Starting Tomorrow, We’re Talkin’ About Practices

Posted by jstevrtc on October 14th, 2010

Fall is the most appropriately named season. It is called that because the sun is falling below the celestial equator, for you amateur astronomers out there, but poets and writers far better than this one have described so many other reasons throughout time to illustrate why fall is known as the “season of descent”  — the decreasing number of daylight hours, the leaves, the mercury in your thermometer, the amount of filler material on SportsCenter. Of the few things that do indeed rise at this time of year, one of them has become one of surest signs that fall has arrived…

When the Tents Sprout in Lexington for Big Blue Madness Tickets, You Know That Fall Is Here.

True, in the Driesellian sense, nobody has true “Midnight Madness” anymore. And there’s so much more interaction now between coaches and players that happens prior to that circled mid-October day where once none was allowed. It doesn’t matter, because the psychosis to which college basketball aficionados across the nation willingly give in is real, and it arrives tomorrow.

That’s right, tomorrow. A big black “x” in the October 15th square on your wall calendar means that hoopheads are celebrating their own national holiday, which, inasmuch as it isn’t real Midnight Madness, we’ll call the First Official Day of Practice (FODP). Like it or not, the NCAA still calls the shots, and if they say that that particular day is open season for full-squad, you-can-use-a-ball workouts to begin, then celebrate we will, for the season is short but sweet for certain (apologies to Dave and the boys).

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RTC Conference Primers: #29 – Big South

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 6th, 2010

Mark Bryant of Big South SHOUT is the RTC correspondent for the Big South Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Coastal Carolina (14-4)
  2. Winthrop (13-5)
  3. UNC Asheville (11-7)
  4. Presbyterian College (10-8)
  5. High Point (9-9)
  6. Liberty (9-9)
  7. Charleston Southern (8-10)
  8. VMI (6-12)
  9. Radford (6-12)
  10. Gardner-Webb (4-14)

All-Conference Team

  • Nick Barbour (G) - High Point
  • Austin Kenon (G) - VMI
  • Jamarco Warren (G) - Charleston Southern
  • Al’Lonzo Coleman (F) - Presbyterian College
  • Chad Gray (F) - Coastal Carolina

Sixth Man

  • Keith Gabriel (G) – VMI

Impact Newcomer

  • Mike Holmes (F) – Coastal Carolina – Holmes comes to CCU after being dismissed from South Carolina last winter and won’t be eligible to play until a big tilt against LSU on December 13. The senior averaged 10.8 PPG and 7.4 RPG in his last full season in a power conference (2008-09), so he’s very capable of being a force in the Big South as long as he keeps his act together. Until he proves that, however, he’s something of a wildcard.
Cliff Ellis led Coastal Carolina to school records in regular season victories and wins in conference play, but had to settle for the NIT in 2010. Such is life in the mid-majors. (TSN Archive)

What You Need to Know

  • Most folks would probably still identify Winthrop as the team of note from the Big South, with that school still having provided the conference’s only NCAA Tournament first round victory (over Notre Dame in 2007). Although they represented the Big South last year, the Eagles did not do so unchallenged.  Coastal Carolina, bitter rival of Winthrop, asserted itself last year and won the regular season title before falling to the Eagles in the Conference Tournament.  Expect the two familiar foes to be dueling again throughout the upcoming year.  As for players to watch, with the departure of some hallmark big men from the league, outside shooting and guard play will likely generate the most excitement, thanks to contributors like Nick Barbour of High Point, Jamarco Warren of Charleston SouthernAustin Kenon of VMI and J.P. Primm of UNC Asheville, among others.

