Saturday, February 27, 2010

Championships On My Mind

I'm sitting here at the Clemson Indoor Track to close out February--much like a year ago...and also like two years ago, when we posted the very FIRST Big South SHOUT from this exact place!

So it's time for the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships (presented by UCS and Penguin Sport Wash). Should be a good two days here--all streamed live on the Big South Network.

Today also marks the close of the men's basketball regular season, and tourney play starts TUESDAY (quick turn-around...are you ready?) at four host sites: Coastal, Radford, Winthrop, and one to be determined (either Asheville or High Point). Semi's will follow at Coastal Carolina (top seed) and the finals will be next Saturday at the highest surviving seed.

The women's event is right around the corner too, with all games to be played at HPU.

Here's another friendly reminder (and/or shameless plug!):

Thanks for following--and enjoy this big weekend in the Big South!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Full Speed Ahead

Hello, SHOUT readers...

You know, we all have those hectic windows in our work life--in taxes, it's early in the year; in retail, it's late in the year; for college conferences like the Big South, right now is one of those "peak season" windows.

Everyone in the Conference office is running around these days, but just using me (as the example I know best): last week I was at the swimming facility at UT in Knoxville for CCSA Championships, this weekend I'll be at the Indoor Track & Field Championships held at Clemson, and then right on the heels of that, it's off to a site to be determined for action in the Men's Basketball Championship tournament--and as soon as that's wrapped, we're off to High Point for the Women's Basketball Championship tourney AND the Big South Winter Meetings. And of course, in the middle of all that, our daily responsibilities don't go away, so the regular parts of the job are in there too.

Don't misunderstand--that's not complaining, just sharing--I want everyone to know that the staff at the Big South is hard at work to make the championship swing work at its best for all the student-athletes, teams, and institutions of the Conference...this is an exciting, dramatic time of the year, with so much going on for fans of all kinds--please enjoy the stellar competition and the coverage we offer from these great events.

On to the events themselves...

Last week I didn't get anything posted to SHOUT (and shame on me, sorry about that) while working poolside at Tennessee's Aquatic Center for the CCSA Swimming & Diving Championships. The nutshell recap: favorite Florida Gulf Coast University did swim away with the women's championship, while Davidson College made a splash in taking the men's title. Of those schools fielding both men's and women's teams, Davidson had the best performance, with a M-1/W-2 team result, but Gardner-Webb was just behind with a M-2/W-3 finish.

That was the third year for the CCSA (Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association), a joint venture of the Big South, Southern, Atlantic Sun, and MEAC. The champions for the three years: Men-- College of Charleston (2008, 2009) and Davidson (2010); Women-- Davidson (2008), Florida Gulf Coast (2009, 2010). The event has been held at Huntersville, NC, Athens, GA, and Knoxville, telling where we'll be in year four...

THIS week, it's on to the Big South's Indoor Track & Field Championships, again to be staged at the indoor facility on the campus at Clemson University. Recent years have been owned by Liberty's men and Coastal's women, but it's a clean slate for 2010 and all we know is that there will be plenty of speed, height, and strength on display (and all streamed live on the Big South Network of course). Outside of those perennial strong teams, keep an eye out for star performers like Felix Kitur of VMI and the Charleston Southern men's relay team.

MEANWHILE, oh yeah--the men's basketball races are on fire!

Here's what we know going into Thursday's games: Coastal Carolina, Winthrop, and Radford will host first round games (with the seeding order still up in the air a bit). That fourth home slot has not been settled, but three teams have a shot at it: Asheville has the inside track, Liberty is right behind if UNCA stumbles, and High Point needs to win out and get help to climb past UNCA and LU, making it the least likely of the trio. The Championship schedule is on the Big South website and will be updated as teams go into their slots.

