Big East Morning Five: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 16th, 2012

  1. If anyone had questions about how the loss of starting center Fab Melo would impact Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament… they should still have questions.  The East Region’s #1 seeded Orange needed about 39 ½ minutes and a few controversial calls to finally discard a pesky UNC Asheville squad in a game where Bulldogs’ Head Coach Eddie Biedenbach believed his team had the best of it.  “Tonight, we were better than Syracuse,” Biedenbach said. “These guys played their tail off for 40 minutes and played better than Syracuse. This is the better team tonight.”  All that said, this was a game where Syracuse would not have ended the scrutiny involved without Melo in the lineup regardless of the result.  If they had won in a landslide, critics would simply say they should have won in a landslide as a #1 versus as #16.  We are sure to learn more on Saturday when Syracuse faces a much stiffer and battle-tested opponent in Kansas State.
  2. Following Syracuse’s narrow win over UNC Asheville, head coach Jim Boeheim was admittedly upset. However it had nothing to do with his team’s performance yesterday. Boeheim was reacting to comments made by Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education who insinuated that Boeheim was against the NCAA’s Academic Performance Rating (APR) system and that his team would not have qualified for this year’s NCAA Tournament under the recently tightened standards that will impact teams’ eligibility next year. A team that fails to meet a minimum 930 APR score will not be eligible for next year’s Tournament. Boeheim vehemently denied that his team would have failed to qualify this year, saying, “I think people need to get better information. Syracuse would be eligible to play in the Tournament this year. We are qualified. We are over 930. Under this year’s rules or last year’s rules, we would be eligible to play in the Tournament.” Boeheim also took umbrage to Duncan’s quoting Boeheim as saying the APR standard was “completely nuts,” stating that his words were taken out of context as he was referencing specific parts of the APR calculation that he is opposed to.
  3. The West Virginia men’s basketball team has played its last game as a member of the Big East and the #10 seeded Mountaineers did not go out in style as they were outclassed by #7 Gonzaga, 77-54.  The game was never really in doubt but remained entertaining nonetheless simply because the facial expressions of a less than jovial Bob Huggins are worth the price of admission every time.  In the irony department West Virginia ended its run on the home floor of their most hated Big East rival, Pittsburgh, in a game where the Mountaineers figured to have an advantage due to their proximity to  home against a west coast team. West Virginia will learn all they want to and more about travel in their next life as they navigate the Big 12.
  4. Steve Lavin scored his second recruiting commitment of the week and it was a big one as JaKarr Sampson will head to St. John’s after all.  Sampson, an athletic 6’8” wing, was a highly regarded class of 2011 player who had signed with the Red Storm hoping to begin his college career in 2011-12.  However, after being ruled academically ineligible, Sampson opted to re-open his recruitment and head back to Brewster Academy (NH) for another prep year.  St. John’s remained on his list throughout but it was widely believed Sampson was leaning toward suitors such as Kansas, Baylor and Providence, who had been recruiting him hard.  Re-landing Sampson represents a huge statement by Lavin, whose program has been on tenuous ground since his difficult recovery from prostate surgery sidelined him for most of the year. Despite rumors he may not be back next year and stories of opposing recruiters using his health against him, Lavin has publicly remained confident St. John’s would acquire another huge recruiting class.  He has quelled any doubts with the addition of Sampson.
  5. Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun and Kentucky’s John Calipari certainly compete for recruits as they lead national programs perennially seeking Final Fours and NCAA Championships. Not to mention that the Huskies and Wildcats were on a collision course for a third round NCAA Tournament matchup before Connecticut fell to Iowa State last night. With that in mind, one has to wonder if the wily veteran Calhoun was exhibiting a bit of gamesmanship when he commented that he would not be surprised to see Calipari making a jump back to the NBA on the heels of the New York Knicks and Mark D’Antoni parting ways. “Can I imagine John going in the NBA or anything else? Yes,” said Calhoun. “I think John very simply marches… to his own drummer,” he added. Upon D’Antoni’s exit, Calipari’s name quickly surfaced as a possible replacement. Calipari responded to the buzz by saying he intends to stay at Kentucky.
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ATB: Big Dance Day One Roundup — Two Upsets, Top Four Seeds Roll, Defending Champs Are Gone…