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Summer School in the Big South

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 6th, 2010

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

Around The Big South

  • Back to the Future for Gardner-Webb – The GWU Runnin’ Bulldogs called on a former assistant to get the program going back in the right direction with the departure of Rick Scruggs after a 15-year tenure in Boiling Springs.  New head man Chris Holtmann was with GWU’s staff from 2003-08, but his more recent time with Ohio University had him on the up-and-coming coach prospect lists — that performance by the Bobcats last year in winning the MAC Tournament and upending Georgetown at the NCAA Tourney opened lots of eyes to Holtmann’s contributions as lead assistant there.
  • Association Aspirations – While not impacting the upcoming season directly, two NBA storylines have gotten lots of Big South attention:  Art Parakhouski and Reggie Williams.  Parakhouski, a two-time Big South Player of the Year, was considered by many as a draftable prospect for the NBA, but did not get selected, missing what many thought was the Big South’s best chance to date of having someone taken in the modern two-round format for the first time.  The big man from Radford landed on the Celtics’ Summer League team, trying to work his way into a spot.  Meanwhile, that’s just what former Big South and VMI star Reggie Williams did.  Once college basketball’s leading scorer, he started doing the same thing in the NBA’s D-League, which will get you noticed.  He signed a ten-day deal with the Golden State Warriors, and then another, earning his way onto the team roster with lots of praise from teammates and coaches.

Kierre Greenwood is back to lead CCU to the top. (Ted Richardson/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT)

Power Rankings

  1. Coastal Carolina – no one’s expecting the Chanticleers to crow through the season at last year’s astonishing pace (28-7 ,15-3, regular season champion), but here’s some consideration for them repeating a run at the title nonetheless.  CCU loses team leader and All-Conference forward Joseph Harris, but we suspect Chad Gray (also All-Conference First Team) will step into that role and get sufficient help from last season’s Freshman of the Year Kierre Greenwood.  Big South Coach of the Year Cliff Ellis seemed to finally get the pieces put together last year, and their tournament final loss may provide adequate motivation to reach the next rung on the ladder this time around.
  2. Winthrop - okay, so the Eagles lose a cornerstone in Defensive Player of the Year Mantoris Robinson from last year’s Big South Championship squad, but coach Randy Peele said it best when WU managed that upset title run: this team is built for tournament play.  In other words, there will be some ugly play along the way (as seen when the shooting ices over, like in the NCAA opening round game), but this team will stay in games and stay in the race and stay a thorn in the side of everyone else.  Just ask the Coastal fans who watched the Eagles celebrate on the CCU court this spring… can’t count Winthrop out, so let’s credit them with contender status here.
  3. High Point – If coach Scott Cherry can keep his team on its improvement pace, he’ll do even better than this spot, but let’s consider the Panthers as a notch better than last year’s 15-15, 10-8 squad.  That mark was an increase of six wins (conference and overall) over the previous season.  Granted, HPU has to bid farewell to big man and shot-blocker Cruz Daniels, along with the talented Eugene Harris, but they still have the offensive production of standouts Nick Barbour (All-Conference) and Tehran Cox.  For his senior year, Cox will also get the emotional boost of seeing his team play preseason games in his native Bahamas.  As for Barbour, beware when this shooter is on the mark – he can hit from anywhere. Read the rest of this entry »
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Opening Round Questions Still Unanswered

Posted by jstevrtc on July 2nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.

The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Committee met this week in Chicago, and the biggest item on their agenda was to decide on the format of the new 68-team tournament. In deciding to expand from the 65-team tournament, which has been the rule for the last ten years, to 68 teams in time for the 2011 tournament, the NCAA has committed itself to four opening round games.  The questions of who will play in those games, however, and where those games will take place, among other logistical issues, are still to be decided. While it doesn’t look like a decision will be announced this week, outgoing committee chairperson and UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero has spelled out three possible options for who will compete in the opening round games:

  1. The teams that would be the 16th and 17th seeds in a bracket, or those teams seeded at spots 61 through 68 in the overall field — likely teams from the historically one-bid conferences,
  2. The last eight non-automatic qualifiers or the teams generally referred to as bubble teams — generally teams from a mixture of BCS leagues and mid-major conferences, or
  3. Some combination of the first two options, with the most talked-about scenario being the last four bubble teams playing in a couple of games and the lowest seeded automatic qualifiers (seeds 65-68) playing in the other two.

While it is still within the realm of reason that additional options could arise (maybe the lowest seeded automatic qualifiers each match up against one of the bubble teams), the answer will likely be one of the three options above. And, frankly, option three is a bit of a copout, so the decision between options one and two comes down to something of a battle between the big power conferences and the less influential conferences that nonetheless make up the bulk of Division I. And neither side wants to play in those games.

Should a conference champ be sent to an opening-rounder and have a better chance to make more money, or should their performance be rewarded with a spot in the main draw?

