Coach Prosser to WCU…and Other Stuff

I’ve decided to let the offseason breathe a little bit, but a lot has happened in the last few days that directly and indirectly affect Winthrop hoops, so I figured I would run some of those items down…

Coach Prosser Named Head Coach at Western Carolina

I don’t have an archive of it now, but I promise that I once made the declaration on WinthropFans.com that Mark Prosser would be the one to move on from Winthrop to a head coach position before Pat Kelsey did.  Now I guess we can argue semantics about whether Kelsey’s UMass episode last season counts, but either way, Mark Prosser was named the head coach of Western Carolina today.  Prosser spent six years as Kelsey’s right hand man on the bench for WU, and it will be interesting to see how Kelsey decides to fill the vacancy on the staff.  As Bret McCormick mentions in the Herald’s article about Prosser’s departure, Kelsey and Prosser have very different personalities/demeanors that complemented each other well on the staff.  I won’t even begin to speculate on who will be brought in to complete the staff at this point…the options are nearly endless.

Chris Mack Accepts the Louisville Job….Creates a Vacancy at Xavier

The biggest national story in the sport of college basketball today is that Chris Mack is taking his talents to the KFC Yum! Center, and leaving a vacancy at Xavier that sees Pat Kelsey’s name on most people’s lists of likely candidates to take the job.  Do Winthrop fans need to worry about Kelsey leaving?  I’d think that if Xavier offered him the job, he would definitely take it.  But will he be their first choice?  I’m thinking that the job will be Travis Steele’s (the current Associate Head Coach at Xavier) to lose at this point, with Kelsey and Thad Matta as the next tier of guys they’ll look at.  If the Musketeers open their search outside the Xavier family, then a few other names will definitely pop up, including Mark Schmidt from St. Bonaventure among others.  One thing I’ve seen is some people trying to connect dots about Kelsey backing out of the UMass job for this opportunity that now possibly presents itself to him.  I still don’t know what caused him to change his mind at UMass, but the Xavier theory never made sense to me.  Nothing would have stopped him from leaving UMass to take the Xavier job once it opened up, so why would he burn bridges and harm his reputation by backing out last minute just to be able to do something that he could do from Amherst anyway (at a higher salary while he waits for the Chris Mack domino to fall)?

WU Lands First Commitment for Class of 2018

Right around the time the Big South Tournament started, Winthrop got a verbal commitment from Michael Anumba, a 6’4″ native of Italy who currently plays for the Manchester Magic in England.  He fits the Pat Kelsey mold of being a versatile combo guard/wing and seems to have good size/athleticism, gets praised for his defensive ability, and was labeled as the top prospect at Luol Deng’s Camp in London this past summer.  In this current season for the Magic, Anumba is averaging 12.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, and 1.2 spg.  Anumba essentially takes Anders Broman’s roster spot, which gives WU a strong corps of guards going into next season, with Bjorn Broman, Adam Pickett, Kyle Zunic, and Charles Falden all coming back, along with Nych Smith (assuming he gets cleared to play again) and Keondre Schumacher (who redshirted this past season).  Assuming nothing else on the roster changes (though most of the time, something does change in April/May), then that leaves only one open roster spot unaccounted for, which is to replace the graduating Xavier Cooks.  You’d have to assume that WU will look for a guy with some size as the Eagles are a little thin on the roster in that area.  The spring signing period starts on April 11, so hopefully we’ll see Anumba sign at that time, and possibly a second player to fill the roster.

Notes From Around the League

-I don’t believe I talked about it on this blog at all, but during this past season, the Big South announced that USC Upstate and Hampton will be joining the league, beginning with the 2018-19 season.  Hampton will be bringing a team that finished tied for first in the MEAC and will likely return most of its roster, along with a good veteran coach in Ed “Buck” Joyner.  On the other end of the spectrum, Upstate is coming off a very rough season, has already seen a few players leave the program this offseason, and the school is currently looking for both a new AD and head basketball coach after firing both at the end of the season.  The head coaching search is almost at a month now, with no news yet about who will be leading the Spartans into the Big South.

-There’s another current head coach vacancy in the league as Nick McDevitt recently left UNC Asheville to take the Middle Tennessee job.  The Bulldogs will be looking for a new coach to lead a team that could have a lot of good talent coming back, led by MaCio Teague and Jonathan Baehre.  Former assistant Brett Carey and current assistant Sean Dixon seem to be logical fits for the job.