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede – It’s madness, baby!!! The real start of the NCAA Tournament arrived on Thursday afternoon, as did the collective drop of productivity from employees across the country. March Madness brings the best sick days, mobile apps, and computer split screens out of us, in the pursuit of tracking our brackets and following our favorite teams throughout the day. This Thursday is always special; the mark of the most exciting postseason in sports, and this year was no different. Despite the lack of buzzer-beaters and major upsets, day one was still a fantastic day of college basketball with plenty of key storylines. More fascinating finishes and thrilling games are surely on the way, but let’s take a look at all the action from the first half of the round of 64…

Your Watercooler Moment. #12 VCU Pulls Another Shaka.

Wichita State Was Devastated After Shaka Smart's Boys Pulled Another Upset (US Presswire)

It was just last year when Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams pulled off one of the all-time great Cinderella runs in NCAA Tournament history, winning five games as a #11 seed to go from the First Four to the Final Four in the 2011 Big Dance. In 2012, things were expected to be different — VCU is no longer a sleeper, the Rams were stuck with an even worse seed, and they had to take on a fellow strong mid-major team with Sweet Sixteen aspirations of their own. But the VCU boys did it again, or at least completed stage one of another improbable run. The #12 seed Rams defeated #5 Wichita State in a thrilling game, 62-59, for the biggest upset of day one. VCU jumped to a quick advantage and led by nine at halftime, but a late run by the Shockers gave WSU the lead with about two minutes to play. Bradford Burgess, the lone returning starter from last year’s Final Four team, answered with the biggest shot of the night — a three from the corner that would give VCU a lead that it did not relinquish. Joe Ragland and Toure’ Murry did their best to keep Wichita State’s dreams alive, but VCU was not to be denied on this day. Burgess finished with 16 points, five boards, four assists, and two steals in the win, which sends VCU to a date with #4 Indiana on Saturday.

Also Worth Chatting About. #16 UNC Asheville Nearly Makes History. #16 seeds were 0-108 all-time in the NCAA Tournament coming into Thursday, but nobody told the Bulldogs, a senior-laden team that was fired up to take on a reeling Orange team after word that their center Fab Melo would be ineligible for the Tournament. Without Melo, Syracuse was completely out of sorts, though the player’s absence was no excuse for the rest of the team to play so poorly on both ends. ‘Cuse survived and will move on to Saturday while putting this game behind them, but the story was UNC Asheville’s incredible effort to nearly win this game. The Bulldogs led by four points at halftime and hung tough for the entire 40 minutes despite leading scorer Matt Dickey only shooting 1-13 with five points! Asheville got 18 points from J.P. Primm and all of the team box score statistics were very similar in this game, but Syracuse’s late-game execution proved to be too much. Plenty of fans and media members will say that poor officiating was a large factor in the outcome, as UNCA may have gotten jobbed on several calls in the final four minutes. There was one undoubtedly awful call against Asheville that should have resulted in a Syracuse turnover, but blaming the loss on the referees is not something coach Eddie Biedenbach would do. It was a valiant effort by the Bulldogs that just came short, ending in a seven point win for Cuse. The Orange survive to play #8 Kansas State in the next round on Saturday.

