It’s day three of Championship Fortnight and with three more conferences tipping off today, what better way to get you through the next two weeks of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s conference tournaments. Today, the Big South, NEC and OVC get started.
Dates: March 5, 7-9 Site: HTC Center (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)
What to expect: Chaos. The Big South Tournament might be the most unpredictable conference tourney in the nation. Just two games separated first place from seventh place in the league standings, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise for any of those teams to earn the automatic bid. Remember that Liberty, a squad that finished 6-10 in the league a season ago, won last year’s bid. With the parity in this conference, it could be just about anybody. Pick a name out of a hat for this one.
Favorite:High Point. The Panthers won the league by a single game with a record of 12-4. They could have been a legitimate Cinderella threat had former Florida Gator Allan Chaney not had his career cut short in December due to heart complications. Still, the regular season champion features sophomore John Brown and his 19.6 PPG and his 7.9 rebounds per contest on the inside, and won’t be easy to beat.
Opening Night produced a number of great individual moments, if not so many great games. We’ll have our full After the Buzzer feature on Monday morning covering the top storylines from the entire weekend, but we thought it would be fun to highlight the best sights and sounds from last night beforehand. We’ll start with a fantastic buzzer-beater, and sprinkle in the top four dunks of the evening and some other things. Here goes…
Buzzer-Beating. The best buzzer-beater of the night came from Irvine, where Fresno State’s Allen Huddleston hit a half-court bank shot to win the game, coming on the heels of four straight previous back-and-forth scores by each team leading to the fantastic finish.
Husker Crue. Tommy Lee performed at the opening of Nebraska’s Pinnacle Bank Arena on Friday night.
Tommy Lee Performed at the Opening of the Pinnacle Bank Arena (credit: 30FPS)
#4 Dunkdafied: Baye Moussa Keita, Syracuse. He looked like he was going to continue flying on through the backboard.
Armed Forces Cluster. Really enjoyed the Armed Forces Classic between Oregon and Georgetown, but not so much this botched version of the national anthem.
We loved the Carrier Classic, but we are also hoping that this doesn’t become some sort of fad where the game loses its appeal because there are so many variations on it. Having said that we fully support the idea of involving military schools in these type of games as they appear set to do this season for the All-Military Classic. According to reports, there is a 95% chance that the event will be held on the USS Yorktown this November. The event, which features Air Force, Virginia Military Institute, Citadel, and Army, would be held a day or two after the Carrier Classic, which is scheduled for November 9. Given the possibility of holding the event so close to Veterans Day this one seems like a no-brainer.
Brown is set to introduce Mike Martin, a member of the class of 2004, as its next head coach at a conference scheduled for this afternoon. Martin, who has served as an assistant at Penn for the last six years in Philadelphia after following Glen Miller there after Miller left Brown. The Brown administration is clearly hoping for a change of direction as the last coach–Jesse Agel–went 39-79 overall and 14-42 in the Ivy league during his four years at the helm. In contrast, Martin’s senior class went 39-17 during his four years as a player. With the rise of Harvard and the other traditional Ivy League powers it might be too much to ask of Martin to win a conference title in the next few years, but he should be able to make them relevant in the Ivy League again.
After a year wandering around Los Angeles UCLA will return to Pauley Pavilion with their opening game in the renovated arena happening on November 9 against Indiana State. In addition to having a set opener the Bruins also released the rest of their schedule for the 2012-13 season. Outside of the home opener the two other notable non-conference games are a trip to Houston to play Texas and a home game against Missouri. However, the thing that we are most looking forward to is seeing the re-opening with a loaded Bruins team playing at home again with what should be a star-studded crowd.
It might not be a mark your calendars type of game, but if you are looking for a game that the media will hype up this year you should be aware of a game on December 19 featuring Louisville and Florida International. In previous years, this would have been an interesting enough match-up that featured Rick Pitino coaching against Isiah Thomas, but this year it gets a little juicier as Rick will be coaching against his son Richard, the new coach at FIU. Despite some probably apocryphal or at the very least staged trash talk, we suspect that this game will be a dud as Louisville comes in as a potential #1 team in the country while FIU will be another entity left in the wake of the post-NBA playing career Isiah Thomas.
