I thought it would be interesting to preview the other conference tournaments on this site, since there is only so much we can talk about when it comes to predicting the Zags' AP ranking, tournament seeding, and whether or not KO will go or stay. Therefore, I decided I'd start to make some previews for the other conference tournaments that could eventually produce one of the opponents we end up facing in the NCAA tournament. Plus, if any of you are going to be in Vegas for the WCC, this might help you decide who to place your money on ;)
So, I decided to start with the Big South Conference, since their tournament is the first to begin, in just 2 days. I encourage discussion, especially if anyone else has expertise on a certain team.
Big South Tournament Preview 2013
Location: Conway/ Myrtle Beach, SC
Coastal Carolina University - Student Recreation and Convocation Center
2012 Tournament Champion: UNC Asheville
2013 Regular Season Champion: High Point (North Division), Charleston Southern (South Division)
Favorites: High Point (17-12 overall, 12-4 Conference), Charleston Southern (17-11 Overall, 12-4 Conference)
Don’t Rule Out: Gardner-Webb (20-11, 11-5), UNC-Asheville (16-15, 10-6)
Dark horse: Coastal Carolina (14-14, 9-7)
The Others: VMI (13-16, 8-8), Radford (13-18, 7-9), Campbell (12-19, 7-9), Liberty (11-20, 6-10), Winthrop (13-16, 6-10), Longwood (7-24, 4-12), Presbyterian (8-23, 4-12)
First Round Matchups
Radford v Winthrop
UNC Asheville v Longwood
Campbell v Presbyterian
Coastal Carolina v Liberty
Teams with byes until 2nd round
One of the few conferences remaining in the NCAA with two divisions, the Big South conference is not exactly full of household names when it comes to making noise during March Madness. Since 1998, only 4 different schools from the conference have won the tournament, and its automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. Of those 4, the most frequent champion, and probably most familiar to college basketball fans, is Winthrop, which has won 9 of the past 15 conference tournaments, with their last coming in 2010. More recently, though, the conference has belonged to the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs, winners of the last 2 Big South Tournaments.
Gonzaga fans had a chance to see one of the conference’s teams in action this year against the Zags in Spokane, a 74-52 win over the Campbell Fighting Camels on December 19th. Prior to that matchup, the last game against a Big South opponent was in February of 2012, when the Longwood Lancers visited the MAC for senior night last season.
While High Point and Charleston Southern shared equal conference records this season, it was the Buccaneers of Charleston Southern who won the only head-to-head matchup of the teams this season, 83-75 at home against the Panthers of High Point.
Of all the teams in the conference, it is probably the Runnin’ Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb that come into the tournament with the most momentum. The Bulldogs come in having won 7 in a row, and 10 of 11 games, including twice against Charleston Southern. Furthermore, the dogs have proven to be worthy non-conference opponents of bigger schools, having gone to Champaign, and only lost to the Illini by 1 point back in November, and have additionally tested their toughness against other big-conference opponents in losses to UNC, Iowa, and DePaul.
Meanwhile, the reigning champions, UNC Asheville, come into the tournament struggling, having lost 5 of their final 6 games to close out the season. Unless they turn things around quickly, they are unlikely to be dancing again this March.
Finally, whenever a conference tournament is being held at a campus location, you can never count out the host school. In this case, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, hope to gain a home-court advantage. The Chanticleers ended their season in an up and down fashion, alternating wins and losses over their final 7 games. Should the pattern continue, they are due for a first round win against Liberty, and then a second round exit against High Point.
Whichever school wins the auto-bid will be the only school from the conference to get into the dance, and may even be relegated to one of the first round matchups due to the overall weakness of the conference, and lack of quality wins among all the participating schools.