“I think that if you are an automatic qualifier, you should not be in a play-in game,” said Winthrop head coach Randy Peele when we talked with him earlier this week, and he’s had experience with the opening round game as the coach at a school that has now appeared in two opening round tournament games, including last season’s loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  Peele’s sentiment was echoed by Michael White, the Associate Athletic Director for Communications at East Tennessee State University. “For teams like ours that come out of a league with one tournament bid, and to have to earn it by winning our conference tournament, we don’t want to have to be sent to a play-in game.”

Even the term “play-in game,” used in reference to the single opening round game played in Dayton for the last ten years, is a divisive one. The NCAA has gone to great lengths to make sure that game was referred to as the “opening round game,” despite it commonly being referred to by fans and media as the play-in game. “The way the NCAA markets the first day is critical,” said ETSU’s head coach Murry Bartow. “They shouldn’t be marketed as play-in games, where you’re not even in the tournament until you win that game.”

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ATB: Play-In Game and NIT Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Welcome to the Real Dance, BluffersArkansas-Pine Bluff 61, Winthrop 44.  Well, we’re off to a great start so far this year.  With tonight’s convincing win over Winthrop, UAPB becomes the 64th entrant into the bracket, and those who fret about completeness (“I can’t make my picks yet!!”) are able to finally concentrate.  For a team that started the season 0-11 as it traveled all over the country taking regular beatings, a win tonight and another roadie to Jacksonville to face Duke on Friday feels like just desserts.  Allen Smith had 14/5 and Tavaris Washington contributed 8/13/5 assts as the Golden Lions broke open a close game at the half to slowly pull away in the second.  Even though it is only the PiG, this is the first win by a SWAC team in the NCAA Tournament since Southern University pulled the trick as a #15 in 1993.

Allen Smith Moves On to Play Duke (DDN/L. Powell)

Argument for the Play-In-Game.  In watching some of this game tonight in front of 8,000+ fans at the UD Arena in Dayton, while switching over to some of the more interesting NIT games tonight, we once again come back to the idea of expansion and how the NCAA might look into integrating ideas into the existing system using something that approximates logic and reason.  Obviously, the preferred scenario is no additional expansion, but it’s also the least likely.  We’re never going back to a perfectly symmetrical sixty-four team bracket now that we’re at 65, so let’s consider the next best alternative.  The Tuesday night PiG is widely mocked among bracketeers around the country, but as you can see by clicking through the link above, people in Dayton attend and enjoy the game.  We’ve said for the better part of a decade, though, that having a single game hanging out on a thread like that is weird and feels a little funny — it’s like finding a box of raisins in the paper towels section at the grocery store.  We think that the fix for this is to have four play-in games, which means 68 teams would be invited to the NCAA Tournament.  Each region would have one PiG, and all four of them would be played in the 7pm and 9pm time slots on Tuesday night, with winners moving on to the Friday games around the country.  Dayton could host two games and another great basketball city such as Salt Lake or Memphis could host the other two.  Here’s the rub, though.  Rather than making the four PiGs a situation where the worst eight teams (#16 seeds) are slotted into them, make it so that the games utilize the unyielding buzz and conversation about the bubble that dominates the entire previous weekend.  You achieve this by slotting the last eight at-large teams into these four play-in games.  This year, that would have meant the following scenario:

  • Utah State vs. Mississippi State
  • UTEP vs. Illinois
  • Minnesota vs. Arizona State
  • Florida vs. Virginia Tech

How ridiculously fun would that be to watch on Tuesday night?– no offense to tonight’s competitors, but it’s no contest!  Bubble teams, this is the chance for you to make your case against a similarly situated team — it’s win or go home.  The UAPBs and Winthrops of the world would already be in the round of 64 (aka the first round) as #16 seed auto-bids.  The winner of these four PiGs comprised solely of the eight lowest at-larges could be slotted as #12 or #13 seeds regardless of who wins.  Can someone tell us what’s wrong with this idea?

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RTC Bracketology Seed Update: 03.14.10

Posted by zhayes9 on March 14th, 2010

From today until Selection Sunday, keep checking Rush the Court for updates on who’s in, who’s out and seeding.

