conference Tournament.  Expect the two familiar foes to be dueling again throughout the upcoming year.  As for players to watch, with the departure of some hallmark big men from the league, outside shooting and guard play will likely generate the most excitement, thanks to contributors like Nick Barbour of High Point, Jamarco Warren of Charleston SouthernAustin Kenon of VMI and J.P. Primm of UNC Asheville, among others.

Predicted Champion

  • Coastal Carolina (NCAA Seed #15). For now we’ll say that head coach Cliff Ellis will keep the Coastal Carolina faithful loud and proud another year and go one step beyond where it stopped a season ago.  Forward Chad Gray will be the team leader now, and he’ll have Kierre Greenwood at his side in a lineup that should be trouble most nights for the rest of the Big South.  The Chanticleers got surprised by Winthrop in the Big South Championship last time out, but that experience may be just what the Chants need to climb the next rung.  A good regular season performance and proper conference tournament run should be good enough to seat CCU as a #15 seed, although that could be optimistic if the committee holds recent Big South results against them. If they start as a #15, that will likely be the beginning and end unless the match-up is particularly favorable.  If they start as a First Four team, they should possess the ability to make it into the main bracket. Also notable for the Chanticleers is the arrival of a big transfer in 6’8 forward Mike Holmes after off-court incidents landed him in hot water at South Carolina. Holmes will become eligible around the middle of non-conference play, so provided he stays out of trouble, his addition could be a major boost.

Top Contenders

  • Winthrop – Plenty of people have regretted counting out the Eagles prematurely (see last year’s Big South Tournament), so don’t forget that coach Randy Peele gets his team built for the grind of late-season and tournament play.  This may not be a flashy, sharpshooting bunch, but they will contest every ball and every shot.  The Eagles do not have much in the way of “name” players, but the team always gels when it has to–so keep them on your radar.
  • UNC Asheville – The Bulldogs will be lurking all year long, and if they pull down a few wins at the right time, they could be this year’s surprise.  Head coach Eddie Biedenbach always has his team ready for big games, and with more experience under the belts of players like J.P. Primm, John Williams and Matt Dickey, UNC Asheville may have the right combination to unlock more postseason games.  They’ll have to improve their performance away from home to get over the hump.

Top 5 RPI Boosters

There are a number of out-of-conference games to watch for, but here are five that could provide the greatest lift with the right bounce (it’s been known to happen).

  • Nov. 18 – Coastal Carolina vs. Georgetown (in Charleston) – if CCU is going to win selection committee support, getting big wins will surely help.  Coastal doesn’t have many marquee opponents, so they would have to make the most of opportunities like this (and at LSU).
  • Nov. 19 – Radford at South Carolina – RU may be down a bit and USC potentially on the rise, but the Gamecocks have a history of letting games like this slip past them, and so it’s probably a better shot for the Highlanders than games at Virginia and Florida.
  • Nov. 23 – UNC Asheville at North Carolina – Want to shock the world?  If the Bulldogs really wanted to shake things up, this Dean Dome match-up would be the one to do it…although other games against Auburn, Georgetown, and Ohio State would also make plenty of noise.
  • Dec. 18 – Gardner-Webb at Louisville – New head coach Chris Holtmann does not have the same GWU bunch that went to Rupp and upset Kentucky in recent years, so it’s a stretch, but beating the Cardinals would make for a nice bookend with that win over the Wildcats.  GWU has an aggressive schedule that also includes Florida State, Michigan, Oklahoma and Arizona State.
  • Dec. 22 – Winthrop at Kentucky – speaking of Kentucky, here’s UK on the Winthrop schedule.  As indicated above, WU is built to frustrate opponents.  If the Wildcats are not on top of their shooting, they could find this more difficult than expected.

Key Conference Games

Relying on the top contenders, these are the games that may have the most to say about the regular season title and the seeding –and hosting–for the Big South Tournament.

  • Jan. 6 – UNC Asheville at Winthrop – can the Bulldogs make a road statement to open 2011?
  • Jan. 13 – Winthrop at Coastal Carolina – A return to the scene of the crime where Winthrop stole the title that Coastal Carolina expected to win.  The crowd will be insane in small Kimbel Arena for this rivalry game.
  • Feb. 5 – Winthrop at UNC Asheville – these teams will be jockeying for position going into the season stretch, and the game could carry a lot of weight.
  • Feb. 12 – Coastal Carolina at Winthrop – should draw a large audience at the Winthrop Coliseum, with rivals and title contenders squaring off late in the season.
  • Feb. 22 – UNC Asheville at Coastal Carolina – interesting in that this could be the opportunity for each team to assert its strength near the end of the schedule and settle multiple positions at the top of the standings.

Digging Deeper

A few bonus items:

  • Presbyterian College has gone largely unnoticed as a Big South contender since joining, but with multiple players coming off of a mid-eligibility redshirt season, including Preseason All-Conference forward Al’Lonzo Coleman, the PC Blue Hose will make a jump of several spots in the standings this year.  They will still not be eligible for a postseason berth this year as part of the transition to NCAA Division I.
  • Pro prospects out of the Big South run the gamut: former VMI star Reggie Williams has found a home for himself with the Golden State Warriors, former Radford standout Art Parakhouski has signed with a European club after a stint with the summer league team for the Boston Celtics, and another Highlander veteran has a contract of a different sort: Eric Hall is now a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.
  • Big South athletic directors gave consideration to altering the postseason format for the conference, but all such discussions have been tabled, and the conference tournament will proceed in the same manner as it has in recent seasons (top four teams host quarterfinals, regular season champion hosts semifinals, top remaining team hosts final).
  • Next season the Big South will add its 11th member, as Campbell University will join the league for play in 2011-12.

NCAA Tournament History

  • The Big South stands at a paltry 2-18 (.100) all-time in the NCAA Tournament, with nine appearances coming from the Winthrop Eagles. The conference’s most recent victory in the Big Dance came from the Eagles, who toppled 6th-seeded Notre Dame in 2007.

Final Thoughts

  • The Big South has seen its share of teams make runs, yet has retained an air of unpredictability at the same time.  Teams have a way of making rapid rises (and falls) in the standings–and wildcards like Presbyterian College with its team makeover for this year will only serve to enhance that mystery.  In the end, although we may see plenty of churn in how the teams finish from year-to-year, it still seems likely that the last two standing last year may just be training for the rematch in 2011: Winthrop and Coastal Carolina.
Brian Goodman (966 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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One response to “RTC Conference Primers: #29 – Big South”

  1. Can’t wait for the season to start. Lost without it.

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