Mark Bryant is the RTC correspondent for the Big South Conference.
A Look Back
In and Out: Mike Holmes’ active time at Coastal Carolina turned out to be a short one, as the transfer from South Carolina went from newly-eligible arrival to high scorer to indefinitely suspended player to departed student in a brief span. There’s a mix of reporting on the subject out there, but the unofficial consensus is that Holmes fought with teammate Desmond Holloway, earning the suspension (and injuring Holloway), and has since withdrawn from the school. Coastal’s prognosis is a good one either way, but with the play of Holmes, it could have been great–on the court. It seems that this may be a positive change for Cliff Ellis and his team off the court.
Rapid Spread: As fast as the teams at the top are stringing wins together, the teams at the bottom are plummeting, making for a six-game spread after seven-to-eight games played in conference. The one-two punch at the top from Coastal (8-0) and Liberty (8-1) is balanced by the sagging performances of Gardner-Webb (2-6) and Radford (1-7). The middle remains a bit of a dogfight, of course.
Defying Convention: In the VMI Keydets’ first nine Big South games, the team has had four at home and five on the road, resulting in a 4-5 record. That’s the part that sounds reasonable…here’s the twist: VMI is 4-1 on the road and 0-4 at home in league play.
- Coastal Carolina (17-2 / 8-0)… what can we say that hasn’t already been said in this space regarding the Chanticleers? Coastal continues its epic roll, now at 15 straight wins. We started them at the top, we’re keeping them at the top. Chad Gray has been living up to his role as team leader through everything the team has faced this year.
- Liberty (14-7 / 8-1)… most seasons, this group would have enough to be in the number one slot, but obviously Coastal’s run cannot be denied–particularly since it includes a win over the Liberty on the Flames’ home court. That said, don’t take your eye off this bunch, with John Brown playing strong on both ends of the floor and playing like a rebound machine, plus Jesse Sanders running the floor and contributing in all phases, LU has great tools.
- Charleston Southern (11-9 / 5-3)… you have to give it up for Charleston Southern, because CSU has been improving as the year has developed. We told you they had the talent, if they could just get the shots to fall–well, the percentages have been tilting back in the Bucs’ favor and that has resulted in some important Big South victories. If they can keep this going, they can host a first round game, but the question will be if they can produce with consistency.
- UNC Asheville (9-9 / 4-4)… since the last time we wrote about the Bulldogs, they haven’t lost–three Big South wins in a row and a healthier complement of players mean that coach Eddie Biedenbach may have his group ready to play to their potential after all. Ah, but can they do anything with Coastal Carolina paying a visit this week?
- VMI (11-8 / 4-5)… as noted above, this team is one that could use some balance in terms of home vs. road — and not in the typical sense. If the Keydets can start producing wins on the home floor, then VMI could make some noise in this race, given the velocity and volume of the scoring in any given game.
- Winthrop (8-10 / 4-4)… the faith in Winthrop’s late-season prowess and tournament savvy may soon be put to the test. The Eagles have dropped the last two conference games, putting them a little lower on the list than their fans are probably comfortable with, but they’ll need to turn this around on performance, not reputation.
- Presbyterian College (7-9 / 1-3)… the Blue Hose are starting to hit a pattern of close, but not close enough in game after game, and with Al’Lonzo Coleman hurt now, PC is going to have to work even harder to get results–all on a team that knows it won’t be playing postseason ball..
- High Point (5-11 / 2-5)… beware of freefalling Panthers. HPU’s story gets worse with every telling, and coach Scott Cherry needs his team to grab a win somehow just to stop the fall–eight straight losses overall, and five straight in conference, including a loss to Radford, RU’s only Big South win this year.
- Gardner-Webb (6-13 / 1-6)… the Runnin’ Bulldogs are also runnin’ downhill fast right now–nine straight losses this season and five straight in league play (with the only Big South win coming against Radford). Maybe some home cooking will help, as GWU has only played four home games so far this season.
- Radford (4-14 / 1-7)… despite snaring their first conference victory, the outlook remains pretty bleak for the Highlanders. The team stats show some unkind numbers, and the opposition has not exactly been sympathetic to their plight.
A Look Ahead
The astute observer may note that the Power Rankings listed above match the current conference standings, which may seem to show a lack of imagination on my part, but I believe that the order this week is an accurate reflection of their relative strengths right now. Obviously there’s still plenty of room for ebb and flow in there, but these teams have played enough games to give us a good feel for what level they are playing at on any given night. With the top five teams all on winning streaks and the bottom five teams all on losing streaks, someone will have to break the ranks and shift this order.