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Checking In On… the Big South Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 19th, 2011

Mark Bryant oversees multimedia at the Big South Conference.  You can follow his updates on Twitter @BigSouthSports.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • New Gym, Part One: YES… UNC Asheville got its opportunity to show off the new Kimmel Arena with a marquee match-up against the top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on ESPNU.  Eddie Biedenbach’s Bulldogs played with a tenacity befitting their nickname, hanging tight most of the way before falling, 91-75.
  • New Gym, Part Two: NO, but that’s OK… Coastal Carolina had once hoped that this past Tuesday would be the chance for the Chants to unveil their own shiny new room, but delays in construction may mean that’s a year away.  No matter: CCU welcomed LSU from the SEC to small Kimbel Arena in Conway — then proceeded to pull off the 71-63 upset.
  • Meet The New Member, Same as the Old Member: Campbell is back in the Big South.  The Fighting Camels were a founding member of the conference and played hoops with the Big South from 1983-94.  CU was 129-128 in those seasons–and stays on the plus side with wins in the first three games this year.

UNC Asheville Opened Up Its New Digs, But With A Loss To North Carolina

Power Rankings

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North Carolina More Dominant Against UNC Asheville Than It Seemed

Posted by KCarpenter on November 14th, 2011

Kimmel Arena opened up in style. The UNC Asheville Bulldogs hosted the North Carolina Tar Heels in a brand new building that was packed with loud and enthusiastic fans. Bruce Hornsby, whose son, Keith,  plays for Asheville, kicked things off with a jazzy piano rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. The second he stopped, the Bulldogs’ fans cheered as consistently loud and as hard as any crowd in college sports can in an effort to inspire the upset against the nation’s #1 team. As well as the defending Big South champions played, however, and as fantastic as the crowd was on this Sunday afternoon, Eddie Biedenbach‘s team was just overmatched.

Still, like North Carolina‘s win over Michigan State Friday night on the USS Carl Vinson, the victory over the Bulldogs was fine, but not good enough. When Roy Williams finally sat the starters with less than two minutes remaining, there wasn’t a lot of smiling on his bench. This is where the Tar Heels are: They won 91-75 (though the margin felt even bigger than it was), and the Asheville student section chanted “overrated.” It seems a silly thing to do when your team is losing by double figures, but the frowns on the faces of the North Carolina players confirmed the truth of the chant: UNC was not playing up to its lofty expectations.

After Looking Disoriented At The Carrier Classic, Kendall Marshall Bounced Back With A Fifteen Assist Game Against UNC Asheville

It’s an odd thing, and maybe it has more to do with the unrealistic expectations that have been placed upon this team by the greater college basketball world. Yet, when the first half was drawing to a close, I couldn’t help but feel that UNC just looked bad. Asheville was getting out on the break while the lagging Tar Heels weren’t even running the court. Tyler Zeller kept turning the ball over. John Henson looked winded, signaling to come out midway through the first half. Harrison Barnes just looked off, passive in his play and seemingly uninterested. North Carolina led by nine at the half, but the fierce play and tenacity of the Bulldogs to that point seemed like it gave UNCA a good chance of winning out over a tired, unfocused, and out-of-sorts North Carolina team.

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RTC Conference Primers: #26 – Big South Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 9th, 2011

Mark Bryant, Big South Director of Multimedia Development and writer of BigSouthSHOUT, is the RTC correspondent for the Big South Conference. You can find him on Twitter at @BigSouthSports

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • Mountain High Expectations: Will UNC Asheville hold serve as the favorite, now that the team is no longer in its typical role as the scrappy underdog?  Observers and opponents will not have their focus elsewhere this year, and Asheville will be showing off a new arena, no longer in the extra-cozy confines of the Justice Center which always provided a significant home court edge.
  • New to the Big South: Some familiar names to SEC fans have found their way to the Big South.  Mamadou N’Diaye, who played for Cliff Ellis at Auburn, will join Ellis on the Coastal Carolina bench, and B.J. McKie, who played at South Carolina when Barclay Radebaugh was an assistant there, will be part of Radebaugh’s staff at Charleston Southern.  Meanwhile, Radford is the lone school with a new head coach, as Mike Jones comes in to lead the Highlanders.  Campbell, a founding member of the Big South, rejoins the conference for the 2011-12 season.
  • Tourney Turnover: Changes to the Big South Championship format will allow all ten eligible teams into the field (Presbyterian College has one remaining year of transition to Division I and cannot play in the postseason).  Championship Week will be a wild ride, with the #7 & #8 seeds hosting the #9 and #10 seeds as “play-in” games on Monday night to get into the straight eight-team bracket.  The winners will be reseeded as the #7 and #8 seeds for the quarterfinals to allow for traditional pairings (1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, 4 vs. 5).  Wednesday and Thursday of that week will be the quarterfinals and semifinals, all planned for the top seed’s home, with the Saturday final at the home of the higher surviving seed.