UPDATES ALL DAY TODAY. FINAL BRACKET REVEALED JUST BEFORE 6 PM ET.

(Note: each of the four teams in one seed grouping is listed in pecking order in terms of who is closer to moving up a seed line. This is used to determine game location and matchups similar to Joe Lunardi’s S-Curve listing).

Also: play the NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday challenge at NCAA.com to be your own Bracketologist.

Italics indicates conference leaders/champions.

Last update: 03/14, 3:50 PM ET.

#1 Seeds: Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse, West Virginia

#2 Seeds: Duke, Ohio State, Kansas State, Georgetown

#3 Seeds: New Mexico, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Purdue

#4 Seeds: Baylor, Wisconsin, Temple, Tennessee

#5 Seeds: Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Michigan State, BYU

#6 Seeds: Maryland, Butler, Richmond, Xavier

#7 Seeds: Gonzaga, Northern Iowa, Texas, UNLV

#8 Seeds: Notre Dame, Marquette, Clemson, Oklahoma State

#9 Seeds: Florida State, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Missouri

#10 Seeds: UTEP, Old Dominion, Saint Mary’s, San Diego State

#11 Seeds: Wake Forest, Washington, California, Siena

#12 Seeds: Utah State, Minnesota, Cornell, Illinois

#13 Seeds: Murray State, New Mexico State, Oakland, Houston

#14 Seeds: Wofford, Sam Houston State, Ohio, Montana

#15 Seeds: Morgan State, UC-Santa Barbara, North Texas, Vermont

#16 Seeds: Robert Morris, East Tennessee State, Lehigh, Winthrop, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Last Four In: California, Utah State, Minnesota, Illinois

Last Four Out: Mississippi State, Florida, Virginia Tech, Seton Hall

Bids per conference: Big East (8), Big 12 (7), Big Ten (6), ACC (5), Mountain West (4), SEC (3), Atlantic 10 (3), Pac-10 (2), West Coast (2), WAC (2), C-USA (2).

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Bracket Prep: Cornell, Winthrop, ETSU, Murray State

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2010

As we move through the next eight days when automatic bids will be handed out on a regular basis, we’re going to break down the teams for you so that you can start thinking about your bracket ahead of time.  The pearls of wisdom are meant to help you better understand what these teams are good at and how to make fair comparisons between them — all too often, the capsules you see have a lot of information in them, but very little of it is actually helpful.  If you have additional ideas, leave them in the comments.  For the good/bad matchups, we’re not necessarily saying that Team X will win; we’re simply pointing out that in an ideal situation, some of that team’s strengths will be more likely to manifest against those particular opponents — so save the emails.  As of Sunday morning, there have been four auto-bids handed out.  Here are those primers.

#1. Cornell Big Red (27-4, 13-1 Ivy) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #11-#13

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. Cornell is the nation’s top three-point shooting team, hitting 43.4% of their attempts from deep and scoring nearly 39% of their total points from outside the arc.  The Big Red hit twenty in their bid-clinching game against Brown on Friday night.  They have five players who have made 30+ this year; you simply cannot leave these guys open.
  2. In their five games against BCS teams this year, Cornell was 2-3.  The wins were against Alabama in Tuscaloosa and St. John’s in NYC. Digging deeper, though, we find that two of the three losses were to #1 seeds Syracuse (by 15) and Kansas (by 6).  In those losses, Brandon Triche and Sherron Collins tore them up, exposing a vulnerability to athletic, scoring point guards who attack the basket.
  3. The core trio of Jeff Foote, Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale will not get rattled — they’re all seniors playing in their third straight NCAA Tournament.  They have proven they can score with anyone; the problem will be if they are matched up against a team that is equally offensive minded, as the Cornell defense has trouble getting stops.

