With the regular season coming to an end nearly every day over the next week will be filled with Senior Days/Nights. In nearly every case those honored will be seniors with a few exceptions for others (usually juniors), who are expected to leave for the NBA Draft. Honoring a player that is no longer on the team is almost unheard of, but that is what Michigan State planned to do for Delvon Roe, who retired before the season started due to a degenerative knee injury, on their Senior Day game against Ohio State. The Spartans actually wanted to have Roe play, but that proposal was rejected due to NCAA rules on amateurism. Apparently, Roe’s decision to become a professional actor prevents him from participating in college athletics. While the school will still be allowed to honor him before the game, the ruling seems questionable since Percy Miller (aka Lil’ Romeo) was allowed to play for USC despite his entertainment career.
Following Saturday’s phenomenal Missouri-Kansas there were probably hundreds of columns about why the Border War should continue, but you will have a hard time finding a better column on the game and the rivalry than the one written by Joe Posnanski, which isn’t shocking for those who are familiar with his work. We are not sure we are willing to agree with his assertion that it was the best rivalry in college basketball, but it certainly ranks up there. To some degree in the modern age, sentimentality has become overrated and a tired fallback for writers, but we will miss the quality of basketball this rivalry has given us particularly of late.
Yesterday was a tumultuous day for Miami as Reggie Johnson was declared ineligible yesterday afternoon due to reports of his family accepting impermissible benefits (not related to the Nevin Shapiro scandal) without his knowledge. Johnson, who has averaged 10.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game since coming back from an injury earlier this year, was questionable for last night’s game against Florida State due to a knee injury, but was forced to sit out anyways with this news. Remarkably the Hurricanes managed to pull out the win without Johnson’s services. For now, Johnson and the Hurricanes will have to hope that this issue gets resolved quickly as time is running out on the Hurricanes as they sit on the bubble.
NCAA handed down one of the stiffer penalties in recent memory on Friday when it placed Radford on probation for two years and gave former coach Brad Greenberg a five-year show-cause penalty. The penalty for the school, which was related to its men’s basketball and tennis programs, was based on recruiting benefits and is not that severe, but the problem was exacerbated by an effort by the coaching staff that was spearheaded by Greenberg to mislead the NCAA about those violations. Brad, who is the brother of Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, is currently an assistant coach for the Venezuelan national team and given the severity of his penalty we do not expect to see him around the college game any time soon unless his brother decides to take him in.
Is he actually going to come back? According to reports, Jim Calhounmay make his (sort of) long-awaited return to the sidelines on Saturday against Pittsburgh. With Calhoun returning for what might be his last game ever at Gampel and Senior Day (admittedly with a rather undistinguished senior class) it should be an interesting atmosphere. If Calhoun really wants to get the crowd (and hopefully his team) fired up, it would seem like an opportune time to announce that he is retiring at the end of this season, which many are already speculating that he will do.
With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Big South correspondent, Mark Bryant.
New Kids On The Block: The most obvious changes from last hoops season to the one upcoming are the new faces in the Big South Conference. First and foremost, there’s a whole new team to account for this year, as the Campbell Fighting Camels have returned. CU was a founding member of the Big South in 1983, but left in 1994. Now the boys from Buies Creek are back where they belong, nestled in among more geographic rivalries and familiar old foes. And while it’s not as dramatic as a whole new team, plenty of eyes will be on the new head man at Radford, where Mike Jones will be in charge of a rebuilding process for the Highlanders.
Old Faces, New Places: And while every conference sees plenty of shuffling among assistants from year to year, the Big South had a couple notable arrivals–particularly for those who have followed SEC hoops in the past. Charleston Southern added former South Carolinastandout B.J. McKie to the coaching staff. McKie joins coach Barclay Radebaugh, who was on the USC bench in BJ’s days as a guard to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, up the beach from Charleston, Coastal Carolina and head coach Cliff Ellis have added their own familiar name in Mamadou N’Diaye, who played at Auburn for Ellis before launching his NBA career.
Changes of Scenery: Big South basketball locales will take on different looks both at home and away this year, as UNC Asheville and Coastal Carolina are putting the finishing touches on entirely new facilities, while several schools are hitting the road less traveled and going abroad. Summer trips will take Presbyterian College to Italy, Gardner-Webb to the Bahamas, and Libertyto Belgium and France, plus once the season begins, we will see Winthrop head off to the Virgin Islands.
