Big South Wrap & Tourney PreviewPosted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2011
Mark Bryant is the RTC correspondent for the Big South Conference. Get up to speed for the Big South conference tournament with the RTC conference wrap-up and tournament preview before it tips Tuesday night.
Power Rankings/Tournament Preview
The Big South tournament winner could receive as high as a 13-seed if Coastal Carolina parlays its regular season success into an automatic Tournament bid, but if there’s an upset along the way, a 16-seed could be more probable.
1. Coastal Carolina (26-4, 16-2) - Cliff Ellis and The Chanticleers plowed through the season’s first few months, garnering AP poll consideration, before dropping two games in February. A dark cloud formed after a story by the New York Times led the NCAA to investigate the recruitment of star guard Desmond Holloway. With Holloway ineligible while the matter is resolved, the team has also had to persevere through Kierre Greenwood‘s ACL tear and a prior suspension of Mike Holmes. Winning the Big South tourney is still in the cards, but the uncertainty would weigh heavily against any chances of pulling a first-round NCAA Tournament upset.
2. Liberty (19-12, 13-5) - With their best conference finish ever, they have the Big South POY in Jesse Sanders as well as John Brown, a masterful rebounder. Evan Gordon gives them a versatile Big Three. The team outperformed expectations, though four losses in a row may have tempered them. Still, if Coastal Carolina gets upended, Liberty is the favorite to steal their bid. In a conference tournament where the highest-seeded team remaining hosts the final, it’s an outcome the Flames are pulling for.
3. UNC Asheville (16-13, 11-7) – A team on the rise, the Bulldogs prepared themselves for postseason play by squeaking out close wins late in the season on the road against Coastal Carolina and Gardner-Webb. Matt Dickey, JP Primm and John Williams are experienced 1,000-point scorers for Eddie Biedenbach.
4. VMI (17-12, 10-8) – Took an exciting 89-85 game over Winthrop on the regular season’s last day. Succeeding on the road more than at home in conference play (6-3 away, 4-5 at home) puts them in a peculiar position as they “host” Winthrop. Austin Kenon is steady as they come in the conference and DJ Covington has picked up the slack down low.
5. Winthrop (13-6, 9-9) – The Eagles lost a close game with VMI, its first-round-opponent, just last weekend. As it turned out, Saturday’s loss to the Keydets was the difference between VMI coming to Winthrop and the Eagles traveling to Lexington, Virginia, for Thursday’s first-round game. Coach Randy Peele prefers a grind-it-out style, but against VMI, they nearly topped VMI in their own game of fast-paced hoops.
6. Charleston Southern (16-15, 9-9) – The Buccanneers struggled through most of conference play, but won three out of four to close the season. With a Big South tournament home game at stake, Barclay Radebough‘s team fought Coastal hard, but lost by four. Jamarco Warren is a sharpshooter who can score in bunches, but as he goes, so go the Bucs: 20.6 points per contest in Charleston Southern’s 16 wins, and 14.2 points per contest in the team’s 15 losses.
7. High Point (11-18, 7-11) - Nick Barbour, the conference’s preseason player of the year, struggled under increased expectations, and the team followed suit. While they strung together a four-game winning streak, losing begot losing.
8. Gardner-Webb (11-20, 6-12)- A season highlight was ending Coastal Carolina‘s 22-game win streak on the road, and a rematch awaits in the opening round Tuesday night. First-year head coach Chris Holtmann has plenty to hang his hat on, with prosperous (if inconsistent) players under his wing as the Bulldogs continue to transition under his leadership.
9. Presbyterian (13-18, 7-11)- The Blue Hose continue to make the transition to full Division-I status, but that didn’t stop them from scheduling tough, a reputation they’ve developed in recent seasons. It’s starting to pay off, as they beat Wake Forest and Princeton, and put a November scare into the suddenly storming Kansas State Wildcats.
10. Radford (5-24, 2-16) – Two years removed from a Big Dance cameo, the Highlanders miss the eight-team conference tournament. Jereal Smith is a promising guard who made the conference’s all-freshman team, but this season was a tough one for Brad Greenberg, as the Highlanders failed to notch a D-I home win all season.
A Look Back
Player of the Year: Jesse Sanders, Liberty
Coach of the Year: Dale Layer, Liberty
Freshman of the Year: DJ Covington, VMI
- Jesse Sanders, G, Jr., Liberty – 11.2 PPG, 5.7 APG; 6.2 RPG in conference play
- Austin Kenon, G, Sr., VMI – 18.3 PPG, 41% 3FG, 84.5% FT
- Chad Gray, F, Sr., Coastal Carolina – 14.1 PPG
- Jamarco Warren, G, Sr., Charleston Southern - 17.5 PPG, 36.7% 3FG
- Matt Dickey, G, Jr., UNC Asheville - 14.9 PPG, 37.5% 3FG