Predicted Order of Finish

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RTC Summer Updates: Big South Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 11th, 2011

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.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • 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 Carolina standout 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 Liberty to 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?

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Big South Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted 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.

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Checking in on… the Big South

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 4th, 2011

Mark Bryant is the RTC correspondent for the Big South.

A Look Back

  • Showdown Results: Coastal Carolina and Liberty have made it abundantly clear they are the top two teams in the Big South Conference this season, with both teams setting a blistering pace and staying three-plus games ahead of all other teams.  But the squads have now faced off twice this season, with the Chanticleers getting the better of the Flames both times, extending Coastal’s win streak to 19 and keeping CCU undefeated in conference as of this writing
  • Traffic Jam: After those top two teams, there is quite the clog in the middle of the standings: five teams sport records from 7-5 to 5-7, all playing contender roles for making the upper half of the conference tournament field. UNC Asheville and Charleston Southern hold the high ground at 7-5 each right now, with Winthrop pacing at 6-6 and VMI and High Point trying to stay alive at 5-7.
  • Strugglers and Stragglers: If we grant that the leaders and contenders listed above account for seven spots in the Big South Championship field coming up in March, that leaves only one slot in the competition for the remaining three teams.  Given that Presbyterian College (4-8) cannot participate due to NCAA division transition rules, that leaves Gardner-Webb and Radford (each 2-10) fighting for one remaining seed (and likely a date at Coastal Carolina on March 1st).
  • Bracketbusters!: The Big South aligned itself with the ESPN Bracketbusters event as an “all-in” conference before the year, but granted Coastal Carolina an exemption to participate in another tournament event early in the season, one which would preclude playing in the BB game.  Oh, the value of hindsight…knowing now that Coastal is top ten in the mid-majors polls and receiving votes in the overall national polls, running a huge string of wins, certain to be a TV game contender…it could have been a boon for all, but instead, the Chants took their only two losses in that other event, and they’ll sit while the rest of the league plays.  There will be one TV game, with Iona playing at Liberty February 19 at 3pm on ESPNU.