-Two other vacancies in the Big South have been recently filled, with Tubby Smith being named the new High Point coach (replacing Scott Cherry), and Griff Aldrich being named the new Longwood coach (replacing Jayson Gee).  Smith’s history/accomplishments are well known from his past stops at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas Tech, and Memphis.  Aldrich is a little more of an outside-the-box hire, coming from UMBC, but spending much of his recent past away from the sport of basketball, in the business and legal fields.

-If you clicked on the Tubby Smith link above, you’ll also see that High Point is moving forward with a new arena that is scheduled to open in 2020.  Liberty has also recently announced a plan for a new arena, to be built adjacent to the Vines Center, to give the Flames a smaller venue to play most of their games.  That should also open in 2020, though there’s always the chance that Liberty may no longer be in the Big South at that point.

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Those other postseason tournaments

I apologize for the lack of activity on here in the last week.  But I really haven’t had much to say, and I’m holding off on looking forward to next season on here until we get through April, when recruiting, transfer season, and possible coaching staff changes could happen.  There is also some news going on around the Big South with coaching changes, but I’ll allow those to shake out before dedicating a post on here about them too.  All that being said, I thought I’d take a look at postseason basketball, and whether it is a good idea that Winthrop has appeared to opt out of participating in the ‘other’ postseason basketball tournaments, namely the CBI and the CIT.

We are all familiar with the NCAA Tournament, not only as it is one of the biggest sporting events of the year, but also because Winthrop has participated in it ten times over the past two decades.  Behind the NCAA Tournament sits the NIT.  The NIT is a 32-team tournament that more-or-less picks the next best teams that didn’t make the NCAA field.  Also, the NIT does grant an automatic bid to any teams that finished first in the regular season in their conference, but did not make the NCAA Tournament.  That rule was implemented in 2006, so unfortunately that was three years too late for the 2003 Winthrop team that finished first in the Big South, but lost on a buzzer-beater to Asheville in the semifinals.  Since that rule has been in place, Winthrop has finished first in three different seasons (2006, 2007, and 2017), but hasn’t needed the NIT fallback, as they won the conference tournament each of those years and made the NCAAs.  So the Eagles have yet to ever participate in the event.  Being a merit-based tournament that has name recognition (and is also run by the NCAA), the NIT feels like a tournament that a fan-base can get behind, once you get over the disappointment of not making the Big Dance.  If/when Winthrop ever qualifies for the NIT, I can see myself following it closely (and possibly attending the game if logistically possible for me), and if the Eagles were to somehow get to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Final Four, or even win it, I’d be happy for the school to put a banner up for the accomplishment, as it signifies that you are operating at a pretty high level, even if you didn’t quite make the NCAA Tournament.

That brings us to the CBI (College Basketball Invitational) and the CIT (CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament).  These postseason tournaments have each existed for about a decade each, and they each take teams that have not qualified for either the NCAA or NIT and invite them to participate in their events.  The CBI has consistently been a 16-team bracketed field, and has a unique three-game series once it gets to the Championship.  The CIT (which targets ‘mid-majors’) varies in # of teams from year to year, and matches teams up as it goes along.  This year, there are 20 teams in the CIT field.  I’m not going into all of the details (mainly because I can’t always keep them straight), but there is often a financial obligation to participating in these tournaments, especially if you are a host team.  This obligation, along with the lesser stature of these events when compared to the NCAAs/NIT, often creates a situation where teams opt to not participate in them, even if they are invited.  Winthrop appears to be one of those teams that chooses to opt out, as often you’ll see teams with lesser resumes (and lesser ‘name recognition’…even if Winthrop doesn’t have much of that to begin with) than the Eagles in the fields of these tournaments, and 2018 is no exception as the fields of these tournaments have been announced, and the Eagles are not in either one.  Bret McCormick of the Herald wrote an article about this three years ago, and as far as I know, it’s the only time I’ve seen Coach Kelsey on the record about these events.  He doesn’t completely rule out participating in them in the article, but based on recent seasons, it appears that Kelsey and/or the Winthrop administration don’t seem to be interested in competing in these tournaments.

