By: Evan Lachnit, KCOU Sports
The Big South Conference is not what you would call a college basketball powerhouse, but the conference does have a good amount of competitive teams.
This season the conference has been wide open with five teams showing that they are well deserving of winning the conference tournament and claiming an NCAA Tournament bid. But as always, because of the fact it is a tournament, all 11 teams in the conference have a chance to go dancing.
The tournament kicks off tomorrow afternoon with three matchup’s to cut the tournament down to eight teams. Here is my breakdown of each game and predictions all the way through the championships game on Sunday.
*The First Round is set matchup’s, along with Radford vs. Winthrop. All other games are broken down based off of my predictions.
No. 8 Presbyterian vs. No. 9 Longwood
Neither one of these teams has had much to celebrate this year and have been bottom feeders in the league. When looking at the two teams on paper, they are fairly similar and it should be a close matchup. In the two regular season matchups between the two teams, both teams won a game apiece by the same score 71-67.
Prediction: Flipped a coin and I got Longwood
No. 7 Gardner-Webb vs. No. 10 Campbell
This game on paper looks to be a mismatch. Gardner-Webb has six more conference wins than Campbell heading into Wednesday afternoon’s tilt. Gardner-Webb also has two victories over power five opponents, with wins over Clemson and possible tournament team Purdue. However, Campbell did claim one of their four conference wins against the Bulldogs and force the other matchup to overtime. It should be an interesting match up, but Gardner-Webb is just hard to pick against in this one.
No. 6 UNC-Asheville vs. No. 11 Liberty
There is not too much to say about this matchup other than Liberty better start praying now. UNC-Asheville has experience and is a dark horse to take the crown, despite their 14-15 record. Liberty has a miserable two wins in conference and eight wins overall and three of those eight were against teams that are not in Division One. Need I say more?
No. 1 Charleston Southern vs. No. 9 Longwood
Congratulations Longwood on winning your first round matchup, now please exit stage left. All though a strong argument could be made that High Point is the favorite to win the tournament, Charleston Southern is the one seed and should promptly take down Longwood. Longwood did give Buccaneers a run for their money just over two weeks ago when Charleston Southern only one by one point. Nevertheless the Bucs have three players averaging in double figures led by Saah Nimley who is averaging over 21 points a game.
Prediction: Charleston Southern
No. 4 Radford vs. No.5 Winthrop
Now we are finally talking about a matchup that we can get excited for. Both teams enter the game with a 12-6 record in conference and with a win over a power five opponent this season. This could end up being one of the games of the tournament in a closely contested matchup. Radford defeated the Eagles in both regular season matchup’s in close games.
Prediction: Because it is hard to beat a team a third time, give me Winthrop.
No. 2 High Point vs. No. 7 Gardner-Webb
Many people favor High Point to win the tournament and there is reason why. The Panthers sit in the top 50 in the country for points and assists per game as well as field goal percentage. The Panthers manhandled the Bulldogs in their two regular season matchup’s and I have a feeling Gardner-Webb will struggle against Campbell.
Prediction: For all those reasons, High Point and it is probably ugly.
No. 3 Coastal Carolina vs. No. 6 UNC-Asheville
Here comes an upset, I think. Coastal Carolina has had a good season with an overall record of 21-9 and a conference record of 12-6. The Chanticleers average nearly 40 rebounds a game, which is an insane stat and have fairly equal contributions from their top scorers just like High Point. The two teams split their two regular season matchups, with each team winning by double digits. Coastal is by far the better team and they are hosting the tournament, but I have to pick an upset somewhere.
Prediction: UNC-Asheville, because it is March.
No. 1 Charleston Southern vs. No. 5 Winthrop
Charleston Southern is four seeds higher than the Winthrop, but the Buccaneers only have one more conference win and two more wins overall. They did meet one time this season and the Eagles destroyed Charleston Southern by over 20 points. Winthrop held the Buc’s to under 35 percent from the field and Charleston Southern was dismal from behind the arch shooting 4-28 on three pointers. I like defense and Winthrop held the Buc’s to 20 points under their average in their one meeting this season. Defense wins games.
No. 2 High Point vs. No. 6 UNC-Asheville
High Point is the better team and that is what this game will come down to. If I did not take UNC-Asheville over Coastal Carolina, I would have thought High Point should be worried because the Panthers seem to struggle big time verse Coastal, but since I went with the Asheville upset, High Point should breathe a little easier.
Prediction: High Point
No. 2 High Point vs. No. 5 Winthrop
At this point it is hard for me not to want to take the Winthrop Eagles as a five seed to win this tournament, but realistically, High Point is the better and more proven team. The two teams have already met twice and High Point won both games by a combined four points and one of those games went to double overtime. Again it is hard to beat a team three times in a season and the Eagles are just scratching for a chance to get at High Point.
Big South Championship Prediction: Winthrop, yes it is a long shot, but I like long shots.