Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Presents & Presence

I'm going to get today's entry started with a shameless plug, then get into the hoops and such after goes:

TEN DAYS until Christmas--and you still have time to get Big South gear from our online store. Visit (or link from for more details. Yes, that would mean expedited shipping, but it can be done...if you're not feeling as time-sensitive, don't worry about Christmas delivery, just start thinking about Conference play for basketball rolling out as we bid 2010 farewell and work our way into 2011
. You'll want to look the part, so take advantage of the basketball jersey sale happening now at through January 2nd.

I know I'm shilling here, but trust me--you're not going to find all this stuff for all these schools and the Big South Conference in one place anywhere else. This store, done in partnership with Advanced-Online, is the best selection the Big South has anywhere--or has ever had, for that matter, so pay a visit and pick up what you need for gifts, for games, for good times ahead. Enjoy!

Okay, okay, enough of that. Hopefully you sat through my little commercial and didn't just zap past it--I'm telling you, it's worth a look. Anyway....

We salute some of the Big South alums doing big things recently in the professional ranks:
-- Mike Tolbert (Coastal Carolina) of the Chargers, scoring TDs, blasting past people, and making himself more indispensable to San Diego every week.
-- Rashad Jennings (Liberty) of the Jaguars, taking one long distance for a score last week and getting more carries in the Jacksonville mix with superstar Maurice Jones-Drew.
-- Reggie Williams (VMI) of the Warriors, who has gone from last year's D-League call-up to this year's important role player and starter as needed for Golden State.
-- Dustin Johnson (Coastal) of the PGA, who has had an incredible year altogether, but just last week added a win in the Shark Shootout, paired with Ian Poulter in the scramble tournament.

Speaking of big-time success, how about Coastal Carolina getting a big overtime win against LSU in Baton Rouge? Yes, it's true, and the Big South can now claim a pair of SEC wins (Asheville-Auburn, Coastal-LSU), along with one in the ACC (Winthrop-Wake) this year. Fairly impressive, and hopefully something the Conference can build on for RPI purposes going forward. Meanwhile, where does USA Today get off referring to "tiny Coastal Carolina" in its write-up? Small, sure--all our schools would be compared to Louisiana State--but that word choice makes it sound a bit like a one-room schoolhouse, doesn't it? I would say all of our schools deserve a little better than that, but I'm at the Conference office, so it may be natural to get defensive on points of that type.

Okay, enough selling, enough ranting--I'm moving on...until next time: SHOUT -- out.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hoops Time...& a Fall-Out Review

Ah, yes, let's tip this thing off for real today.
But, you say, "The season started weeks ago."
Yet it's so hard to gauge what should be learned from a combination of road games against superior opposition and home games against weaker opponents. Sure, it's not ALL that, but it's generally the case that Big South teams spend a lot of time in November going out to major conference foes and bringing in lower level squads. The results are predictable, but not absolute: on the men's side, Asheville started out by beating Auburn and Winthrop knocked off Wake Forest, while on the women's side, there were some disappointing losses to very small visiting schools...let's not bother with those details, too depressing.

So why get excited now?
Because tonight (Thursday) there are four Big South Conference games for the men, with another five coming on Saturday. If you're wondering about the math, that's two games for eight members this week, with two teams only getting one game (CCU & CSU).

Yes, Conference games.
The unquestionable peer-to-peer measuring stick, when we'll be able to get a clearer picture of what we might expect down the road. Obviously the league schedule does not begin in earnest until we're ready to bid farewell to 2010 and swing into 2011, but the games of early December will count just as much, so they'd better be ready for them!

Here's the schedule:
Dec. 2nd...
Gardner-Webb at High Point,
PC at Liberty,
UNC Asheville at Radford,
Winthrop at VMI...I do like this one in particular--the "grind it out" defense of Winthrop and the "run and gun" offense of VMI--you figure something's gotta give...

Dec. 4th...
PC at VMI,
CSU at Coastal,
GWU at Radford,
Asheville at HPU,
Winthrop at Liberty.

From there, it's a couple light weeks to get through the month and the holidays, but get fired up again for New Year's Eve and the roller coaster ride that follows, with the full regular slate of Big South Conference games--and that applies to the women in January as well.

For those who live for the hoops side of things, this is the start of--as the song says--"the most wonderful time of the year."

If you're looking for more on the early part of the men's season, you can find our check-in with "Rush the Court" here.

Yes, so SHOUT has been quiet recently, but let's fix that and get caught up with a quick review of what the fall sports brought us this season...

Cross Country -- championship-wise, it was another sweep of the Men's & Women's Championships by the Liberty Flames. No one was surprised to see Liberty's Sam Chelanga run away with the individual title again for the Big South...just as you couldn't be too surprised to see Chelanga cross the line as the individual National Champion--a back-to-back winner of the NCAA title! Our congratulations and appreciation for Sam's accomplishments truly runneth over...he is simply the best. Factor in Josh McDougal's win in the event a few years ago and the Flames have produced three of the last four Men's Cross Country National Champions!

