Checking in on… the Big South

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 8th, 2011

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

A Look Back

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

Power Rankings

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

A Look Ahead

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

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Checking in on… the Big South

Posted by rtmsf on December 25th, 2010

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

A Look Back

  • Giant Killers?!?  Presbyterian College defeated Auburn and Wake Forest on the road in consecutive games over the past week, while Coastal Carolina notched a big-time win at Louisiana State recently… put those up alongside earlier ACC-SEC upsets, with UNC Asheville toppling Auburn and Winthrop downing Wake Forest, and the conference has a growing list of notable wins.  The wins over Charlotte by CCU and Gardner-Webb also moved up a notch once the 49ers upended Tennessee (although in fairness, Charlotte beat Winthrop).  So yes, Auburn and Wake would each be 0-2 in the Big South right now… go figure.
  • Return to Earth.  And while the Big South’s brief ownership of a winning record against the SEC was enjoyable (at 3-2 through 12/20), two days quickly turned that back to reality, with a High Point loss at Georgia on the 21st and losses by Winthrop at Kentucky and Radford at Florida to bring the season mark to 3-5.  That still smacks of respectability, as does the 2-4 mark against the ACC,  particularly when compared to records vs. other power conferences: the Big East (0-6), Big Ten (0-2), Pac-10 (0-1) and Big 12 (0-4), a cumulative 0-13.  Still, that can be understood, but far more troubling is a 1-10 total against the Colonial (Liberty’s win over William & Mary the lone bright spot there).
  • Greetings! Coastal Carolina’s Mike Holmes, a transfer from South Carolina, became available last week and made the most of his entrance.  Holmes came off the bench for the Chanticleers in Baton Rouge and put up a double-double against LSU in his debut (14 points, 10 rebounds).  No doubt the others in the Big South took notice of the arrival of a significant new player to watch.

Power Rankings

  1. Coastal Carolina (10-2 / 1-0)… the Chanticleers have made it eight in a row and sit idle until New Year’s Eve with struggling Radford coming to CCU’s floor.  The hallmark win is the overtime victory over LSU, but this is undeniably a team on a roll, and one that just got better with the addition of Mike Holmes to the active roster.  You have to say that Coastal is the team to beat right now.
  2. Presbyterian College (6-6 / 1-1)… where do I get off vaulting a team I had low last time, and one with a .500 record,  into the second spot?  Show me another squad here that knocked off back-to-back power conference teams on the road and I’ll consider them for this slot… frankly, this week, PC has earned the “number two with a bullet” position after wins at Auburn and Wake Forest (even if those teams are apparently having down years).  By the time most folks read this, we’ll know if the Blue Hose added a win at Old Dominion to cement their right to this space or if they are easing back down the list.
  3. Liberty (7-6 / 2-0)… aside from bringing PC from the bottom to the top, the rest of the order pretty much stays the same, as we haven’t seen much to change opinions–most teams had something disappointing along the way, or simply wins over lesser opponents.  For Liberty, the disappointment remains the inability to win a true road game.  Home or neutral: 7-1.  Road: 0-5… including the last loss to Hampton.  The Flames would drop, but other than PC, no one’s ready to jump.
  4. High Point (5-5 / 2-0)… for the Panthers, the last home game was 12/4 and the next one is not until 1/13/11.  Like Liberty, that doesn’t bode well for a team with a bad home-road split: 4-1 at the Millis Center, 1-4 everywhere else.  But also like the Flames, HPU is 2-0 in conference play, so we’ll keep them in the upper group for now.
  5. Winthrop (5-7 / 1-1)… uneven and inconsistent early season play–we’ve said that about Winthrop before… last year, in fact.   Somewhere in the middle of conference play a season ago, the Eagles lit a fire and got where they needed to be and made it all the way to the NCAAs.  It may take a little more to overcome Coastal again this season, but I never count Winthrop out of the running.
  6. VMI (7-5 / 0-2)… standard operating procedure continues–pile up points and hope it’s enough.  So far this year, it’s worked more often than not, but not in the Big South games.  Heading back into league competition, it will be interesting to see what the Keydets will really bring to the table.
  7. Gardner-Webb (6-8 / 1-1)… life for the Runnin’ Bulldogs will depend greatly on when they can have leading scorer Jon Moore back from injury.  Without him, the team lacks some of the intensity and certainly the scoring threat they need to be a contender.
  8. UNC Asheville (5-6 / 1-1)… here’s another squad with sweet home cooking–the Bulldogs have won 12 in a row at the Justice Center (dating back to last season).  Asheville could be ready for a rise, given the next two Conference games will both be in that intimate gym.
  9. Charleston Southern (5-6 / 0-1)… looking for an identity still from a team that has gotten its wins by pounding small schools, often scoring more than a hundred in those games, and losing to large schools and peer programs.  The “best” win CSU has is probably the one over The Citadel.  Until we see evidence that the Bucs can hang with stiffer opposition, they hang near the bottom.
  10. Radford (2-9 / 0-2)… run that losing streak to nine for the Highlanders…yes, that’s right, they won the first two and haven’t notched a W since 11/14.  Things have not been looking so rosy for RU lately, and is may not be getting better, with the next game at a red-hot Coastal Carolina team on New Year’s Eve.