What do Asheville's Matt Dickey (2) and JP Primm have in store for an encore after last season's NCAA Tournament bid?
Everybody applauded Shaka Smart a few months ago when he turned down the allure of programs with bigger names to stay at VCU with the hopes of building an elite program there. He may do that, but it looks like he will need to do it with a new coaching staff as Radfordsnapped up VCU assistant Mike Jonesand Boston University is apparently strongly considering another VCU assistant, Mike Rhoades. As for Jones, he may have a difficult time cleaning up the mess left by former coach Brad Greenberg, who resigned after numerous irregularities were discovered within the program.
For much of the past year college fans have been inundated by rumors about conference realignment. One move that definitely stayed under our radar was Seattle moving to the WAC. The move that will become official in the 2012-13 academic year will allow the men’s basketball program, coached by former UCLA point guard Cameron Dollar, to compete at the Division 1 level in the first year that they are eligible for the NCAA Tournament. While most fans are not that familiar with the Seattle program, they do have an impressive pedigree if you are willing to go back nearly 50 years. In 1958, led by Elgin Baylor, they made it to the NCAA Championship game before losing to Kentucky, 82-74, and in 1966 they handed Texas Western (yes, the Glory Road team) its only loss of the season in their last game before the NCAA Tournament. The current Seattle team is significantly less talented, but should be aided by the depleted WAC, which will see Boise State, Fresno State, and Nevada leave the conference in the next two seasons.
When Missouri hired Frank Haith after the season ended they were widely ridiculed (ok, we were in that group), but it looks like he is making some significant moves with the addition of Auburn transfer Earnest Ross (13.1 PPG and 6.6 RPG as part of an anemic offense last season) and he is reportedly in the hunt for UConn transfer Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Pepperdine transfer Keion Bell (yes, the guy who dunked over seven people). If Haith can land that trio, the media ridicule about the hire may soften although questions about his in-game coaching will remain.
When Dwayne Polee announced that he was transferring from St. John’s several weeks ago we speculated that it might have had something to do with the influx of talent that Steve Lavin was bringing to the Red Storm. Yesterday, Polee announced that he was transferring to San Diego State and was applying for a hardship waiver (his mother has a medical condition requiring surgery) that would allow him to play for the Aztecs next year. Although Polee had a disappointing freshman campaign this is a big signing for Steve Fisher and could help the team transition from Kawhi Leonard era to the future if Polee can find his game again now that he is back in California.
Last night we went on a Twitter rant questioning the public’s anger at LeBron James for not fulfilling his potential (or at least what we perceive it to be), but we won’t question the existence of the widespread hatred of James and his current Heat team. Even before the season began, Sports Illustrated released a list of the top 25 most hated teams of all-time and had the Heat, who had yet to play a game together as the 25th most hated team of all-time. We are sure they would move up the list if it was done again today, but we were surprised to see that three college basketball teams–1983-84 Georgetown at #23, 1991-92 Duke at #12, and 1989-90 UNLV at #9–were rated ahead of the Heat. We aren’t exactly sure where the Heat would rank if the list were done again today, but we are guessing that they would rank higher than all three of those teams.
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.
Some injury information for your Wednesday morning. Pitt’s Ashton Gibbswill be out until at least Saturday with his injured left MCL, even though he says he’s back to 100% as of yesterday. St. John’s and Steve Lavin, Pitt’s weekend opponent, cannot be pleased with this news. On the other end of the Commonwealth, Villanova’s Corey Stokeswill remain out of the Wildcat lineup at least through the weekend as he tries to come back from turf toe on his left foot. Team doctors think he’ll be ready to re-join his squad by next Big Monday’s game against Syracuse.
Missouri’s Kim English(ed. note: corrected)seems to have his head on straight with respect to a hate crime that went down on his campus over the weekend. Someone had painted racist graffiti in front of a residence hall, but English, rather than getting angry, stated that he understands that it was simply the work of “one idiot” and not representative of most people in general. It’s always nice to see young people have a healthy sense of perspective when it comes to the ugly side of the real world.