The men's quarterfinals, along with the track championships and LOTS of other events are filling up the slate for the Big South Network this week--here's the link to the video on YouTube (not going to fight Blogger on the video embed this week). You can also get there by clicking it inside the Vortex box on the right side of SHOUT or using the Big South Network player right on, of course!

Well, I don't want to make this too long, so I'll spare you any lengthy stories about women's basketball (Gardner-Webb still rolling, Liberty right there--could be a finals collision in the making), baseball (Winthrop really opened up on fire, and Coastal is the real deal again), and softball (CSU knocked off a ranked Louisville squad)...just one more thing today...

Believe it or not, SHOUT is approaching an anniversary of sorts...the first live/public post for Big South SHOUT hit the web at the start of the Indoor Track & Field Championships at Clemson two years ago: February 29, 2008, to be precise. Seemed clever at the time to jump off on "Leap Day." Two years and 144 posts later, we're still SHOUT-ing...and we hope you keep reading.

Thank you for your support--we offer a grateful SHOUT-out to you all!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Need for Speed, and Other Quick Hits

You know, we can all talk about fast as if we know what we're talking about, but TRUE speed--WORLD CLASS velocity is something very few know personally. Obviously Usain Bolt is on intimate terms with a level of fast that neither you nor I would ever approach without wheels (and a motor)...but why do I bring this up to start SHOUT today?

Because they know F-A-S-T at Charleston Southern, folks!

I used the words "world class" above, and that's exactly what we have to salute here: the fastest time in the world this season for the 4x200 meter relay.

The speedsters in question (pictured at right) are Javon Young (Swainsboro, Ga.), Levi Brooks (Barnesville, Ga.), Cornelius Tyler (Silvania, Ga.) and Dantwan Spreads (Decatur, Ga.). Collectively, the four have been named the Big South Conference Choice Hotels Men's Indoor Track Athletes of the Week. Read this from and marvel at what these Buccaneers did:

The Charleston Southern quartet ran the world's fastest time this season in the 4x200-meter relay as they clocked in at 1:25.47 at the New Balance Invitational over the weekend. The time was the second-fastest time in collegiate history and the fifth fastest time in American history. The team won the event by more than two seconds and just missed the all-time collegiate record by 0.4 seconds.

Crazy good? Ubetcha.
What more can I say? Here's a rousing SHOUT-out to Javon, Levi, Cornelius, and Dantwan!

Moving on: Hoooooooooops!

It's another men's basketball Thursday, with much at stake entering the season's final weeks...

VMI at GWU -- you scoff, thinking these teams are near the bottom right now, but barring significant change, one of these teams will fail to make the Big South Championship field of eight--and neither one wants to be that team.

CCU at HPU -- it's the leader trying to maintain position visiting a hopeful trying to earn a home game in the postseason, making it a very meaningful game for both squads.

CSU at RU -- and here's another match-up of a team outside the top four seeds (first round hosts) against a team near the top, but this time it's the visitor that has ground to make up.

LU at UNCA -- now we're talking about a battle, because this game has the teams currently in 4th and 5th, separated at the moment by a half-game that represents the difference between being the home team or the road team in the 4v5 game of the Championship Tournament.

The men then go around again with a full slate of five Conference match-ups on Saturday--and once more with another five games on Tuesday...only a handful of Big South games remain for these teams once we hit the weekend, so each time on the court will feel magnified in significance.

For the women, Gardner-Webb still holds the top spot after fending off Liberty's challenge, but these two teams could well meet again when the Championship wraps up in High Point next month.

And also in basketball news, we have THREE games on TV on the same day this Saturday, a rare feat: get the details here.
Bonus SHOUT-outs to two former Big South stars and "Best of the Best" honorees:
- Dustin Johnson, CCU golf, for making the current cover of GolfWeek;
- Reggie Williams, VMI basketball, for making the NBDL All-Star Game.

By the way, Dustin's "Best of the Best" story holds the lead over any other video at the BigSouthSports YouTube channel, with more than double the views of the next clip (Katie Feenstra).

