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!

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