Good Matchups: Wisconsin; Gonzaga

Bad Matchups: Baylor, Georgetown

#2. Winthrop Eagles (19-13, 12-6 Big South) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #16

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.06.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2010

Folks, it’s March and we’re now approximately eight days until Selection Sunday sets the sports world on fire.  By our count, there are about twenty teams fighting for half as many at-large spots, and this weekend’s games will have increased importance in the all-too-important ‘sniff test.’  The NCAA Selection Committee is made of humans just like the rest of us, and if they see a couple of teams look great on tv this weekend, it could be the little extra push needed to earn a Dance card next Sunday.  But it’s not just about those so-called bubble teams; it’s also about positioning.  Which team will step up in the last week to grab the likely one remaining #1 seed, along with Syracuse, Kansas and Kentucky?  Who will be able to secure a top four regional seed in order to play closer to home?  There are so many questions unanswered still remaining.  Today is the last Saturday of the regular season, and as always, we’ll be with you on Boom Goes the Dynamite throughout the day.  Below are the key games we plan on keeping an eye on — of special note is that three more automatic bids will be delivered today, in the Big South, Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley Conferences.

  • Noon – West Virginia @ Villanova on CBS – RTC Live
  • Noon - Texas A&M @ Oklahoma on ESPN
  • Noon – Cincinnati @ Georgetown on ESPN360
  • 1 pm – Tulsa @ Memphis on CBS College Sports
  • 1:30 pm – Maryland @ Virginia on ESPN360
  • 2 pm – Kansas @ Missouri on CBS
  • 2 pm – Syracuse @ Louisville on ESPN
  • 2 pm – Notre Dame @ Marquette on ESPN360
  • 2 pm – UConn @ USF on The Big East Network
  • 2 pm – Notre Dame @ Marquette on The Big East Network
  • 2 pm – South Carolina @ Vanderbilt on ESPN2
  • 4 pm- UCLA @ Arizona State on CBS
  • 4 pm – Texas @ Baylor on ESPN
  • 4 pm – Big South Championship: Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina on ESPN2
  • 4 pm – Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech on ESPN360
  • 6 pm – Tennessee @ Mississippi State on ESPN
  • 6 pm – Atlantic Sun Championship: ETSU @ Mercer on ESPN2
  • 8 pm – OVC Championship: Murray State vs. Morehead State on ESPN2
  • 9 pm – UNC @ Duke on ESPN
  • 9 pm – New Mexico State @ Utah State on ESPN360

We will be back at 11 AM for our continuing coverage so check back then and feel free to comment or ask questions in the comment section.

11:00: Nice showing by the Duke student for GameDay. Not going to be Kentucky because of the smaller student body and smaller arena.

11:10: Ugh. Speedo guy segment coming on GameDay. I will be switching the channel for a few minutes when that segment is going to start. Way to show segments that your audience will be interested in. Would they do a “Bikini girl” segment or would that not be PC?

11:20: Coach K does not approve of “Speedo guy”. I think we have finally found something that UNC fans will agree with him on. Seriously ESPN. Why are you featuring this idiot?

11:25: Be back in 5 minutes. Tell me when it is over.

11:30: Back again. Knight does not look amused, which amuses me.

11:40: Hey Lunardi. We had Zach Hayes on this over a month ago. This is why you don’t want a 96-team tournament. Also DeCourcy was right on expansion.

11:45: So Sherron Collins was a great athlete in high school, plays video games, and like macaroni. I’m glad we found that out. Why can’t GameDay do legit segments like the one on the Syracuse zone they did earlier this year?

Noon: Hubert picks UNC. Big surprise. Knight and Bilas are calling for a Duke beat down. I’d go with something in between the two.

12:05: Three interesting games on right now none of which is the FSU-Miami game that ESPN2 decided to show over Cincinnati-Georgetown. The best of the three games is clearly the West Virginia-Villanova game, which we are doing a RTC Live for so be sure to check that out.

12:15: Interesting news: Both Luke Harangody and Austin Freeman will play today according to Seth Davis and Jeff Goodman respectively.

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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:

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Checking in on… the Big South

Posted by rtmsf on February 13th, 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           11-3 / 21-5
  2. Radford                        10-4 / 14-10
  3. Winthrop                        9-4 / 13-10
  4. UNC Asheville               8-6 / 11-14
  5. High Point                      7-6 / 12-12
  6. Liberty                           7-6 / 12-13
  7. Charleston Southern       6-8 / 11-13
  8. VMI                               4-10/ 9-15
  9. Gardner-Webb               4-10/ 7-17
  10. Presbyterian College       2-11/ 4-21

Top Storylines

Coastal Holds Serve, Radford Keeps Pace. No, the Chanticleers couldn’t make it through unscathed, but they’re still rolling strong in the lead at 11-3 in the Big South.  As of February 12th, Coastal had not yet lost consecutive games this season—but will that still hold by Valentine’s Day?  CCU’s earlier 12-game winning streak ended at Radford’s hands January 14th, and those teams meet again February 13th—with Coastal Carolina coming off of a loss at High Point, trying to avoid back-to-back defeats.  And the Highlanders seek the opportunity to wrest first place away, as RU would hold the tiebreaker with a win and a sweep over the Chants.