A Look Ahead

Okay, we made it: conference play time is here for real.  We had that early December appetizer of Big South games, but the men’s teams launch the league schedule in earnest on New Year’s Eve with a full complement of games.  Play continues on January 2 and rolls on a regular calendar from there to the end.  Contenders, pretenders, champions, also-rans… some of that has been hard to peg of late, but now we will know where these teams stand head-to-head.  And THAT will make this a Happy New Year!

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Around The Blogosphere: December 23, 2010

Posted by nvr1983 on December 23rd, 2010


If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

Top 25 Games

  • #3 Kansas 78, Cal 63: “Kansas won the Pac10 grabbed their first true road victory of the season with a win over the Cal Bears. The late tipoff Wednesday night seemed to fit the Jayhawk play at times as a Kansas team that clearly looked like the more talented team, once again couldn’t manage to stay out of their own way during portions of the game.” (Rock Chalk Talk: Recap and Statistical Analysis)
  • #4 Syracuse 93, Drexel 65: “That was the scary Drexel team we’ve been hearing about? The one that beat Louisville in the YUM? The one that’s apparently having their best season ever? Either they’re not quite as good as advertised or the Orange just about put together their best performance of the season in a 93-65 demolition job.” (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician)
  • #8 Villanova 76, Monmouth 36: “What can anyone say about a 76-36 win? I guess the coach summed it up nicely with ‘I like where we are right now.'” (Villanova by the Numbers)
  • #10 Missouri 75, #21 Illinois 64: Taking a look at the game from the winning side and the losing side of the “Braggin’ Rights” game.
  • #25 Texas 67, #12 Michigan State 55: “Tonight, with a 67-55 victory over the Spartans, Texas once again pulled off the impressive feat of beating North Carolina and Michigan State in the span of a few days. Even more impressively, they won both games on the road. In fact, tonight’s victory ended Michigan State’s much-publicized streak of 52 consecutive home victories against non-conference opponents. Essentially, Texas was the first non-con team to win a game in East Lansing in the last 7 years. This was exactly the type of game–against a good team and hostile crowd–that young teams can be expected to lose. But we didnt. Tonight was a virtuoso win, even if wasn’t exactly a virtuoso performance. Texas did enough to win, but, unlike last year, I doubt this will be their best performance of the season. To put it more simply, the win tonight feels bigger and more important than our actual performance, which was really-good-but-not-great.” (Burnt Orange Nation)
  • #15 Kentucky 89, Winthrop 52: “My first impression of this game was, “Wow. What a game by Doron Lamb,” and upon reflection, that impression still stands. Setting the freshman scoring record by shooting 92% on 11-12 field goal attempts is simply staggering. That record has stood for nearly 20 years, and the guy who set it has a jersey hanging in the rafters. That’s the magnitude of the accomplishment by the young Brooklynite. It also seems somehow fitting that he bested another New Yorker, even though he was out of the Bronx.” (A Sea of Blue)