Power Rankings

  1. Coastal Carolina (21-2, 12-0) – The Chants would still hold this position regardless of Thursday’s result, but with a season sweep over Liberty now, CCU has reinforced its stranglehold on the summit.   The fastest Big South team ever to cross the 20-win plateau (22 games), Coastal seemingly remains on cruise control.  Riding the 19-game winning streak that has turned 2-2 into 21-2, the question becomes, “when might this team stumble?”  Coach Cliff Ellis will work hard to be sure it’s NOT the conference final again, where last year’s promising run was cut short.
  2. Liberty (16-8, 10-2) – It’s become a source of frustration now for the Flames (at least for their fans), playing such a sensational season but unable to catch or defeat Coastal Carolina.  Unless things take a turn for the Chanticleers, if the Flames are going to come out on top in the end, it would likely have to come against CCU on Coastal’s floor in the tournament.  Liberty does have a chance to gain some attention of its own with a national TV appearance in the ESPN Bracketbusters event.
  3. UNC Asheville (12-10, 7-5) – The Bulldogs and Bucs will likely keep trading off in the 3-4 spots on this list down the stretch, but it sure feels as if things are headed the right direction for coach Eddie Biedenbach.  The last win, a rout over PC (88-55), demonstrates that Asheville means business.  The experience and shooting are coming together for a squad that boasts three career 1000-point scorers on the floor in J.P. Primm, Matt Dickey, & John Williams.
  4. Charleston Southern (13-11. 7-5) – It doesn’t always come easy for CSU: get pushed to overtime in defeating Radford, drop a close one to High Point–but then the Bucs can put a hundred on VMI in one of the Keydets’ standard run-and-gun games.  The quest for consistency may never get answered by this club, but all they may need is a couple of their “on” games in a row to do some damage.
  5. Winthrop (10-12, 6-6) – The Eagles keep inviting folks to shovel dirt on them, then toss the dirt right back off.   We remain fascinated by the ability WU has to lurk on the perimeter in recent seasons.  It’s not quite like the team’s role of frontrunner and dominator of years not so long ago, but it can be just as dangerous at times–as Coastal found out to its regret in last year’s title game.
  6. VMI (12-10, 5-7) - Oh, VMI, that familiar pattern of putting up 90 points per night but surrendering a hundred.  The Keydets are poison to any team that can’t keep up with the pace or that finds its shots not going one day, but the lack of defense by VMI and the awareness of how to play along with this style by the Big South competitors has kept the Keydets from being a serious contender to this point.
  7. High Point (8-13, 5-7) – It’s still not the HPU team we expected to see at the start of the season, but the slide has at least been slowed down.  Now if we can just see HPU get its momentum running in a positive direction for a change, we might see junior guard Nick Barbour and company climb back up the ranks.
  8. Presbyterian College (10-14, 4-8) - Credit to sophomore guard Khalid Mutakabbir, one of the Blue Hose giving all-out efforts despite knowing there can be no postseason play for PC.  They have done their best to push teams–such as the 76-74 overtime win over Winthrop, but for every one of those games, you can often find a close loss and a big loss in its vicinity.  The spoiler role will have to suffice for PC, it seems.
  9. Gardner-Webb (7-17, 2-10) – As much as a 58-50 win over CSU must’ve felt like a relief, in ending a brutal nine-game losing streak, the Runnin’  Bulldogs got headed right back in the wrong direction, currently riding a new four-game skid.
  10. Radford (5-17, 2-10) - The Highlanders surprised some folks by edging past Winthrop this week, but what would really be a surprise would be a road win–Radford is the only Big South team this season without a single win away from home.

A Look Ahead

It’s worth bringing up again, given the Big South’s unusual tournament format: the top four squads will all host first round games, the regular season champion’s site hosts the semifinal games, and the top-seeded survivor to the finals will host that game.  So there are two critical races going on, involving most of the teams in the Conference.  The battle for the top appears to be a two-horse race, with one of those horses sporting a strong lead (two games plus tiebreaker, essentially a three-game edge with six to play).  Given the assumption that those two teams, Coastal and Liberty, are hosting games, with the probability that CCU holds the top seed, we then see that Asheville and CSU have the current edge for the other hosting positions, but that Winthrop, VMI, and High Point all have the potential to get in that mix.  As cited above, the only other “intrigue” would be whether Radford or GWU gets the final entry to the field.  One more note–look closely at the top contenders to host: three of the four have notoriously small gyms–Coastal, Asheville, and CSU.  Those facilities make for tough tickets and for inconveniences to TV, but hold decent home court advantages for the teams themselves.

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Checking in on… the Big South

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 21st, 2011

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.

Power Rankings

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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..
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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Checking in on… the Big South