So is Winthrop making the right decision?  I don’t know the full story on WU’s athletic financial situation, so if it is a case where it doesn’t make sense on that end, then I completely understand why the school opts out.  There are instances where it is worth spending money for exposure, but I don’t see where either of these events really creates any exposure to make up for any possible monetary loss involved.  And while I can see where having additional practice and gametime can help a team, I can also see where a team may need time to regroup after a season, especially if it ended short of its expectations.  I don’t really feel like Winthrop is missing out on much by not participating in these events, so I’m supportive of WU opting out.

What would happen if Winthrop ever decided to participate?  I’d be fine with that too, assuming that’s what the program feels is best for the team.  And being a WU basketball junkie, I’d definitely follow the event, listen to the games (or watch them if televised or online), and hope the team succeeds.  But would I make a trip to Rock Hill (or elsewhere) to see a game in person?  Probably not.  And I think many other WU fans would feel the same way.  I knock the fanbase at times for taking NCAA Tournaments for granted, and for not supporting the team more during the season, but I wouldn’t really fault the fans for shrugging their collective shoulders for these types of events.  And for that reason, I can’t see WU ever ponying up the money to host, because I’d be shocked if there was a big turnout for a CBI or CIT game.  And even if Winthrop were to compete in one of these events and win it, what does that really prove?  That you were the best team of a collection of teams that didn’t actually qualify for a merit-based postseason event.  Yes, that’s better than not winning the event, but would it even be worth putting that on a banner and celebrating on that scale?  I wouldn’t think of it that way.  Maybe other fans would feel differently, I’m not trying to speak for everyone, but it would feel like a huge step below the conference championships and NCAA Tournament appearances that are represented in the rafters at the Winthrop Coliseum.

I’ll be curious to see the fate of these other postseason tournaments going forward.  Some schools seem very interested in competing in them (Liberty and Campbell from the Big South have done so multiple times, along with a few others in the league), so as long as that happens, they’ll probably hang around.  But it appears that Winthrop is fine with sitting them out, and I don’t have any problem with that.

The Journey Ends

It is never easy to see a season come to an end, especially when things looked so promising just barely over a week ago.  Last Thursday, Winthrop headed to Asheville, tied for first place, and in position to host the conference tournament if they could beat the Bulldogs.  WU lost, and it just seemed like something that happens when you play a good team on the road, but at worst, WU was still likely going to finish 2nd and get a chance to avenge that loss the following week in the tournament.  But then the Eagles fell again in the regular season finale, at home, to Charleston Southern.  And WU then became the #3 seed, and seemed vulnerable.  The Eagles then returned to Asheville, and this Thursday, beat Gardner-Webb in the quarterfinals, though WU was challenged and barely got through that one.  And unfortunately, the Eagles weren’t able to get to the finals, as Radford outplayed WU in the semifinals (beating the Eagles, 61-52), preventing Winthrop a chance to get that revenge over Asheville (though UNCA also failed to make it to the finals too…so that adds a little extra layer of sting as WU would have hosted the championship game if the Eagles could have won and Asheville lost).

So what went wrong?  Radford had proven to be a very strong defensive club this season, and they are good at turning you over and keeping you from scoring around the basket.  They did both of those things well against Winthrop, as the Eagles turned it over 15 times, and only took 22 shots from two point range (and only 8 FT attempts as well).  Xavier Cooks only had 6 FG attempts, and half of those were from beyond the arc, so the Highlanders did one of the best things you can do to beat WU…keep the Eagles from getting good looks around the basket.  And you may look at the shooting stats, and say that Radford’s offense struggled. WU’s defense did do a good job of forcing Radford into tough shots.  However, Radford was great at getting offensive rebounds (11), and even better at holding onto the ball, which helped their offense immensely.  They only committed five turnovers, and none of those turnovers were committed by their guards.  That meant that Winthrop got pretty much no easy baskets for the entire contest (WU had 1 fast break point), and once WU’s outside shooting got cold in the 2nd half, the Eagles just didn’t have enough to get the victory.

Give Radford credit, they did everything well in the game except shoot the ball (though Travis Fields hit a few big threes when they needed points).  And WU’s struggles pretty much extended across the roster.  As I mentioned earlier, Cooks only had 6 FG attempts, as he finished with 13 points.  Part of his problems stemmed from picking up a technical foul in the first half, which gave him 3 fouls early, limiting his minutes.  He ended up fouling out with about a minute left in the game.  The other scholarship senior, Anders Broman, was 2 for 7 from three, and those were the only points he scored.  Bjorn Broman was scoreless, going 0 for 5 from three, extending his troubles in Big South tournament games, as he is now 2 for 31 from behind the arc in his eight Big South tournament appearances.  Josh Ferguson had 3 assists in the first few minutes of the game, and grabbed 9 boards to along with 9 points.  But he also missed on a few opportunities late in the game, including a pair of free throws.  On the positive side, Adam Pickett had 13 points, and as always, came through with some nifty finishes around the basket.  Kyle Zunic had 8 points, including a big three right before halftime.