Other Games of Interest

  • Maryland 89, NJIT 50: “After a game that one-sided, there’s only so much you can say, as well as only so much that can be learned. Maryland defeated NJIT 89-50 in the Comcast Center, with the 39-point margin of victory the Terrapins’ second-largest all season. On the way, they dominated every statistical category: they forced 22 turnovers, shot 60% from three, limited the Highlanders to 32% shooting from the field, and generally controlled play entirely from tip-to-tip. NJIT is awful, granted, and the stats should be enough to tell you that. But hey, you take any type of blowout when you can get it.” (Testudo Times)
  • Louisville 114, Western Kentucky 82: “Louisville went on the road for the first time and gave perhaps their best performance of the season, burying 16 three-pointers on their way to a 114-82 rout of in-state host Western Kentucky.” (Card Chronicle)
  • Northern Iowa 67, Indiana 61: “Defense, experience and execution. UNI, a Sweet 16 team last season, brought all three to the table tonight, and it was all just a little too much for the Hoosiers to handle.” (Inside the Hall: Part 1 and Part 2)
  • Gonzaga 64, Xavier 54: “Against Baylor, Gonzaga showed they could win a game facing tremendous adversity. Tonight against Xavier, the Zags faced similar adversity but they did so at the friendly confines of the McCarthey Athletic Center.” (The Slipper Still Fits)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on… the Big South

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2010

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

A Look Back

  • Sneak Preview: Early December brought a glimpse of conference play, as all teams got in some Big South action, with most playing two games inside the league.  Liberty, High Point, and Coastal Carolina can all enjoy undefeated conference records until the full league schedule begins, while Charleston Southern, VMI, and Radford still seek their first Big South wins (and Gardner-Webb, Winthrop, UNC Asheville, and Presbyterian College all sit in the middle at 1-1).
  • Small Teams, Big Numbers: The trend of beating up on smaller schools continued recently, with Charleston Southern crushing Toccoa Falls 120-43 and VMI sprinting past Central Penn College by a remarkable score of 151-92…that’ll certainly help the famous VMI scoring average.
  • Conference Calls: While the Big South has mounted appropriate marks of 3-3 against SoCon foes and 2-2 vs. A-Sun opponents so far this season, other records may not reflect as well on the league, most notably an 0-6 total against the Colonial–and throw in a combined 0-4 vs. teams from the MEAC, MVC, and Patriot.

Power Rankings

  1. Coastal Carolina (7-2 / 1-0)… the Chanticleers have rattled off five in a row, they are undefeated at small but spirited Kimble Arena (5-0),  and won their first Big South game on a Chad Gray dunk with 1.6 seconds to go against Charleston Southern.  Things have been working out early for the defending regular season champions, and they get the nod at the top of the list.
  2. Liberty (6-4 / 2-0)… this time, let’s give Liberty the benefit of the doubt we afforded VMI last time (more on them in a moment).  The Flames handled Presbyterian and held off Winthrop to net two conference wins, running their overall win streak to four.  Liberty seems to be making the necessary improvements to contend, save one:  LU needs to demonstrate it can get a road win.  The Flames are 6-0 on home or neutral floors, 0-4 on the road, not a recipe for success in crunch time.
  3. High Point (5-3 / 2-0)… earlier, we wondered when we would see the expected performances of Preseason Player of the Year Nick Barbour and his supporting cast with HPU–apparently that was coming in Big South play.  The Panthers got off to a 2-0 start by pulling out two close home victories, by two over GWU and three over Asheville.  HPU also got some high praise and national recognition for Shay Shines’ dunk against Asheville that made the top spot on SportsCenter’s Top Plays last weekend:
  4. Winthrop (4-4 / 1-1)… we will keep saying it because it’s true: beware the lurking Eagles.  Coach Randy Peele believes in building for the tournament and knows that winning a few games at the right time can mean everything–but that doesn’t mean Winthrop sits back in the regular season.  Winning in overtime at VMI in a high-scoring game was a test the Eagles passed with flying colors, only to falter at Liberty two days later.  To move up the list, we’ll need to see more of the former and less of the latter.  Robbie Dreher and Andre Jones have become a formidable tandem for the Eagles: they combined for 93 points in the two conference games.
  5. VMI (6-4 / 0-2)… the Keydets keep piling up points, but spoiled their hot 5-0 start by losing three of the last four games.  Stan Okoye is the league’s only player averaging over 20 points per game for the season, with teammate Keith Gabriel not far behind with more than 18 PPG.  Not to be overlooked, freshman Rodney Glasgow has been a strong contributor this year and throws in better than 13 PPG as well.  Nonetheless, you have to say VMI’s conference start was a disappointment.  Losing in overtime against Winthrop should not be held against them, but it seems as if they should have been able to give PC more of a fight.
  6. Gardner-Webb (6-6 / 1-1)… would you believe the Runnin’ Bulldogs are already approaching last year’s win total?  It’s true, thanks to coach Chris Holtmann waking up the potential at GWU and getting off to a good start.  The Bulldogs won a road game they needed to get at Radford and fell at HPU by just a basket, so it seems as if GWU may have some bark and some bite this season.
  7. UNC Asheville (3-5 / 1-1)… it remains hard to peg this Asheville squad, although it seems fairly certain the injury to John Williams has hurt the squad’s overall performance.  The Bulldogs hit the road and crushed Radford by 20, but followed that up with a three-point loss at High Point. They have a losing record overall, but with a win at a Big Six team in hand (even if it’s Auburn), so which team is this?  Answers will likely come when full conference play rolls in soon.
  8. Presbyterian College (3-5 / 1-1)… another team playing to mixed reviews on the early conference swing, falling to Liberty by nine but downing VMI by double-digits (and setting a PC record against Division-I opposition with 92 points in that game).  Khalid Mutakabbir has found his shooting stroke, leading the Big South in 3-point field goal percentage (.680, 17-25).
  9. Charleston Southern (4-5 / 0-1)… the Buccaneers have also had their ups and downs in the early going.  CSU thought it might be able to sneak out of Conway with a win over Coastal, but fell by just two points.  That’s a fair start, but still a loss–and that game will sit as the only Big South contest for a few weeks.
  10. Radford (2-6 / 0-2)… it can’t be encouraging that in seven games, the Highlanders have only broken 60 once (83 vs. Methodist).  Opening Big South play with a 20-point home loss sure doesn’t help the outlook for Brad Greenberg’s squad, now with six losses in a row.