Under five feet of snow? Think spring...after all, it's baseball season.

Well, almost. We're just a week away from playing ball. Hard to believe, but true.

And the video streaming packages for baseball and softball are now available at the Big South Network.

Speaking of which, find this week's video guide here (since the video wouldn't seem to load into Blogger again).

And last, but FAR from least today: the NEW & IMPROVED !!!

The mother ship of the Big South's online world has a whole new look and feel. It was a long time coming, a long time in development, and we hope you feel it was all worth it. Please feel free to share your thoughts, opinions, experiences from the site with us (here or via our Twitter or Facebook or any way you like)!

Thanks for being part of the Big South Family. We hope you enjoy the upcoming games and seasons--and encourage you to share your experiences with us. And that's SHOUT--out!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thursday's "What's at Stake" Game Guide

Another Thursday throwdown is at hand...

Here are the men's basketball match-ups tonight:
Winthrop (7-4) at Liberty (6-4)
UNC Asheville (7-4) at CSU (5-6)
GWU (3-8) at Coastal Carolina (9-2)
PC (2-9) at VMI (2-8)

And hey--there's even one women's game on the slate this week: NC Central at Liberty.

Back to the typical Thursday shake-up for the standings on the men's side, let's take a closer look, in increasing impact on the Conference race...

Well, you've got the PC-VMI contest that has the surface look of a game only a mother could love: the 9th and 10th place teams, only two wins each. Okay, sure...but time to get to the subplot--yes, it definitely has one. We know that PC is in its last season of transition ineligibility (the move from D-II to D-I had lots of restrictions), so the Blue Hose are not in the mix for the Big South Championship Tournament field...but the other nine teams are. That means the Keydets are on the bubble as the 9th team for an 8 team field. You're reading that right: VMI could go from the 2-seed to non-qualifier in one season's time. Now VMI is only a half-game behind Gardner-Webb for that 8-seed spot, so I'd say they have something to play for, wouldn't you?

Speaking of GWU, they'd like to keep themselves out of that dubious non-qualifier spot too. The Runnin' Bulldogs have the odds stacked a little higher against them, however; GWU will be at Coastal Carolina, where the League-leading Chanticleers want to get back in the groove after dropping the last Conference game (to hated rival Winthrop, no less). The teams right behind are anxious for additional slipping from Coastal, so the Chants really want to get their talons into another win. CCU's next Big South win will make DOUBLE its total from a season ago (5-13 last year, currently 9-2).

The Bucs and Bulldogs have each been on roller coaster rides this season, but Charleston Southern is currently racing down while Asheville is surging up at high speed. CSU had its moment for taking a run at the leaders and shooting for a first round home game, but recent losses have put the Buccaneers in a much more precarious position at 5-6, sitting back at the 7-seed spot...but even at that, a spot in the top four is only two games away. Then there's UNC Asheville, enjoying a meteoric rise with seven straight wins and a tie for third in the Big South. The Dogs want to keep on barking, but this will be a big road swing weekend for them (after CSU, it's on to Coastal).

As mentioned before, the top four slots get home games in the first round of the Big South tourney. Winthrop sits in a tie with Asheville right now for the third and fourth seats at that table, but Liberty wants its own place at the same table--the Flames are merely a half-game behind the Eagles. If LU can hold the home court, it means the two teams switch roles for the the same time, if WU can snag this one on the road, Winthrop is one step closer to bringing postseason play back to Rock Hill after a year without it.

More thrills coming on Saturday:
WU at VMI, UNCA at CCU, PC at LU, HPU at RU, GWU at CSU.

For women's basketball, the intrigue is reduced a little bit, as we already know PC won't be in the postseason games while the other eight all will. We also know the full tournament will be played at High Point, so home games are not at stake. All the same, seeds are on the line along with the regular season title. Liberty eked past Gardner-Webb in last year's final, and those two teams are playing as if they're on another collision course, with the HPU Panthers ready to pounce if one falters. LU and GWU are both 7-1 in the Big South right now (with HPU a game back at 6-2)...and they play each other Monday night--so clear your calendar to watch that one.

