Checking in on… the Big South

Posted by jstevrtc on January 23rd, 2010

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

Updated Standings:

  1. Coastal Carolina        7-1  ( 17-3)
  2. Radford                            6-2    (10-7)
  3. High Point                      5-3   (10-8)
  4. Charleston Southern  5-3 (10-8)
  5. Liberty                             4-4    (9-11)
  6. Winthrop                        4-4    (8-10)
  7. UNC Asheville             4-4     (7-12)
  8. Gardner-Webb            3-5    (6-12)
  9. VMI                                     1-7    (5-12)
  10. Presbyterian College  1-7     (3-17)

Top Storylines:

Buccaneers Boarding. Can’t say we didn’t warn you–Charleston Southern is in the mix.  If you read the last check on the Big South in this space, we told you the schedule was set up very well for the Bucs to make a mini-run into the top group.  CSU closed the deal with home victories over High Point and Radford to reach 5-3 in conference play and set up a big-time match-up (again in Charleston) with leader Coastal Carolina on Saturday to possibly narrow the gap even further.

Bieden” Down the Competition. Congrats to UNC Asheville’s Eddie Biedenbach, who now holds the all-time record for most regular season Big South wins (110, passing former Radford Coach Ron Bradley’s mark of 109).  With 187 wins overall at Asheville, Biedenbach is also within reach of becoming the Big South’s all-time winningest coach, a distinction currently held by former Winthrop Coach Gregg Marshall (194 wins).

A Look Back:

The race for the lead both expanded (in number of teams) and contracted (in game separation) over the last couple of weeks.  Coastal Carolina still holds the top spot, despite a home loss to Radford that ended the Chanticleers’ big win streak at 12.  The Highlanders lurk one game behind, even after falling to CSU, and Radford’s not going anywhere–as evidenced by Thursday’s 22-point sprint past VMI.  But then you have the traffic jam at 5-3 (CSU, HPU) and 4-4 (UNCA, WU, LU).  That’s five teams with a total separation of one game, so this competition remains wide open with regards to contenders and tournament seeds.

A Look Ahead:

We’re at the turn: the midpoint of conference play.  The big game ahead in the short run is certainly the CCU at CSU contest Saturday, but it is far from the only game that will have an impact.  Radford hosts Liberty Saturday evening (televised on MASN), and then the Highlanders hit the road for a while.  Fortunately for RU, the squad has been tough away from home–particularly in Big South games–but they need to prevent the travel from wearing on them.  Handicapping the race now, we certainly feel Coastal Carolina and Radford will remain in a battle for the top, and also believe that High Point and Charleston Southern are legitimate teams in the fight.  Don’t forget that, in the Big South, the top four teams at the end of the regular season all get to host first round games in the conference tournament.  While the top four now could well be the top four then, it’s just as likely there will be more movement.  If you’re looking for a candidate from the 4-4 group to break through, it seems more probable that UNC Asheville will emerge, rather than Winthrop or Liberty.  The Bulldogs did lose four conference games in a row at one point, but look closer: after falling by eight at Radford, they lost by four at High Point, by one to Coastal, and by three in overtime to CSU…close games against the upper teams.  Since then, they’ve had victories at VMI (by 13), at Liberty (4), and against Winthrop (13)–which includes wins over the peer group of hopeful contenders.

Team Breakdowns:

Charleston Southern — Last time in this space we called CSU a “pivot team.”  Well, they’ve made the turn now into a  legit contender.  Give a healthy dose of credit to freshman guard Jeremy Sexton, who has become a difference-maker for the Buccaneers and a player to watch.

Coastal Carolina — Nothing lasts forever, so the Chanticleers found out with the end of a remarkable 12-game winning streak.  Nonetheless, this is a team that is growing more playmakers.  All eyes were on Joseph Harris coming into the year, but he was quickly joined by Chad Gray in another starring role, and now Mario Edwards is also grabbing his share of headlines.  CCU should not be slowed down much by the Radford loss…and by the way, the rematch will be at RU on 2/13.