So the season comes to a close (barring a postseason tournament appearance that I’m not expecting), and we see that winning championships, much less getting to the championship game, is never an easy thing.  If you aren’t playing your best in March, you’ll usually get knocked out, and that’s what happened on Friday, with WU not playing very well, with a lot of that due to Radford’s good defense and almost mistake-free offense.  Radford will battle it out with Liberty on Sunday afternoon to represent the Big South, while Winthrop, and the other 7 schools in the league start preparing for next season (and I’ll soon have a blog post looking at what next season looks like for the Eagles).

The close of the season means the end of some college careers.  Xavier Cooks will go down as one of the best players ever to put on a Winthrop uniform, and his playing career will surely continue somewhere at the professional level.  You could obviously see that he got frustrated with how his season finished, but even in the games where he struggled, he still often led the team in multiple categories, and his presence will definitely be missed.  Anders Broman’s career at Winthrop is also complete, and he made a big impact with his outside shooting and discipline on the defensive end of the court.  Finally, the whole group of walk-ons on the roster have finished their careers as well.  Mitch Hill, Kellen Blake, Freddy Poole, and Matt Erps all had opportunities to shine in closing minutes of games, and their experience will be missed on the practice court and on the bench during games.  Best to luck to all of the seniors in their future endeavors.

2018 Big South Tournament Update

Disclaimer: This will be brief due to me being in Asheville and typing this on my phone.

Quarterfinals Recap

You take tournament wins however you can get them, and Winthrop won’t get many style points, but the Eagles came through with a 72-68 victory over Gardner-Webb in the Big South Quarterfinals in Asheville. The Eagles hit 12 threes, to offset a rough performance inside the arc, and the defense got enough stops (forcing 16 turnovers) to hold on to the win. Xavier Cooks was shaky early, but he got assertive late and made some big plays. Kyle Zunic provided some good minutes, Adam Pickett made some big baskets, and Anders Broman hit 4 threes in the second half.

In other action, Radford beat Longwood, 59-53, with the Highlanders surviving a poor shooting performance. At night, UNC Asheville beat Charleston Southern, 71-66. The Bulldogs had to overcome foul trouble and a late CSU rally, but an Ahmad Thomas mid-range jumper iced the game in the final seconds. The final game was a 73-59 victory for Liberty over Campbell, as the Flames’ defense was very strong and frustrated Chris Clemons and the the rest of the Camels.

Semifinals Preview

#3 Winthrop vs #2 Radford, 6pm – The Eagles and Highlanders split their two meetings, each winning on their home court. RU is generally able to dominate the offensive boards against WU, so the Eagles will need to minimize the damage of Highlander 2nd chance points in order to win. Xavier Cooks and Bjorn Broman have struggled in the last few games, so it would be helpful for at least one of them to have a good game. I think this will be a close game for a while, but Xavier Cooks will look like the Big South Player of the Year to get WU back to the finals. My Prediction: Winthrop 70, Radford 64

#5 Liberty vs. #1 UNC Asheville, 8:30ish pm – These two teams also split their regular season matchups, though they each won on the road. Liberty was the only team to beat Asheville at Kimmel Arena this season…can they do it again? LU’s defense is capable of giving the Bulldogs problems, but it will be difficult for me to see them win again in Asheville. Beyond the obvious, this game has big implications for Sunday’s championship game. If Asheville wins, they will host the Finals. If Liberty wins, the Winthrop/Radford winner will host. My prediction: UNC Asheville 67, Liberty 59

2018 Big South Quarterfinals Preview

FIRST ROUND RESULTS
#8 Charleston Southern 68, #9 Presbyterian 51
CSU is one of the hottest teams in the league (remember, they started the conference season 1-6, before finishing 9-9) and they overwhelmed Presbyterian in the opening round.  The PC offense could never get going, and CSU held a comfortable lead for most of this game, despite Christian Keeling only scoring 9 points (the first time he hasn’t been in double figures all season).  Part of the reason why the Bucs have played well lately was on display on Tuesday, as freshman Ty Jones led the way with 17 points, and sophomore Jordan Jones added 12.  The Joneses give Charleston Southern some scoring options around the basket now, which helps take pressure off Keeling and Phlandrous Fleming.  Presbyterian has their season come to an end, and they’ll obviously need to continue to rebuild under Dustin Kerns, who had the Blue Hose looking good at times, though they were unable to overcome the season-long injury to Jo’Vontae Millner and the spring semester ineligibility of Francois Lewis.

