The Big South conference is up next in our conference tournament preview edition. The Big South has been a competitive conference all season long with five teams finishing the season with an overall record over .500 and with eight teams finishing either .500 or above in conference play.
In other words, this auto bid to the tournament may be one of the most unpredictable in conference tournament play.
|5||Liberty||9–9||18–13||3–3 vs Webb/HP/CHSO, 1–1 vs UNCA, 2–2 vs Win/Rad|
|6||Gardner–Webb||9–9||14–17||3–3 vs Lib/HP/CHSO, 1–1 vs UNCA, 1–3 vs Win/Rad, 1–1 vs Cam, 2–0 vs Pres|
|7||High Point||9–9||14–15||3–3 vs Lib/Webb/CHSO, 1–1 vs UNCA, 1–3 vs Win/Rad, 1–1 vs Cam, 1–1 vs Pres|
|8||Charleston Southern||9–9||14–15||3–3 vs Lib/Webb/HP, 0–2 vs UNCA|
North Carolina Asheville – Led by a backcourt of Macio Teague and Ahmad Thomas, UNC Asheville has now won the Big South regular season title in consecutive years. UNC Asheville’s strength as a team is that they are efficient on the offensive end. As a team they shot 47.9% from the field, 74.1% from the free throw line and 39.3% from beyond the arc. Nick McDevitt is a young coach on the rise and is just three wins shy of 100 wins in a short five-year career.
Teams that can make noise:
Winthrop – Xavier Cooks is a one man show for the Eagles. The senior forward is third in the league in scoring (17.6), first in rebounding (8.9), second in assists (3.7), third in field goal percentage (51.0%), and first in blocked shots (2.1). That’s an unreal season for any player in any conference. Winthrop represented the Big South in the tournament last season and Xavier Cooks will be the key to them cutting down the nets again. Winthrop leads the big south in point differential (+7.9).
Radford – The Highlanders are the complete opposite of Winthrop. Radford is a balanced team that does not have star power. Radford only has two players averaging in double figures and play nine guys over 11.4 minutes per game. Having depth is more of regular season strength than a postseason one but having the ability to have fresh legs over four games in a week should favor the Highlanders. The fresh legs probably explains why the highlanders have the best rebounding margin (+4.7) in the conference and scoring defense (64.2 points per game allowed).
Campbell – Chris Clemons is one of the more explosive guards in the country. On any given night, he can explode for thirty-plus points. The offense runs through Clemons and his season averages of 24.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists certainly warrants his usage rate. Clemons led Campbell to third highest scoring team (71.5 points per game) in the conference trailing only the top seeds in that category.
High Point – The Panthers are probably the best bet to advance from the first round and be a sleeper team. High Point has the third best scoring defense in the conference (allowing 66.2 points a game) and defense usually travels come postseason play. High Point has also already knocked off UNC Asheville and Radford in conference play. Jahaad Proctor (16.4 points, 3.0 assists, and 39.1% from three) will have catch fire on offense to carry the team.
High Point (7) over Longwood (10)
Charleston Southern (8) over Presbyterian (9)
UNC – Asheville (1) over Charleston Southern (8)
Campbell (4) over Liberty (5)
Winthrop (3) over Gardner – Webb (6)
High Point (7) over Radford (2) – good match up for High Point to pull off the upset. Both teams split the season series (Radford won by two in OT and High Point won by one.)
UNC – Asheville (1) over Campbell (4)
Winthrop (3) over High Point (7)
Winthrop (3) over UNC Asheville (1)
Final prediction is Winthrop will represent the Big South in the NCAA tournament. Winthrop will be a 15 or a 16 seed come tournament time. Xavier Cooks will be named tournament MVP.