BIG SOUTH NOTES AND RAMBLINGS
-Presbyterian will join the conference next year, but wont be eligible for postseason play.
-Winthrop has won the last three regular seasons and conference tournament championships. They are 54-4 against Big South teams over the past three years. BIG SOUTH TEAMS
-WINTHROP, who has owned this league for most of the past decade, had a rough offseason. After making the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a win over Notre Dame, They lost Torrell Martin
, Craig Bradshaw
and Phillip Williams, all of which were four year starters, to graduation. In addition to that head coach Greg Marshall left to take the job at Wichita State. As bad as all that was, none of it was even close to the biggest loss this program endured during the offseason. DeAndre Adams, who was a backup point-guard last season and likely would have started this season, was tragically killed in a car accident this past May. The remaining Winthrop players are dedicating this season to him. Michael Jenkins, who was one of Winthrops best players last season, does return this year, but the team still has a lot of new faces including six freshman. They should still contend for the league title, and if they were to make the NCAA Tournament it would be a big accomplishment, but we arent likely to see them finish in the rankings or in a position to get an at-large. Its sort of unfortunate because although they dont have the talent they had a season ago, they do have several tournament level teams on their OOC schedule this season, but with the new young lineup it will be much harder for them to generate quality wins.
-VMI was just 14-19 last year, but their up-tempo style of play and their run to the Big South Championship game where they nearly upset Winthrop has created quite a buzz. VMI pushes the pace, and wants to take 100 shots every game. They managed to average 100.9ppg as a team last year, which led the nation in scoring. Unfortunately, they also trailed the nation in defense. They switched up their defense in the Big South Tournament last year to a zone, which caught their opponents off guard and enabled them to nearly win it. Three starters are back, including Reggie Williams
who explored the option of going to the NBA, but opted to return to school. Experience isnt that big of an issue because the style of play they run doesnt require all that much skill. They also lead the nation in substitutions. Ten players averaged ten minutes or more last season and only one managed more than 30 minutes a game.
-Winthrop has ruled the conference, but HIGH POINT could unseat them this year. They were 18-10 last year and finished second in the league losing just three games. With four starters back, including forward Arizona Reid
, who averaged 21ppg and over 9rpg last season and is probably the best player in the conference this year. High point has all the weapons, and may be good enough to pull an upset or two, but their out of conference schedule is not favorable in terms of helping them receive an at-large. They do travel to Florida, but that game probably isnt winnable. They may be able to knock off a bubble caliber team, but not a team thats won back-to-back NCAA Titles.
-COASTAL CAROLINA lost head coach Buzz Peterson who decided to take a front office job in the NBA, but replaces him with Cliff Ellis who has had successful seasons at Clemson and Auburn. They have solid guard play that is led by Jack Leasure, who averaged over 15ppg last season. However, they are very weak underneath and that may prove to be their Achilles heal. They do have some freshman coming in that could contribute in the post. That is something theyll definitely need if they want to contend for the title.
-LIBERTY finished third in the league last year, but the entire coaching staff was fired the morning after they were upset by VMI in the conference tournament. Richie McKay, who led New Mexico to the 2005 NCAA Tournament, will take over. Three starters are back, and they appear to be adequate on offense, but they did lose two of their best players from last years team. Forward Alex McLean is a great scorer and rebounder, but its hard to say how much help his teammates will be able to give him.
-The most noticeable thing about UNC ASHEVILLE is center Kenny George
, who is 77. Four starters are back, and for a team that won four straight games before losing to Winthrop in the Big South Semifinals there may be reason to be excited. K.J. Garland and Bryan Smithson
make up a very experienced and talented backcourt to match the big presence they have inside. Both players averaged in double figures last season. Although they were just 12-19 a season ago, they appear to be improved in just about every area and should be one of the more competitive teams in the league this year. They're also able to play 16 games at home this year, which should help boost their win total. I'd be surprised if they didn't finish over .500 this season.
-CHARLESTON SOUTHERN was just 8-22 last season and finished the season with only eight players, two of which were walk-ons, due to all the injuries they suffered. With three starters returning, some exciting recruits coming in, and a team that is finally healthy, Charleston Southern should be much improved. I dont see them competing for the league title, but they should do better than 2-12 in league play.
-RADFORD finished 7th in the league last season and won just three conference games. Things arent looking all that much better this season seeing as how their two best players graduated. Brad Greenberg, brother of Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg, takes over, and really has his work cut out for him.