Gardner-Webb –  A struggling team, but one happy to eke out a come-from-behind home victory in overtime over fellow struggler PC.  GWU likely has more wins coming in the second half of the season, but not enough to change their position much, if at all.

High Point –  The battle royale last week with CCU-RU-HPU-CSU produced splits for Radford and Coastal, a big pair of wins for CSU–and two painful losses for High Point.  The Panthers had to take one step back from the fight for the lead, but can jump right back in with another surge like that with which they began 2010–a run that culminated in a win over Radford.   Like Coastal, HPU has seen most of its success thanks to a trio of playmakers: Nick Barbour, Cruz Daniels, and Eugene Harris.

Liberty — Strong program, seeking identity: please submit answers to Lynchburg, VA.  Not a lot of rhythm to the Flames’ season.  Not unless you like the seasick up-down-up-down pattern on which they’ve been.  Good news comes with bad; for example: Kyle Ohman reaches the 1,000-point career mark, then requires surgery that takes him out of play for a while.  That’s LU this year in  a nutshell.

Presbyterian — The Blue Hose can put up a fight; they’ve gone to overtime in three Big South games (losing two of them), but they can’t seem to break through.  Again, some of their best players are redshirting right now, so next season can’t get here fast enough for the Presbyterian College crowd.

Radford“Big Art” Parakhouski continues to get the lion’s share of attention–from the media, from opponents, from scouts.  It’s well-deserved, as the inside force is the Big South leader in scoring (23.1), rebounding (12.9), and field goal percentage (.622).  He’s not alone, though, as fellow big-men Lazar Trifunovic and Joey Lynch-Flohr also collect double-doubles for the Highlanders, and Amir Johnson has become RU’s all-time leader in assists.

UNC Asheville –  As cited above, Coach Eddie Biedenbach knows about winning games, and his current edition of Bulldogs seems to be learning more about it all the time.  If they can keep themselves from falling into another slide, they could sneak into the top four seeds.

VMI — It’s been another verse of the same song lately for the Keydets–they can dictate the style and speed of play to a degree, but they can’t seem to come away with the win.  It’s nothing like the sensational start to last year, when VMI looked like it was ready to make national noise for a while…no, this year’s crew is still seeking its second Big South victory.

Winthrop –  Three straight Big South wins in early January helped the Eagles regain their footing, but this WU team still hasn’t established itself as a threat to the upper teams this year.  Team leader Mantoris Robinson may need to channel his best memories of Winthrop teams gone by to lift this group out of the middle of the pack.

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Checking in on… the Big South

Posted by jstevrtc on December 26th, 2009

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 2-0 / 10-2
  2. Radford 2-0 / 5-4
  3. UNC Asheville 1-0 / 3-7
  4. Liberty 1-1 / 6-6
  5. Winthrop 1-1 / 5-6
  6. High Point 1-1 / 4-6
  7. VMI 1-1 / 4-6
  8. Gardner-Webb 0-1 / 3-7
  9. Charleston Southern 0-2 / 5-6
  10. Presbyterian College 0-2 / 2-10

Top Stories:

Rooster Crows

The Chanticleers have been the surprise so far this year, improving to 10-2. That’s the best start for Coastal Carolina since 1981-82.  That year, CCU opened 10-2 and dropped the next one, so this could be the school’s best launch ever if they can ruin Cornell’s beach trip on the 27th.  Coastal has won six in a row and has won all its games against SoCon foes, faring much better against the Southern than other Big South squads.  CCU even managed a vote in the rankings, yet inexplicably lost that vote in the following week without losing a game in that time.

Out-of Conference Woes

Nights like Tuesday (12/22) are really killing the Big South when it comes to other leagues.  That evening, Big South teams were 0-4 against outside foes — not going to help the profile of the conference with showings like that one.  There are ten conferences that have not lost to the Big South this season:  the ACC, A10, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Big West, C-USA, Horizon, Mountain West, and SEC are a collective 34-0 when facing the Big South this season (Big Ouch).  The record for the Big South is a more average mark of 14-10 against a collection of the A-Sun, MEAC, SWAC, MVC, OVC, Patriot, and SoCon.