Radford suspended its head coach, Brad Greenberg, for the remainder of the regular season as a result of NCAA violations relating to impermissible team travel and benefits for an ineligible player. It’s questionable whether the 5-21 (2-14 Big South) Highlanders will miss him much, as Radford is suffering through its worst season in a generation. Greenberg probably isn’t in any long-term trouble, though, as Radford is coming off two seasons where they won forty games and enjoyed an NCAA appearance in 2009.
It’s nearing the end of the regular season, and as we saw yesterday with Jim Boeheim’s presser where he attacked the media after a win, people start saying interesting things as the pressure increases. Here’s a couple of examples. Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, in reference to UC fans booing a pouting Yancy Gates when it appeared he was coming back into the game over the weekend, said that’s a life lesson at the level of big-time college hoops: “At the big-time level, there is a trade-off. You get to play on ESPN. You get name recognition that helps you, theoretically, get a job. I had a real problem with anybody getting on a kid from Murray State, riding buses all over the Ohio Valley Conference. … At our level it’s definitely different, because there are residual benefits. It goes with it. It’s not easy for them, but it’s life’s lessons.” Meanwhile, down at Kentucky, Terrence Jonescalled out his teammates without actually naming them when he said about UK’s road woes, “I feel we play two different ways when it’s home and away when it comes to older guys or guys stepping up. A different guy can step up at home but it seems like certain guys go away when we are away.” Maybe we should just add a quote of the day to the site from here on forth, because it’s always interesting this time of year.
Realizing of course that Northwestern has generally blown some golden opportunities this season to get itself onto the bubble and quite possibly into the (expanded) NCAA Tournament for the first time ever, Lake the Postsis already out there calling for head coach Bill Carmody’s dismissal. We certainly understand the frustration and agree that NW has hurt itself in key spots this year, but some progress is better than no progress and the likelihood of three straight NIT appearances is the start of something bigger.
Mark Bryant, Coordinator of New Media for the Big South Conference and writer of Big South SHOUT, is an RTC correspondent.
A Look Back
Sneak Preview: Early December brought a glimpse of conference play, as all teams got in some Big South action, with most playing two games inside the league. Liberty, High Point, and Coastal Carolina can all enjoy undefeated conference records until the full league schedule begins, while Charleston Southern, VMI, and Radford still seek their first Big South wins (and Gardner-Webb, Winthrop, UNC Asheville, and Presbyterian College all sit in the middle at 1-1).
Small Teams, Big Numbers: The trend of beating up on smaller schools continued recently, with Charleston Southern crushing Toccoa Falls 120-43 and VMI sprinting past Central Penn College by a remarkable score of 151-92…that’ll certainly help the famous VMI scoring average.
Conference Calls: While the Big South has mounted appropriate marks of 3-3 against SoCon foes and 2-2 vs. A-Sun opponents so far this season, other records may not reflect as well on the league, most notably an 0-6 total against the Colonial–and throw in a combined 0-4 vs. teams from the MEAC, MVC, and Patriot.
Coastal Carolina (7-2 / 1-0)… the Chanticleers have rattled off five in a row, they are undefeated at small but spirited Kimble Arena (5-0), and won their first Big South game on a Chad Gray dunk with 1.6 seconds to go against Charleston Southern. Things have been working out early for the defending regular season champions, and they get the nod at the top of the list.
Liberty (6-4 / 2-0)… this time, let’s give Liberty the benefit of the doubt we afforded VMI last time (more on them in a moment). The Flames handled Presbyterian and held off Winthrop to net two conference wins, running their overall win streak to four. Liberty seems to be making the necessary improvements to contend, save one: LU needs to demonstrate it can get a road win. The Flames are 6-0 on home or neutral floors, 0-4 on the road, not a recipe for success in crunch time.
High Point (5-3 / 2-0)… earlier, we wondered when we would see the expected performances of Preseason Player of the Year Nick Barbour and his supporting cast with HPU–apparently that was coming in Big South play. The Panthers got off to a 2-0 start by pulling out two close home victories, by two over GWU and three over Asheville. HPU also got some high praise and national recognition for Shay Shines’ dunk against Asheville that made the top spot on SportsCenter’s Top Plays last weekend:
Winthrop (4-4 / 1-1)… we will keep saying it because it’s true: beware the lurking Eagles. Coach Randy Peele believes in building for the tournament and knows that winning a few games at the right time can mean everything–but that doesn’t mean Winthrop sits back in the regular season. Winning in overtime at VMI in a high-scoring game was a test the Eagles passed with flying colors, only to falter at Liberty two days later. To move up the list, we’ll need to see more of the former and less of the latter. Robbie Dreher and Andre Jones have become a formidable tandem for the Eagles: they combined for 93 points in the two conference games.
