Friday, January 7, 2011

Here We Go!

Okay, people, it's 2011, so grab your hoverboards and head on over to catch some hoops.
Sorry, my mistake...we get the hoverboards in 2015...use your jetpacks instead.
Never mind then, I thought this was the future...Happy New Year!

So instead, let's deal with the present, and it's a pretty good one for Big South basketball observers, with Conference play in full swing and plenty of good games out there. It's not perfect, at least not for most teams, but few things are, so let's give a look to life in men's basketball across the Big South right now (we have enough of a barometer to read tendencies on the men's side, but the women have only played one Conference game so far, so we'll save that talk for another day).

I mentioned the word "perfect", and that aptly describes the undefeated starts for Liberty (5-0) and Coastal Carolina (4-0). How timely, then, that these two teams collide Saturday evening! The overall Coastal win streak has climbed to an impressive eleven games and a total record of 12-2 this season. For the Chants, Desmond Holloway has scored at least 13 points in every game this season, the only player in the Big South to have double-digit points every time his team has taken the floor. There's a pretty good amount of talent and depth happening for Coach Cliff Ellis in Conway, and CCU has earned the attention increasingly pointed that way.

Meanwhile, Coach Dale Layer has Liberty exceeding expectations at this point, and anxious to keep his Flames red hot. Solid defense and teamwork have gone along with strong performances at home and on neutral floors (9-1), although the road record could use a little work (2-5). Clutch play from junior guard Jesse Sanders helped last week--now we'll see if he will have the right shot at the right time with the Chants in the building.

Those two teams are the unquestioned top two--and although general appearances make Coastal seem the stronger squad and likely to keep on rolling, it would not be surprising to see Liberty eke out a win in Lynchburg. Whether they do that or not, the Flames had better be prepared for a furious challenge when they meet again in Conway in February!

After the top two, the standings and relative power rankings actually get kind of murky for a while...

Perennial contender Winthrop? Lurking, of course, and always a threat come the tournament, but the Eagles just lost badly on the home floor to Asheville on the heels of a weak offensive showing against PC (that nonetheless netted a victory thanks to Coach Randy Peele's "grind it out" approach to the game). Still, this is a team that knows when to peak, and the answer is not January.

And what about that aforementioned PC squad? Pulling down road wins against Auburn and Wake Forest in the same week remains quite the feat, but what have you done lately, Blue Hose? Up and down performances have brought PC to 2-2 in the Big South and 8-8 overall: they're treading water in another year of waiting for full Division I status. No, they won't be a problem for anyone in the tourney because they can't go, but with the mix of talent and experience they do have, the Blue Hose could be a heckuva spoiler for someone along the way.

So you like lots of points? Then it's time to look at VMI, because once again, the Keydets are scorching scoreboards...on both sides. Yes, a familiar problem--score 87, but give up 109. That's what happened when Coastal came to town. Some teams will go with the flow and others will be swept under, but the familiar pattern of "score a lot, give up more" continues in Lexington. The Keydets have a dangerous team when the shots are falling, and one that often makes for entertaining games, but it is uncertain when everything will come together for that elusive title run for Coach Duggar Baucom.

Speaking of living and dying by your shooting percentages, it's time to talk about Charleston Southern. When senior guard Jamarco Warren and company have the threes raining in from all over the floor, watch out; but when the shots aren't falling, life gets tough for the Buccaneers. So, like VMI, they're a tough out on any given night, but the right defense against them might just make all the difference, just by impacting shot selection and opportunity.

It's finally time to touch on High Point. The Panthers have not found any sort of rhythm this season, nor has Big South Preseason Player of the Year Nick Barbour. Losing the last two Conference games on the road and the last four overall have not helped matters for HPU. This is a team needing a win and needing it soon...surely the Panthers are anxious for Saturday's game at winless Radford.

Beaten Bulldogs? UNC Asheville and Gardner-Webb have had injury struggles dominate their storylines so far this season. For Asheville, it's been a roller coaster that could still see the team contend with enough healthy bodies...but for Gardner-Webb, once leading scorer Jon Moore (out indefinitely) went down, things went south. GWU has now lost seven straight.

Finally, let's touch on's a team that finished 2008-09 as Big South Champion in the NCAA Tournament, opened 2009-10 as a Conference favorite by many, ended last season with a relatively disappointing finish, and has skidded this year to an 0-4 start in Big South games, holding last place in many team stat categories. It's just not pretty for the Highlanders right now.

So there you have it, the quick rundown of what's out there right now for Big South men's basketball. The beauty of it all, of course, is that things can change so fast in this Conference, so what holds this week may not resemble what we're looking at next week, or next, isn't it?

Lineup for Saturday, January 8th:
CSU at VMI, 1pm
CCU at Liberty, 6pm
GWU at Winthrop, 7pm
HPU at Radford, 7pm
Asheville at PC, 7:30pm.


That's enough for me...have a great weekend--get out to one of the games if you can, or watch on the Big South Network, OR catch updates from or our Twitter or Facebook pages! SHOUT--out.

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