Trading Blows

The ten teams of the Big South may take some solace in the fact that they can soon take out their frustrations on one another.  Every team got a taste of conference play with one or two games earlier in December, but it’s going to be full-tilt league games with the arrival of the New Year.  That said, they still have to get there — the last week of 2009 includes foes like Florida (for PC), Auburn (CSU), NC State (Winthrop), and, believe it or not, Texas (GWU).

Looking Ahead

Echoing the last item, the next steps for the teams of the Big South will be taken on the conference road.  The December match-ups gave RU and CCU a leg up at 2-0, while starting CSU and PC in a hole 0-2.  All the others are even or only one game up or down, so the jockeying for position has just begun!

Looking Behind

Did we mention the recent woes outside the conference?  Yeah, most of the squads will not want to look back on the recent weeks, although Coastal Carolina would likely be the exception to that.

Team Capsules:

Charleston Southern – sharpshooter Jamarco Warren is still the go-to guy for the Buccaneers, but Jeremy Sexton is drawing more attention, now a two-time winner of Freshman of the Week and showing a good deal of consistency on a team that could use it.

Coastal Carolina – as cited above, the Chants are on a roll.  CCU has taken six wins in a row and has turned some heads.  Joseph Harris has been the biggest producer, but don’t overlook Chad Gray, who has joined Harris as a Player of the Week honoree this season and is becoming a bigger factor in games.

Gardner-Webb – the opposite of Coastal right now, the Runnin’ Bulldogs are running the wrong way, with seven straight losses.  It’s not getting better for GWU, with the powerful Texas Longhorns on the schedule before starting Big South play.

High Point – the Panthers have been having a rough go of things lately, too…four losses in a row have the HPU faithful looking for a quick turnaround.  High Point always turns to the shooting of Nick Barbour and inside play of Cruz Daniels to make a difference.

Liberty – the Flames remain a relative question mark, since it’s hard to handicap when a squad falls to major foes and beats smaller ones as LU has.  Conference play will be especially telling for Liberty in the weeks ahead.

Presbyterian College — PC has mortgaged its future a bit by redshirting players for next year’s postseason eligibility, as they are still transitioning to D-1 now.  With that in mind, the Blue Hose are taking plenty of lumps this season as expected.

Radford – if there’s disappointment at the moment, it may be coming from the Highlanders.  RU has talent and size, but has not yet registered anything you could really consider a “signature” win, and had to scrap to get its two conference wins.  Radford’s success last year came in the middle and late season, so we’ll have to see if history repeats itself.

UNC Asheville – the start for the Bulldogs was a rough and winless one, but Asheville has gotten off the mat a bit with a pair of wins in recent weeks (and a 3-7 mark overall).

VMI – pinball numbers remain the rule for the Keydets, win or lose, you can always expect the scores to be at or near triple-digits for each side.  So the good news for VMI remains the team’s general ability to get teams to play at VMI’s pace, but the bad news for the Keydets is they get beaten at that speed just as often as they can run to wins.

Winthrop – like Liberty, we’re seeing a lot of losing to bigger squads and beating smaller ones, so we may need to see more peer play to get a proper handle on what Coach Randy Peele has to work with this season.

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Checking in on… the Big South

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2009

checkinginon

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

Updated Standings

  1. Coastal Carolina      1-0  Big South ( 6-2 overall)
  2. High Point     1-0   (4-2)
  3. Radford      1-0    (3-2)
  4. Liberty      1-0    (4-5)
  5. Gardner-Webb    0-0    (3-3)
  6. UNC Asheville      0-0     (1-6)
  7. Charleston Southern    0-1   (4-3)
  8. VMI     0-1     (3-3)
  9. Winthrop    0-1      (2-4)
  10. Presbyterian College    0-1     (2-6)