In a sign of its commitment to higher education, the Big 12 reaffirmed yesterday that it is content at 10 member institutions for now. Outside of the amusing fact that the Big 12 will have 10 schools while the Big Ten will have 12 schools in it, we do not believe for a second that the Big 12 does not want to expand, which is something that the conference even admits it would be willing to do if the right opportunity comes. The most logical option for expansion continues to be Notre Dame, which is hesitant to do so thanks to their own lucrative TV contract for football and the ridiculous deal they receive from the BCS, which they have not been able to take advantage of much recently. Of course, if and when they end up at 11 schools you can be sure that the 12th school will not be too far behind in order to balance out the conference.
Mark Bryant oversees multimedia at the Big South Conference. You can follow his updates on Twitter @BigSouthSports.
The Week That Was
Major Conference Assault… Big South teams threw down a few notable upsets since our last report: Presbyterian over Cincinnati 56-54 (Big East), Coastal Carolina over Clemson 60-59 (ACC), Campbell over Iowa 77-61 (Big Ten), and UNC Asheville over Utah 87-65 (Pac-12). Add that to Coastal Carolina’s victory over LSU (SEC), as noted in the last update, and the Big South has wins over teams from five of the six BCS conferences (regrettably no games against Big 12 teams remain, 0-2 in the only chances).
Temporarily Perfect… For the first time in conference history, two teams opened the season with five straight wins. Coastal Carolina and Campbell each reached 5-0 before dropping game number six (Campbell to Creighton and Coastal to FIU).
League Play Begins… Again this season, Big South Conference play gets a December preview before beginning in earnest on New Year’s Eve. Most teams will get two chances to notch an early conference win, with games on Thursday 12/1 and Saturday 12/3. High Point and Asheville are the only two teams who will have just one game against a Big South foe this weekend.
1. UNC Asheville – (3-4/0-0) The record gives an illusion of a lackluster start, but two of those losses were to top five programs (UNC & UConn) and another was to ACC foe NC State. The one the Bulldogs would probably like back is the two-point loss to College of Charleston. Of course, this team also obliterated Utah by a healthy 22-point margin. Asheville is fine, and the tough early tests should only serve to get the squad ready for the games ahead.
2. Coastal Carolina – (5-1/0-0) While we figured any reports of CCU’s death were greatly exaggerated, getting early wins against both LSU and Clemson certainly opened some eyes. The other contests on the Chanticleers’ schedule don’t offer much to go on so far, but even without some of the big-name players of past years, the two-time defending regular season champs are not going away anytime soon.
3. Campbell (5-1/0-0) - Rocketing up the charts, I present the Fighting Camels of Campbell. Okay, I was fooled before in thinking this team would be a middle-of-the-pack bunch this year because they are bringing it! Led by highlight-worthy senior Eric Griffin and rapidly-ascending freshman Trey Freeman, Campbell may well have something to say about the Big South race this season.
4. VMI (3-2/0-0) – The Keydets have knocked off equal and lesser competition so far, with losses to larger out-of-conference foes Air Force and Ohio State, those games also being the only ones with VMI held under 80 points. Led by Keith Gabriel and ESPN Top 10 dunker Stan Okoye, VMI is still running and gunning. We will soon see if they can outpace conference foes this year.
5. Presbyterian College (3-3/0-0) – The Blue Hose got deserved recognition and attention for grabbing a win at top 20 Cincinnati in a demonstration of what can happen when they are clicking. A team that has seen the bottom of the standings in recent years should be no worse than the middle of the pack this season, and could frustrate several league foes along the way.
6. High Point (2-4/0-0) – They may not have the most attractive record to date, but the Panthers have been in every game they’ve played right down to the end. Three of the four losses have been by only four or five points (the other was a 12-point margin). So while High Point has more losses than wins to show for November, the team has also demonstrated a little more fight than they have gotten credit for in the last couple of years and that could be important against familiar opposition in conference.
7. Charleston Southern (3-2/0-0) Saying your most impressive win of the year is against Stetson may not be shaking the pillars of college hoops, but the Bucs do bring a three-game win streak into league play after an 0-2 start, and that’s a very good sign for CSU. Bump them up for now, but see what comes out of the first week of December for a better barometer.