VMI (6-4 / 0-2)… the Keydets keep piling up points, but spoiled their hot 5-0 start by losing three of the last four games. Stan Okoye is the league’s only player averaging over 20 points per game for the season, with teammate Keith Gabriel not far behind with more than 18 PPG. Not to be overlooked, freshman Rodney Glasgow has been a strong contributor this year and throws in better than 13 PPG as well. Nonetheless, you have to say VMI’s conference start was a disappointment. Losing in overtime against Winthrop should not be held against them, but it seems as if they should have been able to give PC more of a fight.
Gardner-Webb (6-6 / 1-1)… would you believe the Runnin’ Bulldogs are already approaching last year’s win total? It’s true, thanks to coach Chris Holtmann waking up the potential at GWU and getting off to a good start. The Bulldogs won a road game they needed to get at Radford and fell at HPU by just a basket, so it seems as if GWU may have some bark and some bite this season.
UNC Asheville (3-5 / 1-1)… it remains hard to peg this Asheville squad, although it seems fairly certain the injury to John Williams has hurt the squad’s overall performance. The Bulldogs hit the road and crushed Radford by 20, but followed that up with a three-point loss at High Point. They have a losing record overall, but with a win at a Big Six team in hand (even if it’s Auburn), so which team is this? Answers will likely come when full conference play rolls in soon.
Presbyterian College (3-5 / 1-1)… another team playing to mixed reviews on the early conference swing, falling to Liberty by nine but downing VMI by double-digits (and setting a PC record against Division-I opposition with 92 points in that game). Khalid Mutakabbir has found his shooting stroke, leading the Big South in 3-point field goal percentage (.680, 17-25).
Charleston Southern (4-5 / 0-1)… the Buccaneers have also had their ups and downs in the early going. CSU thought it might be able to sneak out of Conway with a win over Coastal, but fell by just two points. That’s a fair start, but still a loss–and that game will sit as the only Big South contest for a few weeks.
Radford (2-6 / 0-2)… it can’t be encouraging that in seven games, the Highlanders have only broken 60 once (83 vs. Methodist). Opening Big South play with a 20-point home loss sure doesn’t help the outlook for Brad Greenberg’s squad, now with six losses in a row.
A Look Ahead
Until all league teams get into the regular conference schedule beginning December 31, it remains a motley collection of home contests against smaller schools, road games versus major conference opponents, and a smattering of match-ups against comparable programs. Right now, the most encouraging thing is knowing that these teams will be going head-to-head soon and can truly sort out their identities from this rollercoaster mix of high-scoring wins and crushing defeats.
If you’re looking to catch the Big South in action against the nation’s top teams, you’ll have a few chances with Presbyterian matching up against Missouri (12/11), Gardner-Webb at Louisville (12/18), UNC-Asheville visiting Ohio State (12/21) and Winthrop against Kentucky (12/22).
Radford (#16, South, Greensboro pod)
vs. UNC (#1)
Thurs., 3/19 at 2:55 PM
Vegas Line: Radford, +27
General Profile Location: Radford, Virginia Conference: Big South, Automatic bid Coach: Brad Greenberg, 31-31 08-09 Record: 20-11 (15-3) Last 12 Games: 11-1, won 3. Best Win: At VMI, 97-90, on 2/21/09. Worst Loss: At William & Mary, 53-73, on 11/25/08. Off. Efficiency Rating: 100.5 (187th) Def. Efficiency Rating: 101.2 (165th)
Nuts ‘n Bolts Star Player(s): Artsiom Parakhouski (6’11″ junior center), 16.3 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 1.5 blocks/game. Unsung Hero: Amir Johnson (5’9″ junior guard), 9.6 ppg/4.7 rpg/5.3 apg and plays most minutes/game on the team (36.3). Potential NBA Draft Pick: None yet — but Parakhouski’s big and you can’t teach size. Key Injuries: No significant injuries. Depth: 22.7% (320th nationally); percentage of minutes played by reserves Achilles Heel: Turnovers. Radford averages 16.1 turnovers/game, 313th in the nation. Will Make a Deep Run if…: They keep hitting the boards. The Highlanders are 4th in the nation in rebounding (37.9 r/g). Will Make an Early Exit if…: They don’t take care of the ball. Tough to beat higher seeds if you don’t score on as many possessions as possible.