Women's Soccer -- would you believe a FIVE-way tie for the regular season title? Yeah, seriously. So tiebreakers sorted out the seeding among a pool of virtual equals, and when the dust settled, the High Point Panthers had made it as back-to-back Big South Champions (the highlight of which was the golden goal bicycle kick in the final by Jillie Johnston). HPU then fell to Maryland in the NCAA First Round.

Men's Soccer -- speaking of High Point, the men's squad for the Panthers roared through the year with a fast, high-scoring attack, going undefeated against Conference foes all the way to the Championship's final game...and that's when they got tripped up: Coastal Carolina took the title, downing HPU 3-1. Coastal then lost at Duke in the NCAA First Round.

Volleyball -- another tight battle through the season played its way into the Big South Championship, and the tournament had its own plot twists--this time favoring the Panthers in the final. High Point stunned top seed Liberty by rapidly sweeping the Flames in the final match. LU may have been exhausted from a five-setter over host Winthrop the night before, but whatever the reason, HPU is the survivor...and the final chapter there has not yet been written, as the Panthers play at Duke (them again?) on Friday to start NCAA play.

Football -- we've mentioned tiebreakers and twists from other sports, but football definitely had its share and then some. With the Big South's first-ever Automatic Qualification entry to the NCAA FCS Playoffs on the line, the whole year came down to the last two games on the last day of the regular season. Stony Brook and Liberty dominated Big South play out of the gate and lasted as undefeated most of the way...but Coastal Carolina found itself mid-season and started an amazing push. The Chants lost to SBU early, seemingly part of the tailor-made set-up for a clash between the Seawolves and the Flames in the end, but everything changed when Coastal Carolina upset Liberty later in the year.

Suddenly a very real possibility existed for a three-way tie at the top among those schools...all would share the regular season title, but who would get the AQ? If Liberty beat Stony Brook, the head-to-head match-ups would only lead in a circle (A beat B beat C beat A, etc.), so no winner...and comparing records against the remaining teams would also not matter, as they all beat everyone else...meaning that the tiebreaker would come down to fewest points allowed in Big South games, a test of relative defensive strength.

So to the final week we go, SBU seemingly holding all the cards--win and in, no ties to break...and even if they lost, they had a cushion of about 40 points in the tiebreaker. Get ready for the playoffs? The answer was a two-part resounding NO. First Coastal obliterated Charleston Southern 70-3 (interestingly enough, only the "3" matters, as it was irrelevant how many points Coastal scored on CSU...the whole point of the defensive tiebreaker was to attempt to avoid running up the score...tiny bit of irony there, as you'll see). In doing that, the Chants actually knocked Liberty out of the running for the AQ just as the Flames began their own game. How? Because LU entered the day four points behind CCU in the tiebreaker and CCU only surrendered three! Unless the Flames figured out how to put SBU in negative numbers, Liberty was already done. For Coastal, the issue became one of hoping for two more things: Liberty winning, and doing so with 42 or more points on the board. And again, all SBU needed was the win--making everything else immaterial. So what happened? Of course, the wild scenario played out--in a game breaking a number of offensive records (both for Liberty and the Big South), the Flames defeated Stony Brook 54-28 -- pandemonium!

Summing up: three teams shared the Big South Conference Football Championship, but when the tiebreakers sorted out the one team receiving the automatic bid, that went to Coastal Carolina. From there, the good news was that CCU got to host the opening game...the bad news was that the Chants fell 17-10 to Western Illinois (who will play next at App. State). Also unfortunate was that Liberty once again was denied an at-large bid to the playoffs. The Flames can claim all or part of four straight Big South titles now, but regrettably no trips to the postseason for all that success.

Okay, so those are the soap operas of the fall, wrapped up for you in one wordy package.
If you hadn't guessed by the mentions above, the fall Sasser Cup leader (standings for all sports) is High Point. HPU has never won the Sasser Cup, but the fall was certainly a good start. Liberty and Coastal (who have each won multiple Sasser Cups over the years) sit in second and third, so watch out, Panthers. That same 1-2-3 order held at the top of the rankings for the men's, women's, and overall standings.

OKAY, time now to ramp up your hoops attention, if you have not done so already.

Enjoy the games, and remember this thought: Thanksgiving should not be the only time for giving thanks, and Christmas should not be the only time for peace on earth and goodwill. Make the most of your holidays, everyone--may they be happy and safe for all. And Happy Hanukkah to those celebrating this week (it came early this year)!

That's all (that's plenty) for today...SHOUT--out!!!