Over the next two weeks, KCOU Sports will release a tournament preview of each one of the 32 NCAA Division I men’s basketball conferences. Web editor Garrett Jones starts things off with a preview of the Big South Conference Men’s Tournament, tipping off next Tuesday.
Ask a college basketball fan to name a team in the Big South conference. The most watchful eye might struggle to name one.
Even so, this year, just like every other, the conference will send at least one team to the NCAA Tournament. Sure, fans might not be able to name a team- but likely have heard of a current player in the 12-team league.
Campbell’s Chris Clemons is undoubtedly the player to watch in this tournament.
Recently, Clemons made national headlines when he became only the seventh player in NCAA Division-I men’s basketball history to reach the career 3,000-point mark. On Saturday, he passed Texas Southern’s Harry Kelly for sixth All-time.
He’s been unconscious this season, averaging 30.1 points per game, and putting up 30-point scoring nights with James Harden-like ease. He impressed with a season-high 45 points against historic contender Georgetown in November.
Clemons effort this season deserves an entire article of its own. But the most fascinating quirk of he and Campbell’s season? The complete reliance on his offensive output has produced results.
The Fighting Camels (undoubtedly a top-five NCAA mascot, by the way) find themselves second in the conference standings at time of publication with an 18-11 record (11-4 in Big South play), trailing Radford by a single game.
And wouldn’t you know it- the final game of the Big South regular season slate pits Campbell against the first-place Highlanders on Saturday.
It very likely could be a preview of the tournament final- and that’s why Radford is the team to watch in this tournament.
The Highlanders have had a fantastic season of their own, pacing the league with a 20-9 record, and an impressive 12-3 mark in league play. The highlight of the season has no doubt been a win at No. 17 Texas and high-profile head coach Shaka Smart in November.
They play a much more team-oriented style of basketball, led by three double-digit scorers. Carlik Jones leades the way with 15.8 points per game, but upperclassmen Ed Polite Jr. and Travis Fields Jr. pull their share of the scoring load with 13.5and 11.1 PPG, respectively.
It wouldn’t be an accurate look at the conference if this piece were only to focus on the two frontrunners, and that’s why the tournament sleeper High Point Panthers deserve a look as well.
(Shameless plug- KCOU Sports alum and former Sports Director Carter Woodiel calls Panthers women’s basketball for ESPN Plus. That may or may not have played a part in this decision).
The Panthers’ 15-14 record is not truly indicative of their 2018-19 season. In consecutive heart-breaking February contests against Radford and Campbell, High Point lost by a single point both times.
The tournament, which starts Tuesday on the campuses of the higher-seeded schools, will be overlooked in the national scope. But, with the eye-popping stats of Clemons, Radford’s team-oriented success, and High Point looking to cause chaos, it will surely be among the most interesting of the mid-major championships.
Garrett Jones’ predicted tournament champion: Campbell Fighting Camels.