NCAA History Last Year Invited: 1998 Streak: One year. Best NCAA Finish: 1998 First Round. Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): Not enough data (Minimum 8 bids)
Other Distance to First Round Site: 137 miles School’s Claim to Fame: It’s the first university in the state of Virginia to use wireless technology throughout its entire campus. School Wishes It Could Forget: Their only previous NCAA appearance 11 years ago? A 36-point pounding by Duke in a 1-vs-16 game. Prediction: First round and out. Major RTC stories:4 Tickets Punched, 61 To Go
Mark Bryant, the Coordinator of New Media for the Big South conference and writer for Big South SHOUT, is an RTC correspondent.
Predicted Order of Finish:
Winthrop (19-10, 13-5)
Radford (17-12, 12-6)
Gardner-Webb (16-13, 11-7)
Liberty (16-15, 11-7)
High Point (15-14, 9- 9)
Charleston So. (13-16, 9- 9)
VMI (13-16, 8-10)
Coastal Carolina (14-16, 7-11)
UNC Asheville (11-18, 6-12)
Presbyterian (6-23, 4-14)
What You Need to Know (WYN2K). When the preseason balloting of the media and coaches produces seven teams with first-place votes (out of ten teams overall), it’s a pretty good clue that the race is wide open and/or that nobody really knows how it’s going to shake out. Why the mystery? Well, player losses may be cyclical for everyone, but the hits were hard across the board for Big South teams: a high number of star seniors, career record-holders, and all-conference representatives have departed (see: Arizona Reid, Reggie Williams, Chris Gaynor, and Jack Leasure, among many others). That turnover has left several coaches wondering what they have to work with this season—for example, Winthrop draws its somewhat traditional slot at the top, but as Head Coach Randy Peele pointed out, that’s without any Eagles on the preseason All-Conference team and with only 18 ppg returning this year! If Media Day interviews are to be taken at face value, the majority of Big South coaches believe the greatest talent pool likely belongs to Radford, so the Highlanders may make some noise. New member Gardner-Webb won’t be able to sneak up on anyone, a by-product of last year’s epic upset of UK at Rupp Arena. Liberty’s Anthony Smith has the skills to play anywhere, and he has earned preseason Player of the Year honors as he begins his senior campaign. The middle of the pack could finish in any order, with High Point, Charleston Southern, VMI and Coastal Carolina all working on their identities for 2008-09—only VMI and its trademark up-tempo offense offer a good sense of what may come this season. Between senior departures and the loss of 7-7 center Kenny George to injury, UNC Asheville will not be expected to duplicate last year’s surprising run to the top. Presbyterian is working through its transition to D1 and will have its work cut out for it just to stay off the bottom this year.
Predicted Champion.Winthrop Eagles(#14 NCAA). Last year’s top three scorers may be gone, but enough pieces are still there—including tournament experience and skilled coaching. WU has won the last four conference tournaments and the Eagles grabbed a first round NCAA win for the Big South in 2007 by toppling Notre Dame, so there are still plenty of guys in Rock Hill who know all about winning when it counts. If players like Charles Corbin and Mantoris Robinson step into the leadership void with some authority, the team will be fine—but they will be challenged by others who think there may be room at the top this year. Look for Winthrop to be touch-and-go for 20 wins, maybe coming up just short and finding a #14 seed in the works when the brackets are announced. Below are some highlights of Winthrop’s most recent Big South championship game.
Radford Highlanders. Forward/center Joey Lynch-Flohr gives RU a strong presence in the middle and the Highlanders certainly have their share of talent, but Coach Brad Greenberg will have to catch some breaks to pass Winthrop and break Radford’s poor postseason history (only Big South Tournament Championship: 1998).
Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs. All-Conference junior guard Grayson Flittner is a complete player, and GWU returns most of the team that pulled off the upset heard ‘round the nation (over UK), but the Bulldogs fell flat after that early win and there’s nothing to indicate that they will be better off this time out.