Top Storylines

All-Conference Team Justifying Selections.  Players of the Week (or Co-Players) in the early going for the Big South: Nick Barbour (HPU), Art Parakhouski (RU), and Joseph Harris (CCU), all members of the Preseason All-Conference Team.  Fellow honorees Jamarco Warren (CSU) and Grayson Flittner (GWU) have been candidates for the award as well this young season.  The first ten 20-point/10-rebound games logged in the Big South this season all came from that same set of players — four each from Parakhouski and Harris, plus two from the other half of Radford’s twin towers, Joey Lynch-Flohr.  Right now we’ll take the position that these are great players having great games, rather than suggesting that there’s a lack of depth in the star production department beyond those six guys (six in all because of a tie in the vote).

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #23 – Big South

Posted by rtmsf on October 14th, 2009

seasonpreview

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

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Radford (14-4)
  2. UNC Asheville (12-6)
  3. Winthrop (12-6)
  4. Gardner-Webb (10-8)
  5. VMI (9-9)
  6. High Point (9-9)
  7. Liberty (8-10)
  8. Coastal Carolina (7-11)
  9. Charleston Southern (6-12)
  10. Presbyterian College (3-15)

 All-Conference Team:

  • Jamarco Warren (G), Jr., Charleston Southern
  • Grayson Flittner (G), Sr., Gardner-Webb
  • Joseph Harris (F), R-Sr., Coastal Carolina
  • Joey Lynch-Flohr (F), Sr., Radford
  • Art Parakhouski (C), Sr., Radford

6th Man. Nick Barbour (G), Soph, High Point 

Impact Newcomer.  Lazar Trifunovic (F), Jr., Radford (transfer from Binghamton)

big south logo

What You Need to Know.  Ask any of the Big South coaches right now who’s on top and the answer you’ll get is Radford.  The Highlanders are the preseason favorite for the first time in a decade with good reason: the defending conference champs (regular season and tournament winners) still have their skilled twin towers combination of 6-8 Joey Lynch-Flohr and 6-11 Art Parakhouski.  RU center and dominant force Parakhouski in particular has the size, strength, and game needed to dominate the opposition (for perspective, last year he averaged a double-double against Big East and ACC competition), playing his way into Player of the Year honors last season and the Preseason POY award for this year.  Beyond Radford, the race should be very tight among a few schools with questions to answer: Asheville – can the Bulldogs win away from the Justice Center this year (11-3 home, 4-13 on the road a year ago); Winthrop – can the Eagles return to their once-familiar position of dominance in the Big South with 2009 Defensive Player of the Year Mantoris Robinson now as the unquestioned team leader; and Gardner-Webb – can the Runnin’ Bulldogs and playmaker Grayson Flittner iron out some consistency so that they turn their big wins into streaks?  Meanwhile, two recent contenders will definitely be rebuilding:  VMI – where Coach Duggar Baucom no longer has the Holmes twins to rely on in his rapid-fire scheme; and Liberty –where star player Seth Curry and Coach Ritchie McKay both departed Lynchburg, leaving new Coach Dale Layer to get the Flames burning again.  High Point should fit in around where VMI and Liberty fall in the standings, with Coastal Carolina in that mix as well, while Charleston Southern is likely to trail that group despite the sharpshooting of Jamarco WarrenPresbyterian College remains ineligible for a championship as the transition to D1 continues, but PC doesn’t have the tools to contend yet in any case,  so look for the Blue Hose at the bottom of the standings.

Predicted ChampionRadford Highlanders (NCAA Seed:  #15).  Last year RU passed early front-runner VMI in the regular season and then knocked the Keydets out in the Big South Championship.  The reward for the Highlanders? A #16 seed and a lethal draw against eventual National Champion North Carolina (an experience Parakhouski describes as “short, but amazing”).  This season Radford should draw a little more attention and could easily play into a #15 spot, which opens the possibility of getting a potentially favorable match-up down low given the size RU can bring to the post.  With that, it’s not out of line to think the Big South could see a first round win for the first time since Winthrop’s memorable upset of Notre Dame in 2007.

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