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 8th, 2011

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

A Look Back

  • Happy New Year? It Depends: For Liberty and Coastal Carolina, 2011 has the shine of bright possibility.  The Flames got through New Year’s Weekend with a pair of Big South wins on the road to rise to 4-0 in conference games.  The Chanticleers also got two wins to reach a league mark of 3-0.  For the Chants, that’s also an impressive ten consecutive wins overall.  On the other side of the coin, Gardner-Webb has gone into a bit of a tailspin of late, with a losing streak now at six games, while Radford has staggered to a league-worst 0-4 against Big South foes.
  • Double-Trouble: Coastal’s Desmond Holloway has scored in double figures for all 14 of his team’s games this season.  Holloway is the only player in the Big South this season who can claim that distinction.  In fact, he has scored at least 13 points every time on the floor this year.
  • No Sophomore Slump Here: VMI sophomore Stan Okoye leads the Big South in scoring (19.8 points per game), field goal percentage (.579), double-doubles (7), and is second in rebounding (9.6 per game, just 0.2 rpg off the lead) heading into Thursday night’s action.  If Okoye can keep up this pace, he has a tremendous shot at an exceptional feat: leading the conference in scoring, rebounding, and field goal percentage in the same season, something only accomplished by two players in Big South history (Danny Gathings, High Point 2002-03, and Art Parakhouski, Radford 2009-10).

Power Rankings

  1. Coastal Carolina (12-2 / 3-0)… the Chanticleers have been roosting here at the top spot all along, but the upcoming week could impact that, with a showdown at the Flames on the way.  The winning streak has run to ten coming into this road swing at VMI and Liberty, and the results may give us a feel for whether coach Cliff Ellis has this talented and deep group running at its best.  Hard to argue against that, given they are on the same pace that they were on last year in Coastal’s run to the regular season championship.
  2. Liberty (10-6 / 4-0)… yes, the Flames are hoping to demonstrate something when Coastal gets to town this weekend, but they have already taken a big step forward by sweeping the last two road games in the conference.  Teams that can demonstrate the ability to win away from home have been rare in the Big South so far this season, and that will be a necessary skill.  You have to be impressed with how coach Dale Layer has gotten his group to play above expectations.
  3. Winthrop (6-7 / 2-1)… I know we’ve said it before in this space, but the Eagles are going to keep lurking around.  Other teams will rise and fall around them, but they should always be in the mix.  For example, they would’ve been in the four-spot this week, but they just beat Presbyterian College head-to-head, so let’s give them the nod here.   That score was 53-51, another example of how Winthrop will “grind it out” on you, whether you like it or not.
  4. Presbyterian College (7-8 / 1-2)… oh, Blue Hose, which team do we get on what night?  The one that beat Navy last week and recently downed Auburn and Wake Forest as well, or the one that could only scrape together 51 points against the tough Winthrop defense?  There’s a lot of talent and experience here, and they’ll be a tough out on any given night, but regrettably it won’t matter much in the end since PC cannot play in the postseason (Division-I transition).
  5. VMI (9-5 / 2-2)… two decisive road wins in league play helped right the ship from a pair of home conference losses in early December, so the Keydets remain a viable contender, or at least a legitimate spoiler, in the Big South standings.  As long as Stan Okoye and talented freshman Rodney Glasgow keep doing what they’re doing, VMI should still have plenty to say.  We’ll have to see if they can advance their cause with Charleston Southern and Coastal Carolina coming to town.
  6. Charleston Southern (8-7 / 2-1)… after waiting to see if the Bucs would start living up to some of their obvious potential, along comes a week with two solid wins in conference.  Senior guard Jamarco Warren had his shots falling, and that has a lot to do with the fortunes of CSU.  Like Coastal, CSU is hitting the Liberty-VMI road trip, and that could be a barometer for the relative strengths of those squads.  If the three-pointers are clicking, the Bucs have dark-horse potential, but those shots have a bad habit of drying up at inopportune times.
  7. High Point (5-8 / 2-2)… hmmm…the story keeps getting tougher for the Panthers each time we tell it in this space, doesn’t it?  High Point and Preseason Player of the Year Nick Barbour have both seen struggles this season, and now at five straight losses overall, including two in the Big South, things are not looking too bright.  The good news for HPU may be that there’s only one league game on the team’s schedule this week, and that’s against a down Radford squad.
  8. UNC Asheville (6-8 / 1-3)… Coach Eddie Biedenbach would love to see a fully healthy team, but that hasn’t been happening for the Bulldogs, and so Asheville has found the season to be rougher than anticipated.  For example, they dropped the last two home games–this after running up a double-digit home winning streak…not a good sign.
  9. Gardner-Webb (6-10 / 1-3)… speaking of injury-troubled teams, we present the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs.  The losing streak has mounted to six games now, and with leading scorer Jon Moore considered out “indefinitely”, help is needed to stop this slide for coach Chris Holtmann.
  10. Radford (3-11 / 0-4)… the hole is getting deeper for a team that ended 2008-09 with the NCAA Tournament, opened 2009-10 as a Big South favorite in the eyes of many, ended last year with a disappointing finish and has played below the level of the rest of the league all this season.  Winless in the conference and last in several key team stats, it may continue to be a rough ride for the Highlanders.