8. Liberty (2-5/0-0) – Ummm…dropping far down, at least for this week, is Liberty. The Flames have lost four straight, and not exactly against a murderer’s row. LU still has a fair chance to be in the mix this season, but the early skid does not offer much to go on. That said, the Flames have come back strong after slow starts before.
9. Radford (3-4/0-0) – What gives? Radford has lost three in a row since the last report and moved up two positions? Believe me, it says more about the other teams than it does Radford. We still think the Highlanders will have a rocky road to travel this season, and will likely finish at or near the bottom, but for now, slot them here.
10. Gardner-Webb (3-5/0-0) – Well, the record isn’t pretty, but some of that is deceptive. Yes, GWU is 3-5, and yes, that includes a four-game losing streak, but Bulldogs had to deal with five games in nine days at the Hoosier Invitational–and still had enough in the tank to pull out an overtime victory on that ninth day (76-74 over Chattanooga). So it’s bad, but it’s not ALL bad.
11. Winthrop (1-5/0-0) – Honestly, this is a “how the mighty have fallen” moment. Winthrop was the class of the Big South for years, and has found a way to matter in the postseason even when not playing from the top, but things have taken a turn this year. Winthrop needs a remedy–and fast. Their lone win came at the expense of Central Penn, a 107-68 thrashing. Outside of that game and a four-point loss to Drake, Winthrop has not seriously challenged its opponents, losing by 12, 21, 22, and 23. To be fair, two of those losses were Virginia and Marquette, and the Eagles were close for much of the Virgina game before being blown away down the stretch, but there aren’t many genuine positives to latch onto yet this season.
There are other games, sure, but the headliners right now are the conference pairings. Here are some key ones to look for…
Liberty — at Campbell 12/1 & at Coastal 12/3… a very tough 1-2 punch to take for Liberty, facing two early power teams on the road, but a sincere measuring stick for where the Flames really stand.
VMI — at Coastal 12/1 & at Charleston Southern 12/3… if you’re looking for entertaining basketball, you should find it on VMI’s road trip, with plenty of running, and threes, and dunks…defense may be optional in these games.
Winthrop — at Presbyterian 12/1 & at Gardner-Webb 12/3… talk about measuring sticks–is it the old guard or the up-and-comers who will prevail? Has Winthrop really fallen that far or was that an illusion?
Caught on Film
I’m not sure it gets much better than this–I can honestly say that it just doesn’t matter how many times I watch this dunk by Campbell’s Eric Griffin: the take-off from the Big South logo just shy of the free throw line, the posterizing of the unfortunate NC A&T player, the sheer vertical involved, you name it…I am spellbound each and every time.
Mark Bryant oversees multimedia at the Big South Conference. You can follow his updates on Twitter @BigSouthSports.
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 CarolinaTar Heels on ESPNU. EddieBiedenbach’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
While most of the college basketball world will be focused on the game between North Carolina and Michigan State on the USS Carl Vinson on Veterans Day there are plenty of other schools that are doing their part to honor military personnel. The UNC-Michigan State game will be attended almost entirely by military personnel, who have already been pre-selected, but if you are a veteran and were not selected to be on the ship to watch the game there are other opportunities.
Veterans Can Attend A Handful Of Games For Free On Veterans Day (Credit: AP Photo/U.S. Navy - Seaman Amanda Huntoon)
We have compiled a list of those opportunities based on what the host schools for Fridays games had on their websites as of late on Wednesday night (yes, we sifted through about 120 school web sites with some easier to navigate than others). If you know of any others, let us know so we can add them to the list. Our current list (all start times are local):
Air Force: Discounted admission ($5) for all military personnel with ID (active or retired) for the game against Army, which starts at 7:30 PM, as well as the rest of the All-Military Classic this weekend (featuring Citadel and VMI). It isn’t stated on the website, but we confirmed with Air Force media relations.
We will be unveiling a new feature this season where we look behind the scores each night to find some statistic from the previous night’s games that was particularly illuminating on how that particular game was played and the way it factored into the outcome.
