Monday, January 4, 2010

2010: The Future Arrives

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you Big South fans, friends, family, and followers!

It's 2010, people. I betray my age for a moment by saying that the date sounds like we've really landed in the ever-mythical "future" now. For those a generation ahead of me, the millennium always sounded like the horizon--changing to 2000 was unthinkable (heck, all the checks, forms, and even the computers themselves stopped at 19__). The centerpiece of that philosophy was the novel and film "2001: A Space Odyssey." Years later, that date didn't seem quite as far off, and the horizon was stretched to 2010--as the book "2010: Odyssey Two" and its movie counterpart "2010: The Year We Make Contact" took us to this new date...although author Arthur C. Clarke was not able to make that next milestone, having passed in 2008. Turns out we're not booking moon passages, making interplanetary ventures, or establishing the validity of extraterrestrial intelligence...but I digress...

The valid point buried in that tangent is that the calendar has flipped and, like it or not, it's time for rushing headlong into the events of a new year and decade (don't start debating on that one--I know the math says it's 2001-2010, but popular culture says it's 2000-2009, so be it, we're going with the masses).

Painting with a very broad brush here, the last decade of Big South hoops belonged largely to Winthrop's men (7 of 10 Tournaments) and Liberty's women (9 of 10). While both schools will still bring highly competitive teams to the court, it just doesn't feel likely that either one will have another decade of similar dominance in them for the 10's (pronounce it 'teens' and get used to it, especially since no one ever agreed on what to call the last decade). I actually don't expect to see that level of dominance from ANY member institution for that matter, and that's a GOOD thing. Although it's easily argued that a powerhouse squad makes a name for itself and its conference in a way that reverberates nationally, there's not a clear candidate for that role out there right now. So rather than bemoan the lack of a standard-bearer at the moment, let's sit back and enjoy the battle to earn that status going should be fun.

Okay, so with that said, what teams have been asserting themselves and where are the battle lines being drawn?

For the men, the early race appears to be between Radford and Coastal Carolina. No one can really be surprised by the Highlanders, since they were preseason favorites, but the Chanticleers have announced themselves in an unprecedented way. At 13-2 going into tonight's home game against PC, Coastal has established its best-ever season start, including an active nine-game winning streak--and no team approaches that win-loss record right now (all others with 7 or fewer victories as I write these words). RU hasn't been on quite the same roll, playing along an uneven path overall (including some tough high-caliber opposition), but in Conference play, Radford and CCU have matching 3-0 marks...not too shabby. Lurking right behind, you'll find Liberty and High Point at 2-1 in the Big South.

For the women, we're talking first and foremost about Gardner-Webb. The Lady Bulldogs have run their way to 12-2 overall, including a win in the first shot at a Big South opponent this season (Liberty). Since the women's teams are only one game into Big South play, it's a little early to draw any conclusions (even premature ones), but we'll briefly point out that the next best overall record belongs to Coastal, at 9-4...could they be brewing a double-challenge in Conway? Again, High Point and Liberty will certainly be among those challenging that notion.

Gotta run, sorry about the past-future rambles (just one more--isn't next year supposed to be the year of SkyNet from Terminator?)...more coming this week on other topics (including the Big South Sportsmanship Awards)....I'll be back...SHOUT--out!

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