Speaking of watching, here's the streaming lineup for the week from yours truly...complete with some LU-VMI highlights to watch while we run through the schedule:

So, lots of big doings on the hardwood...and, while it may be hard to believe if you're prepping for snow right now, baseball is almost here! We'll have more on the diamond dynamics coming up soon... for now, SHOUT--out!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hooptastic, the Motion Picture

Annnnnnnnnnnd ACTION!

You have to love the basketball season and its plots, subplots, red herrings, MacGuffins, and Easter eggs...sorry, got too far down the movie/pop culture track there--what I'm trying to say is this:

There's a main storyline, smaller tales woven through that, occasionally misleading displays, things that keep us moving along, and some hidden gems along the way.

In men's basketball, Coastal Carolina (9-2) still holds the lead over the pack by two games. The Chanticleers dropped a low-scoring one at Winthrop they'd surely like to have back, but they're still motoring right along. Right behind CCU is the 7-4 trio of Radford, UNC Asheville, and Winthrop...the same record, but different dynamics: RU started on fire and has cooled, Asheville began frozen in ice but now burns white hot, and Winthrop has been hot and cold, but now has a greater hold on consistency, which was elusive in the early goings this year. Of these teams, it's certainly notable that this weekend saw Asheville upset Radford and Winthrop down Coastal (both home games for the winners).

At the moment, those are the top four seeds, and for the men's side, the top four set represents the host group for the tournament's first round. That puts a lot at stake on being in that party--with the best seat obviously being at number one, where you have control over playing at home throughout the championship. Coastal and Radford have been playing inside that club for some time, although the Highlanders now find themselves in a battle to hold position. The other slots have been handed around among several teams now...they'll just have to work hard to be sure they've got a chair when the music stops.

Which leads us to the "outside-looking-in" squads: Liberty, right behind at 6-4, High Point at 6-5, who has gone from would-be leader into a painful skid, and Charleston Southern at 5-6, who has likewise fallen from a surge toward the top. Gardner-Webb, VMI, and PC round out the Conference standings, and are unlikely to contend for the coveted home slots at this point, much less the overall lead.

So, why the top-to-bottom review? My dear friends, it is January no longer. For men's basketball, February is the hero-maker and deal-breaker month. Sure, it's all about "March Madness"--that's become the measuring stick of every team's success. But if that is the test, this is the studying: in other words, if you're going to succeed then, you have to position yourself now.

And the jockeying for position should be nothing short of amazing. Enjoy the show.

So...what about the ladies, you might ask?

I haven't forgotten them--Gardner-Webb has been the team with the longest hold on the top spot this season, but the Lady Bulldogs are not alone in the quest to be the best. While GWU is 7-1, Liberty is right there at 6-1, with HPU making its presence felt at 6-2. Those three should be in a fight to the finish, making for some potentially epic match-ups in the Big South Championship in March. In last year's event, these teams were three of the Conference's final four (along with Winthrop). GWU upset HPU by two and nearly did the same to LU in the final game--a one-point win for the Flames. At the moment, you have to feel as if history is repeating itself, at least in terms of setting these teams up for collisions in big games ahead...and that's a sequel I think most of us would be happy to watch.

Speaking of watching, if you haven't peeked in on our YouTube channel lately, drop on by to screen our great image spots featuring our theme of Developing Leaders Through Athletics!

And finally, on to some old business...two things I wanted to post last week before I got distracted (ooh, something shiny!)...first, the most recent report on the Big South at Rush the Court..., the most recent Big South Network Guide...

And there you go--welcome to February, folks...the month that asks us to be as productive in 28 days as we would have been in 31! SHOUT--out...