Tonight’s number is 66.7%. That is the percentage of field goal attempts taken by William & Mary that were three-point attempts in their game last night against Saint John’s. Out of 48 field goal attempts, the Tribe took 32 of them from beyond the arc. While this might not be unusual at the Division III level where many teams take a ridiculous number of three-point attempts (22 schools averaged more than 17 made 3-pointers per game for an entire season since 1995), it is far from the norm in Division I basketball where teams tend to be much more conservative with their offenses. Last season, the Tribe were among the more prolific three-point shooting teams in the country as they finished 40th in the nation in three-pointers made with 250 made in 32 games (7.8 per game), but even then they only averaged 21.5 attempts per game, which was “only” 43.5% of their total field goal attempts. Even the most prolific three-point shooting team in the country, VMI, who averaged a Division I-leading 11.3 made three-pointers per game (next best was 9.4) only took 31.6 three-point attempts per game or 47% of their total field goal attempts.
In the end, it was one of those “live by the three, die by the three” situations as the Red Storm were able to withstand the Tribe’s barrage thanks to some poor marksmanship (and the 21 turnovers certainly didn’t help the Tribe’s cause either). The Tribe finished the game 11 of 32 from three-point range going 7 of 21 in the first half and 4 of 11 in the second half so they were fairly consistent with their poor shooting, but it reflected in other areas of the game where they were not attacking the basket as they attempted a measly four free throws all night compared to 25 for the Red Storm. While three-point shooting can be a boon for teams trying to pull off an upset, we doubt that many teams will be able to get away with such a heavy reliance on three-point shooting and walk out with the victory.
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
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.
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?
It was a busy night Thursday, and that meant thirteen more eliminations from the national title race. You can start to see a few holes in the below Circle of March, as Jacksonville, High Point, St. Francis (NY), St. Francis (PA), Mt. St. Mary’s, Wagner, UT-Martin, Illinois State, VMI, UMBC, Southeast Missouri State, Lipscomb and Drake are now all looking forward to next season. With last night’s losses, there are now 289 teams still alive for the 2011 national championship.
Coming next: Huge Friday night of eliminations, with 21 games knocking out one team or another.
RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences. Up first are the Big South and Horizon League.
Being the “Other 26” guy around these parts, I deemed it appropriate to give a quick look into all 25 (the Ivy, of course, has no tournament) of the non-BCS conference tournaments prior to their commencement. I will bring you these previews for each conference on the day their first round games are slated to be played. We kick things off with the Big South and the Horizon League. Both will unquestionably be interesting tournaments as Coastal Carolina’s recent issues and allegations regarding NCAA violations have opened the door for the rest of the conference. Unlike the Big South which was dominated by Coastal for nearly the entire year, the Horizon League had great parity at the top of the conference with six teams reaching ten wins or better.
The Favorite: Coastal Carolina—dare I say it—no longer the favorite to win the Big South tournament? After coming up just short last year as Winthrop dashed their hopes of advancing to the NCAA Tournament, Coastal came out with a vengeance this year to take back what they thought should have been theirs. They won 22 straight games—14 of them coming in the Big South—and appeared untouchable. But, amidst recruiting violations and eligibility issues, Coastal’s chance at advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993 has taken a serious hit. Now, the league is wide open with Liberty, and UNC-Asheville also vying for the coveted auto-bid. I like Asheville as they have won three straight heading into the conference tournament with one of the wins coming in dramatic fashion against Coastal at the buzzer.
Dark Horse: They score a whole lot of points, but also give up a ton as well. Clearly, I am referring to the VMI Keydets. The scoring ability of Austin Kenon with his deadly shot is an aspect of VMI’s game that always makes them a threat to win games.
Who’s Hot: VMI happens to be the hottest team entering the tournament having won five of their last six games.
Player to Watch: Now that Coastal Carolina’s Desmond Holloway has been ruled ineligible, there is no other obvious player to keep an eye on. Austin Kenon for VMI is certainly one to keep tabs on as he can light up the gym maybe better than anyone in the conference, but I believe Matt Dickey of UNC-Asheville is poised for a big tournament. If Dickey’s name sounds familiar it is due to his heroics as he miraculously stole Coastal Carolina’s inbounds pass and hit an off-balance three to propel his Bulldogs to a big win.
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.