Liberty Flames. Anthony Smith is sensational, and you have to keep your eyes on a team that has an asset like that, but there are still too many unknowns for Coach Ritchie McKay in his second season at LU—look for the Flames to keep improving and to produce for McKay after this building year with its wave of freshmen.
Important/Key Games & RPI Boosters. A year ago, teams in the current Big South knocked off multiple teams in the ACC and the SEC, so where could that come from this year? There are games on the slate against the ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big East, Big 12 and other significant out-of-conference foes—plus the opponents still to be announced for the ESPN Bracketbusters games with Gardner-Webb, Liberty, and Winthrop. Here are a dozen to watch:
VMI @ Kentucky (11/14/08)
Radford @ Virginia (11/21/08)
Winthrop @ Davidson (11/21/08)
Gardner-Webb @ Oklahoma (11/22/08)
High Point @ NC State (11/22/08)
Liberty @ Virginia (11/25/08)
Gardner-Webb @ South Carolina (11/25/08)
Liberty @ Clemson (12/7/08)
UNC Asheville @ Ohio State (12/22/08)
Winthrop v. Florida (12/28/08)
Virginia Tech @ Charleston Southern (12/29/08)
Radford @ Wake Forest (12/30/08)
Honorary Big South members among majors this year? Try Virginia (3 games), South Carolina (3), Florida State (2), Clemson (2), Cincinnati (2), NC State (2), and Virginia Tech (2). Additional opponents in the RPI hunt for the Big South: Duke, UNC, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Kansas St., West Virginia, and USF, among others.
Here are a half-dozen games to watch in Conference play:
Radford @ Gardner-Webb (12/4/08 - December showdown for the challenger and the newcomer)
Winthrop @ Radford (12/6/08 – a very early barometer of the potential duel for first)
Liberty @ Winthrop (1/3/09 – gauge to see if Liberty will make a 2009 charge)
Radford @ Winthrop (2/2/09 – will it be a fight for first or a battle to stay in the race?)
VMI @ Liberty (2/24/09 – old rivalry may determine if either will be contender)
Did You Know?
the Big South Conference is marking its 25th Anniversary this season
star recruit Seth Curry (bother of Stephen) will play for Liberty this year…the son of former NBA player Dell Curry is not the only Big South newcomer with a pro pedigree—GWU adds junior transfer Roy Hinson III, son of the NBA’s Roy Hinson
VMI has led the nation in scoring for two consecutive years, only the 11th team to ever accomplish that feat (and a 3-year run has only been done twice before)
as alluded to above, the 2004-05 All-Freshman Team has departed, but its members have left their marks on the Conference record book: Reggie Williams (all-time leading scorer), Arizona Reid (all-time leading rebounder), Jack Leasure (the Big South 3-point record-holder), and Chris Gaynor (Conference career marks for assists and steals).
games against Presbyterian will count in the regular season standings, and the Blue Hose can compete for the regular season title, but PC is ineligible for any postseason play (as part of its transition to D1)
two coaches in the Big South have major conference head coaching experience: Coastal Carolina’s Cliff Ellis (Clemson, Auburn) and Liberty’s Ritchie McKay (Colorado State, Oregon State, New Mexico)…plus Radford’s Brad Greenberg has been an assistant in the NBA (Knicks, Clippers)
65 Team Era. UNC Asheville was the first to win an NCAA Tournament game, with its PiG win over Texas Southern in 2003. Winthrop has been the Big South representative for four consecutive seasons, and was the first to advance past the first round with its win over Notre Dame in 2007. In two other years (2005 and 2006), the Eagles gave #2 Tennessee (63-61) and #3 Gonzaga (74-64) all they wanted in first round matchups.
Final Thoughts. There are those outside the region who will overlook the Big South as a one-bid league without a history of deep tournament runs, but that would be short-sighted. The conference has now been around for a quarter-century; its caliber of coaching has improved and its competition for recruits has stepped up; its teams have demonstrated the ability to take down foes like Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Miami (FL) and other teams from the major conferences. With this year’s conference race believed to be an open playing field, any team could get hot at the end of the year if it finds the right chemistry among its young players and then perhaps enjoy an extra turn (or two?) at the Dance. It should definitely be fun to watch unfold over the course of the season.