Eagles Soar.  Can we say no one really saw this one coming?  Naturally you can never write off a program of Winthrop’s strength and tradition, but this was a team see-sawing between winning and losing runs in the early part of the season—and now we see WU with five straight wins and eight of the last nine to fly up the standings into third.  If Winthrop can hang on, it means postseason basketball would return to Rock Hill after an uncharacteristic absence in 2009…but the schedule won’t make it easy: WU will finish the season with three games in five days against Asheville, High Point, and Radford, the last two on the road.

The Three Races? Naturally there’s a battle for first place, one likely to remain between Coastal Carolina and Radford, as it has for most of the season…and there’s the important fight to be in the top four, because that means hosting in the first round, and there are four teams in a tight tangle for fourth right now…but we have one more standings stand-off: the difference between eighth and ninth.  The Big South Championship takes eight teams—VMI and Gardner-Webb are tied for eighth (at 4-10), trying just to get in…and Thursday night, VMI defeated GWU to force that tie.  The Keydets would rather not fall from second last year to non-qualifier this year.

Looking Ahead

With only four to five Big South games remaining for every team, and with no seeds locked down yet, each game becomes that much more significant to how the whole season will be viewed for these teams.  Late season matchups pitting foes in close races will shape the Championship field, such as Coastal @ Radford, CSU @ Liberty, Winthrop @ HPU, and UNCA @ Winthrop.

Looking Behind

Rises and falls, rises and falls…while Coastal Carolina and Radford have been the steady pace-setters, others have had surges at the leaders and cooled down—first High Point, then Charleston Southern, and more recently UNC Asheville.  Currently Winthrop is still on the upswing, so we’ll see if the Eagles can hold on to the higher spot—third at the moment.  Those up-and-down teams cited: HPU, CSU, & UNCA, are three of the four squads fighting for the fourth spot (along with Liberty, who has maintained its slow-and-steady pace hovering around the cut line throughout).