A Look Ahead

Four of the top five teams in the Big South standings are colliding this week while bringing in winning streaks (from two to ten games)… Saturday the 8th it’s CSU at VMI and Coastal at Liberty.  All those games should be both fun and informative.  Meanwhile, with several teams struggling with injuries, losing streaks, or both, there is also a race going on to see who can recover first and contend for the upper half of the standings.  Remember that for the Big South, the top four seeds will host first-round games in the tournament, and that can be a key stepping-stone to a championship and the NCAA berth that follows.

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Checking in on… the Big South

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010

Mark Bryant, Coordinator of New Media for the Big South Conference and writer of Big South SHOUT, is an RTC correspondent.  [ed. note: this post was written prior to the Nov. 26-28 games]

A Look Back

  • V = 5: For the first time in modern era play, VMI has opened its season 5-0.  While none of these victories have been great shockers or eye-openers, it remains an attention-grabbing start—the best opening run in the Big South this year.  That jumpstart will be tested with a road trip to West Virginia.
  • Hello, There!: The Big South has had a few surprises in store early this season:  UNC Asheville won at Auburn in overtime (70-69), Winthrop defeated Wake Forest in Winston-Salem as part of the NIT Tip-Off (83-74), Presbyterian College downed Princeton (69-67), and two members have taken down Charlotte — Gardner-Webb in the opener (78-70) and Coastal Carolina in double overtime (79-75).  Radford hopes that trend continues—the Highlanders have Charlotte next.
  • Feasting on Home Cooking: Admittedly, the schedule-making is a little tilted at the start of the season, generally with tougher opponents on the road or at neutral sites in tournaments, as opposed to mostly (but not completely) softer opposition at home.  That said, how about this: the Big South is undefeated at home so far this season (19-0) …nice start.

