This is the first year that the Big South has had an opening round, so after Monday’s games, we’ve now reentered familiar territory down in the South – an 8-team tournament. A slew of people nailed both first-round games, so this tournament is still anybody’s game. And, possibly the best part about this is that we finally get some afternoon hoops to make a dreary workday a little bit brighter.
#1 UNC-Asheville vs. #8 High Point
The preseason pick to win this league came through, and came through pretty handily. UNC-Asheville, who won this tournament last year, as the #2-seed, returns just about its whole team this year ready to defend its title. Led by one of the most underrated backcourts in all of college hoops (J.P. Primm and Matt Dickey), the Bulldogs start their postseason tonight against 8th-seeded High Point, who survived their opening round game with Gardner-Webb on Monday. High Point has been up and down this year, but they have shown up for some big games this year. While they were swept by Asheville, they did beat C.Carolina on the road, Charleston-Southern at home, and swept Winthrop. As for the picks, everyone has UNC-Asheville winning this game, and most have them winning the tournament. The biggest High Point fan tonight would be Dave, who is the only one not to have Asheville making the finals.
#2 Coastal Carolina vs. #7 VMI
They said it couldn’t be done, but VMI actually played a little bit of defense on Monday night. Or, maybe Radford is just that bad and couldn’t break 55 against a high school team. But, either way, the Keydets won the opening round game, setting up a date with the 2nd-seeded Chanticleers. This is a make it or break it game for J and Lohse here, as they both have VMI not only beating CCU, but winning again in the semis to reach the Big South finals. Dave, Lynch, Primm, Teddy, and Waters all will be rooting hard for the Chanticleers, as they all have them as their Big South champ.
#3 Campbell vs. #6 Winthrop
The Fightin’ Camels of Campbell, in their inaugural year in the Big South, nearly made quite the splash, as they were in contention for the regular season title all year long. A slight fade in the end dropped them to third place, but they are a dangerous 3-seed. Winthrop – maybe the most well-known Big South team to the casual fan – has struggled the past couple of seasons, but still has a decent recruiting-base to pull from and, arguably, the best facilities in the conference, so they should be able to get back to prominence. They were 8-10 in conference this year, but they are young and started playing better at the end of the year. This young talent was enough to sway 6 people (Dave, Doogan, Lynch, Primm, Teddy, and Waters) to take an upset shot here against the Camels. Doogan is their biggest supporter, as he has them in the finals. The biggest Campbell fans are Mac and Scoot, who pegged them to take this title.
#4 Charleston-Southern vs. #5 Liberty
Easily the best game of the Big South tournament to date will be the 4-5 matchup in Charleston tonight. CSU was the brightest surprise of the Big South season this year, as they were in contention for most of the season. Liberty started incredibly slow, but caught fire late, winning their final 5 conference games, including an impressive sweep of Coastal and Campbell over the weekend. The Flames did come into Charleston on February 9th and grab a 1-point win, so they’ve proven they can do it. Gersh, Lynch, Mac, RDoc, RSmith, Scoot, Teddy, and Waters all went with Liberty in a mild upset in this one.