Team Capsules

  • Charleston Southern – The Bucs need to right the ship: January started with five wins in six games, but CSU has balanced that by losing five of six since then.  On any given day, the team expects to rely on scoring from Jamarco Warren and rebounding from Kelvin Martin, but it’s the contribution from freshman guard Jeremy Sexton that has been a pleasant surprise.
  • Coastal CarolinaJoseph Harris remains among the league leaders in scoring, rebounding, and shooting percentage to be the fuel for Coastal’s run, but he’s not alone out there.  In fact, the Mario Edwards-to-Chris Evans alley-oop combination against GWU hit the #7 position on the SportsCenter Top Ten one night!  Thanks in part to back-to-back 30+ point wins over GWU and UNCA, CCU leads the Big South in scoring margin with a whopping +15.6.
  • Gardner-Webb – the Runnin’ Bulldogs have been the Strugglin’ Bulldogs for most of the season, but the Conference season still had possibilities before their most recent stretch of five losses in six games.  Now GWU is in a fight just to make the Championship field, as noted above.  C.J. Hailey is the only GWU Bulldog in the Big South’s top 25 scorers, averaging 13.0 ppg.
  • High Point – the Panthers can bomb away some shots—looking only at Conference play, HPU has the Big South’s best 3-point shooting percentage (.371) and its top 3-point scorer in Eugene Harris (with 3.0/game).  Harris joins teammate Nick Barbour in the top four in scoring for Big South games this season.  And home is sweet for High Point: overall, the Panthers are 9-1 at home and only 3-11 on the road.
  • Liberty –  how close are the Flames to dead-even?  One game under .500 overall, one game over in the Big South…in 25 total games, LU has been outscored by merely 15 points and in 13 Conference games, outscored by just 6…and no streaks in Big South play, win or lose, longer than two games.  Given all that, Liberty has been up and down, but the average is pretty much a flat line.
  • Presbyterian College – It’s certainly a dubious honor to lead the nation in minutes played by freshmen (3410 of a possible 5075 minutes), but that’s the situation at PC this season.  In Big South games, the highest minutes/game average belongs to Khalid Mutakabbir of the Blue Hose—and yes, he’s a freshman (with 35.5 min./game).
  • Radford“Big Art” Parakhouski remains the focal point for RU (and for NBA scouts): he is the Big South leader in scoring (21.7), rebounding (13.4 – including leads in both offensive (5.38) and defensive (8.00) boards), and also shooting percentage (.589).  Meanwhile, teammate Amir Johnson leads the conference in assists (5.73/game).
  • UNC Asheville – it’s all about teamwork in Asheville: the Bulldogs have no one among the top 19 scorers in the Big South this season, but they have four of the top 25—J.P. Primm, John Williams, Matt Dickey, and Chris Stephenson, all averaging between 10-12 points per game. The Bulldogs lead the Big South in blocks, with 5.8 blocked shots per game.
  • VMI – the song remains the same this year for the Keydets: VMI leads the Big South in scoring offense with 89.7 ppg, but comes in dead last in scoring defense, with 96.8 ppg.  More good news/bad news: tops in the Conference in steals (11.00/game), but last in rebounding margin (-12.3).  Those disparities have resulted in games played at a dizzying pace, but not in favor of the Keydets.
  • Winthrop –  in its current five-game winning streak, Winthrop has held each opponent under 40% shooting.   WU has won eight of the last nine—holding three opponents under 50 points during that span.  Another win will extend the Eagles’ Big South record for most 10-win Conference seasons—to ten.
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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 January 8th, 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        5-0  Big South ( 15-2 overall)
  2. Radford                      4-0    (8-5)
  3. High Point                  3-1   (7-6)
  4. Liberty                        3-1    (8-8)
  5. Charleston Southern  2-3 (7-8)
  6. Winthrop                   2-3    (6-9)
  7. VMI                             1-3    (4-8)
  8. UNC Asheville           1-3     (3-11)
  9. Gardner-Webb          1-3    (4-10)
  10. Presbyterian College  0-5     (2-15)

Top Stories

The Chanticleer’s Tale — Coastal Carolina is now the fastest team to 15 wins in Big South history.  In addition, the Chanticleers are 5-0 in conference for the first time since 1990-91.  It’s a storybook start to the season, appropriate for a mascot plucked from classic literature (if you’re not up on your obscure nickname trivia, it’s from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales).  But can Coach Cliff Ellis get this kind of production when it counts at season’s end?  Looks like we may have to finish the book to find that one out, but CCU is getting the right mix of dominant play from Joseph Harris and clutch shooting by Chad Gray, so they might be able to stay strong all the way through the campaign.

Art Show — Senior big man Art Parakhouski of Radford is starting to have more dominant performances more often this season, a dangerous sign for the rest of the league.  Radford’s success a year ago owed a great deal to Parakhouski getting better as the season progressed.  Now that he’s clearly in top form, as demonstrated by back-to-back 30-point performances in the last week, RU may keep rolling.

A Look Back

Life has been mostly good for the home teams since Christmas:  all 13 games involving Big South teams in the final week of December were won by the home team or on a neutral site — no road wins.  Turn the calendar to January and it gets only slightly better in the new year:  10 of 13 Big South games (these were all in conference play) were won on the home floor.  Last season was a fairly successful one for Big South road squads, but there definitely seems to be a stronger than usual home-court advantage in play right now.

The last significant batch of out-of-conference games didn’t really offer any major moments, but did include a win for Radford over George Mason, the only win for the Big South against the Colonial this year, and a victory for Coastal Carolina over Georgia Southern–making CCU not only 5-0 in the Big South, but 4-0 in the SoCon this year as well!

Conference play established an early schism in the group — there’s a top four and a bottom six at the moment: CCU/RU/HPU/LU are a combined 15-2, while CSU/WU/VMI/UNCA/GWU/PC are a combined 7-20 in the Big South.  Unless some patterns start to change, we already have contenders for hosting the first round games in the Big South Tournament, as those go to the top four seeds.