Power Rankings

  1. Coastal Carolina (5-2 / 0-0)…  Okay, so the Chanticleers opened with two giant wins over small colleges, which doesn’t tell us a whole lot, but let’s get a look at the second week.  CCU had a four-game week at the Charleston Classic, dropping games to the host, College of Charleston, and to Big East power Georgetown, before bouncing back with two victories—including a 2OT thriller over Charlotte in what was the team’s fourth game in six days.  The early lessons of resilience should serve the Chants well as the year progresses.  And while plenty of eyes are on Chad Gray and Kierre Greenwood, junior guard Desmond Holloway asserted himself this week by averaging 20 points per game in that tough four-game stretch.
  2. VMI (5-0 / 0-0)…  I was not going to elevate the Keydets to this spot without a little more weight behind those victories, but upon further reflection, VMI is out to the best start of anybody in the conference—AND they’ve got that running, gunning offense rolling right out of the gate.  So for the moment, let’s not take anything away from the fact that VMI has done what it wants so far.  Once again VMI will bid for the nation’s best scoring average–the Keydets are averaging over 90 points per game so far, and they have led all teams in scoring for each of the last four years.  Through five games, VMI’s Stan Okoye and Keith Gabriel each average better than 20 points per game to help power that engine.
  3. UNC Asheville (2-2 / 0-0)…  Coach Eddie Biedenbach may have the right combination working for him right now, as the Bulldogs have demonstrated their talents early on this season: D.J. Cunningham is among league leaders in rebounds and blocks, J.P. Primm is the Big South steals leader, and Matt Dickey is near the top in scoring.  Only VMI is scoring more per game this year, and Asheville’s come-from-behind effort to force and win overtime at Auburn shows the grit that goes with the skill.  Watch this team carefully.
  4. Winthrop (2-3 / 0-0)…  Call this pick the benefit of the doubt, but coach Randy Peele’s Eagles know how to “grind it out” (Peele’s favorite phrase), and they already boast a win over an ACC team on its own floor this season.  While Wake Forest may not be as well-armed this season, that’s still nothing to sneeze at, and Winthrop will do what it always does: frustrate opponents and make every game a fight to the finish.
  5. High Point (2-2 / 0-0)…  The Panthers have had an unremarkable beginning to the year, but they also get some credit for having Preseason Player of the Year Nick Barbour, who can be a difference-maker on any night.  HPU opened with two home wins against lesser teams and two road losses to more credible opponents.  The good news for upcoming games: two home conference contests.  The bad news: NO home games from December 5 – January 12.
  6. Gardner-Webb (3-2 / 0-0)… The Runnin’ Bulldogs have come out on the positive side so far under first-year coach Chris Holtmann.  Like High Point, they have two home victories against small schools and two road losses—in this case, both at major programs (Florida State and Michigan).  The tipping point for GWU this year is winning a game they would likely have lost a year ago: the opener at Charlotte.
  7. Presbyterian College (2-4 / 0-0)…  So will the real PC please stand up?  Is this the team that got blown out at Vanderbilt (88-47) or the one that hung with Kansas State before getting caught at the end (76-67)?  The one that beat Eastern Kentucky and Princeton in close games, or the one that got handled by Bucknell and James Madison?  That’s the problem here—the bottom few teams in the Big South all have questions.  Unfortunately for the Blue Hose, even if they’re the Jekyll and not the Hyde here, they still won’t be able to play any postseason games as they continue their transition to Division I play.
  8. Liberty (2-4 / 0-0)…  The Flames have the same familiar pattern: home wins they should have, and road losses that were probably expected.  Liberty has shown the ability to bounce back from aggressive scheduling losses before, so let’s not drop them to the bottom just for falling to the likes of Notre Dame, Texas Tech, and South Florida.
  9. Radford (2-2 / 0-0)…  Same early issues for the Highlanders as most of their peers: expected home wins and road losses, and that’s how this season has begun.  This team will not get its due until it makes it clear that they’ve found a way to plug that (literally) big hole left behind by the departure of center Art Parakhouski.  The lack of RU presence near the tops of most league leader boards right now shows that they may still be looking.
  10. Charleston Southern (2-3 / 0-0)…  It seems painful to drop the Buccaneers to the bottom, but someone has to hold this spot.  CSU has a lot of talented players and a good mix of experience (Jamarco Warren) and youth (Jeremy Sexton, Sheldon Strickland)—plus they certainly can beat anybody if the threes are falling, because this team can bomb with the best of them.  All that said, the Bucs have not been able to wow anyone in the early going—consider this rank a challenge for the team to pick itself up for a run up the list.

A Look Ahead

While there are a number of games across the conference for the Thanksgiving weekend, the real deal for the upcoming weeks is the first glimpse of conference play.  The way the season is structured, the Big South has two early December games as part of the schedule for most teams.  Given the tilt toward home teams so far, here’s where the squads will be for those two games on the December 2nd and 4th.

  • HOME: High Point, Liberty, Radford, VMI, Coastal Carolina (12/4 only)
  • ROAD: Gardner-Webb, PC, Asheville, Winthrop, CSU (12/4 only)

All those games will help shape early perception of the Big South race, but one game that has me intrigued is the contrasting style in the Winthrop at VMI clash: will VMI be able to push its desired pace and continue its early season roll or will Winthrop be able to get in the way, slow things down and “grind out” another win?  That’s among the early answers the December conference games will offer—should be a fun sequence of games.

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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:

Read the rest of this entry »

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