Friday, January 14, 2011

Ice, Ice, Baby...Musings on the Week

First came the snow--hey, how nice, it's snowing...but then the ice, and more and more ice, all over the snow, and all freezing into a rink-like glaze over the world. That's how some stretches of Big South territory started this past work week...certainly that's how things got going (or not going) here at the home office in Charlotte, and in nearby Rock Hill (Winthrop) and Boiling Springs (GWU). Asheville of course got even more snow--and then another batch of snow. And so it went, as the early 2011 winter storm that paralyzed Atlanta for a week did its work across our region as well. The women's games scheduled for Monday wound up being played on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, as different schools addressed their area and travel needs in the most appropriate ways they could find.

So the weather stole its share of headlines, but there have certainly been stories from the sports side of the ledger as well. Let's run through some notes...

--Coastal Carolina narrowly beat Liberty last Saturday in the battle of men's basketball unbeatens, and since they each followed up by winning on Thursday, it remains a clear pair of teams at the top: the 6-0 Chanticleers and the 6-1 Flames. Again, watch for that rematch February 3rd in Conway.

--While those two duke it out for the important first seed and the right to host throughout the tournament, remember that the top four teams all host first round games, because that race (presumably for spots three and four, based on Coastal/Liberty so far) will also be a good one. After Thursday's games, SIX teams fit in the range from 4-2 (CSU) to 2-4 (PC/HPU), with marks of 3-3 (WU/ASHE) and 3-4 (VMI) for the teams in the middle. That's a pretty big pack of contenders for just two probable positions...should be fun.

--Those with attention to detail will note two teams didn't make the cut in the previous two items. Well, Radford and Gardner-Webb have both fallen to 1-5 records in the Big South, and it's going to take something big to turn these ships around now, because they have been running hard in the wrong direction. But here's the catch: since PC can't play in the postseason due to the NCAA terms of transition to DI, only one of these teams will be eliminated from the Conference Championship event. As one camper said to another, "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you." In other words, if one of these teams can slow that descent, they'll get their shot...mind you, that's likely on the road at the top seed, but beggars cannot be choosers in this situation.

--On the women's side, we have a chance at an early treat on Monday, but that will still depend on how things turn out Saturday. Two teams survived to 3-0 starts: Liberty and Radford. They are slated to meet on Monday the 17th, but you have to play one game at a time...RU faces Winthrop before that collision, while Liberty does not have a Big South game in the way (instead playing at Longwood this evening).

--Meanwhile, Gardner-Webb is just one game back of that undefeated duo, and will certainly contend, just as the Runnin' Bulldogs have done so well the last two seasons. Behind those top three teams, the WBB standings are as bunched up as they are in MBB, with four teams at 1-1 or 1-2 (WU/PC 1-1, HPU/CSU 1-2). Two teams still seek Conference win number one: CCU at 0-2 and Asheville at 0-3.

I enjoyed taking part in the Big South's first basketball game to be available exclusively on last night. Liberty won by six at High Point, and I had the good fortune to be on play-by-play (I'm Mark Bryant, for those who don't know the name behind SHOUT), along with Nate Ross as analyst. Nate has been a frequent broadcast partner in both football and basketball, and it's a pleasure working with him--particularly when we get good material to work with, as we did at the Millis Center. Sure, it was really low scoring for a while, and Liberty led most of the way, but the HPU comeback and the excitement of the late second half made for a good payback after the sluggish start. Fun stuff.

Gotta roll on to other things now, but I hope this post has helped update you on the early layout of the Conference races and put the upcoming games in context. Should be a great weekend--get out to a game if you can, or catch the live video streams on the Big South Network if you can't attend in person. Enjoy! SHOUT...out.

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