A Look Ahead

The top teams haven’t crossed paths much–of that leading foursome, only one game has matched any of those teams head-to-head: Coastal over Liberty on Dec. 5th.  That will start to change in the next two weeks; watch out for these important games:

  • 1/9         Radford at High Point
  • 1/14       Radford at Coastal Carolina
  • 1/16       High Point at Coastal Carolina
  • 1/21       Liberty at High Point

And if you’re looking for another team that could shake things up, that honor belongs to Charleston Southern — outside the upper group but certainly not out of contention at 2-3.  The Bucs’ schedule includes home games against High Point and Radford within the next two weeks, giving CSU the power to insert itself back in the race.  All of which would make the Jan. 23rd match-ups of CSU at CCU and LU at RU very interesting indeed.

Team Breakdowns

Charleston Southern — As cited just above, CSU is a pivot team right now…the Buccaneers have games in front of them that will allow them to climb the ladder, but could just as easily find themselves going the wrong way.  Jamarco Warren continues to put up points and is unafraid to take his shots every game.

Coastal Carolina — It just gets better for the Chanticleers every time we write them up so far… no one expected them to be quite this hot.  If/when they falter, how they handle that may be a critical factor in the season’s outcome, but right now we should all enjoy the ride.  CCU has won ten straight and has earned its position in the mid-major poll (currently 21st with Collegeinsider.com).  Meanwhile, Coach Cliff Ellis eclipsed the 650 career win mark this week.

Gardner-Webb — The Runnin’ Bulldogs have not been going the right direction lately, but finally eked out a win to end a ten-game skid, their longest since 2002-03. This is a team needing a break and a little momentum — something not to be found previously against the likes of Texas and other powers on the out-of-conference slate for GWU this season.

High Point — The Panthers have been doing more than lurking on the outside lately — this is a squad that will likely have a major say in the Big South race down the stretch and in the tournament.  The first big test along that path is with Saturday’s visit by Radford, when a lot of eyes will be on the Millis Center and how HPU handles that match-up.

Liberty — Year-in and year-out, you just can’t count out the Flames.   Even when they’re not at their best, this is always a squad that can bring it on any given night.  They’ve done just that in winning three of four to start Big South competition.  Jesse Sanders is doing a lot to keep the team going strong these days, ranking in the Big South’s top ten in both assists and rebounding.

Presbyterian — It’s widely known that PC is essentially saving itself for next year and the arrival of postseason D-I eligibility for the former D-II school, with prominent players redshirting this season to take advantage of the next.  That said, this is rapidly becoming a totally lost year for the Blue Hose, faltering to 0-5 in the Big South and only 2-15 overall.

Radford — The Highlanders have won them close and they’ve won them going away, but the bottom line is that they’re winning, at least when it comes to conference games.  RU scheduled strong outside the Big South and did not always get the better end of that set-up, but it has steeled them for competition among peer schools.  In addition to an unblemished Big South record this season, the Highlanders have a streak of 11 road wins in the league dating back to last year.

UNC Asheville — The Bulldogs played Coastal Carolina within a point on Thursday, but regardless of the margin, it’s still a loss, and makes three of those in a row in Conference play for UNC Asheville after the school’s surprising opening win in Big South play.  Coach Eddie Biedenbach’s group will work hard for every game, but it’s hard to say this team has enough to change its direction this season.

VMI — The pace continues to be blistering in VMI games, although it’s still not working out on a regular basis for the Keydets, even as they hold the top scoring rank in the country (again).  They can push the pace, but VMI opponents have not blinked.  Liberty beat VMI 110-102 last Saturday, and Winthrop took advantage of the high pace and cold shooting of the Keydets to streak to a 96-63 win on Thursday (only the third time in 12 games VMI has been held under 85).  Last year, that strategy propelled the Keydets one game short of the Big Dance, but the Holmes twins are not on this team to hit those shots any longer.

Winthrop — Still looking forward to finding out which Winthrop we’ve really got here…they pushed Radford to the brink earlier this year and ran VMI all over the floor this week, but that latter feat was done only after five losses in a row with fewer than 60 points in each game (ouch).

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