A Look Ahead

  • Until all league teams get into the regular conference schedule beginning December 31, it remains a motley collection of home contests against smaller schools, road games versus major conference opponents, and  a smattering of match-ups against comparable programs.  Right now, the most encouraging thing is knowing that these teams will be going head-to-head soon and can truly sort out their identities from this rollercoaster mix of high-scoring wins and crushing defeats.
  • If you’re looking to catch the Big South in action against the nation’s top teams, you’ll have a few chances with Presbyterian matching up against Missouri (12/11), Gardner-Webb at Louisville (12/18), UNC-Asheville visiting Ohio State (12/21) and Winthrop against Kentucky (12/22).
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Checking in on… the Big South

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010

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

A Look Back

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

Power Rankings

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

A Look Ahead

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

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

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

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The Other 26: Week Two

Posted by jstevrtc on November 27th, 2010

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.  For an introduction to this series, please click here.

Introduction

We are getting into the thick of the things as teams are now well into their non-conference slate. While many small-conference schools take their lumps at the hands of larger-conference opponents as often happens at this time of year, other are emerging as legitimate contenders within the world of the “Other 26.” At this point in most seasons the Maui Invitational controls much of the discussion within college basketball circles, and this year has been no different. The tournament encompasses some of the nation’s best teams, and for about a week the focal point of college basketball is the Lahaina Civic Center. Suited more for an AAU championship game than a premiere college basketball venue, the Civic Center witnessed one of the most dominating performances in the history of the Invitational. Averaging 30 points, missing only two of 28 free throws, and guiding the young Huskies to the title is the mark of a champion, and Kemba Walker did all of those. Walker’s first heroics of the Invitational came against Wichita State, who so nearly thwarted Connecticut’s chances at winning the Invitational on the first day. In the process, however, the Shockers garnered my full admiration in how they competed with some of the top teams in America. In the end, Kemba Walker and Connecticut prevailed, but Wichita State was heard and will continue to make noise throughout the year.

What team impressed the most?

Following a tough season-opening loss to Georgetown by three points, Old Dominion has run off four straight victories. Their wins were hardly against cupcake opponents either as two came against Clemson and Xavier (it should be known that both the Tigers and Musketeers have both fallen only to Old Dominion). It is a grave task for any opponent to combat the Monarchs’ attack as no one ODU player is far and away the most significant contributor. Frank Hassell is the team’s leader from a statistical perspective as he averages nearly a double-double and is an extremely efficient offensive player, shooting better than 60% from the field. Blaine Taylor, ODU’s coach, is the mastermind behind this balanced attack. Check out these numbers: six players are averaging between 5.5 and 8.8 shots a game, and seven players average between 4.2 and 12.6 points a game. While not a flashy team by any means, Old Dominion plays a true team game — a truce recipe for success come March.

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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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