#10 Longwood 68, #7 High Point 55
Longwood came into this game on a 12-game losing streak, and had to go on the road to face a High Point team that had already beaten the Lancers by around 20 points in the two prior meetings.  But the Lancers punched the Panthers in the mouth early in this contest, jumping out to a 25-7 lead, and HPU never recovered.  The Panthers looked out of sync, turning the ball over 17 times and only making 9 of 19 FTs.  On the other end, Longwood hit shots (or got to the FT line) every time it looked like High Point would make a run to get back into the game.  The Lancers would often have 10-15 minutes stretches this year where they’d look pretty good, but would struggle to hold things together for a full game.  On Tuesday, they stayed composed and used a balanced attack to pull off the upset.  As for High Point, they now fall to 3-9 in Big South tournament games during the Scott Cherry era, with five of those losses coming when HPU was the higher seeded team.

QUARTERFINALS (ALL GAMES TO BE PLAYED AT KIMMEL ARENA IN ASHEVILLE)
#10 Longwood vs. #2 Radford, 1pm EST (ESPN3)
The early afternoon time-slot of the quarterfinals can be wacky at times, with Chris Clemons’ 51-point game leading Campbell to an upset over Asheville last season occurring at that time in the tournament, along with other recent upsets like Longwood over top-seed Charleston Southern in 2015 and Andre Smith’s crazy game winner leading Winthrop over top-seed High Point in 2014.  The energy is often a bit off in this early game, with the crowd usually light and the higher seed playing a team that is riding a high after winning their opening round game a couple of days before.  So don’t be surprised if Longwood is able to make this a game, even if on paper they’re a huge underdog.  However, I think Radford’s defense will stifle Longwood enough that the Lancers won’t be able to pull off this upset….though we do have to keep in mind that last year was the first time that Radford had made the Big South semifinals in the Mike Jones era (and this is now his 7th season), but this is also possibly the best team he’s had since he’s been the head coach of the Highlanders.
My Prediction: Radford 71, Longwood 60

#6 Gardner-Webb vs. #3 Winthrop, ~3:30pm EST (ESPN3)
The Longwood/High Point game proved that even one team easily won the two regular season meetings, that it doesn’t guarantee them a win in the conference tournament. So while Winthrop handled Gardner-Webb in the regular season meetings, the Eagles need to be careful to not come into this game overconfident.  And based on how they played in the final two games of the regular season, there’s a good chance that WU will be looking for a bit of redemption.  Also, Xavier Cooks seemed a little off in the past week, but he played very well against the Runnin’ Bulldogs this year, so expect him (along with Josh Ferguson) to attack GWU inside, as they have trouble stopping teams from scoring around the basket.
My Prediction: Winthrop 83, Gardner-Webb 69

#8 Charleston Southern vs. #1 UNC Asheville, 7pm EST (ESPN3)
In all of the different formats the Big South has used for the conference tournament, when the top seed has earned the right to host its games, not only has the #1 seed never been upset in the quarterfinals, they also have never been upset in the semifinals.  So having home court advantage is huge, especially for a team that’s already proven itself over the course of the regular season as the top team in the league.  So should we just write Asheville’s name in ink for a spot in Sunday’s Finals?  I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it will be a major upset if they do get knocked off before then.  And there’s a good chance that the Bulldogs will be tested, even in the quarterfinals.  Charleston Southern is one of the hottest teams in the league, as they have won 8 of their last 10 games, with the two losses being a home OT loss to UNCA, and a two-point road loss at GWU.  But Asheville has also played well in the last month, and they’ve been a great team in Kimmel Arena, only dropping one conference game there in the last two seasons combined.  I do think the Bucs will make the Bulldogs sweat a little bit, but I do think the home court advantage, and an experienced roster, will lead UNCA to the win (though if Ahmad Thomas’ ankle limits him, I think an upset is much more likely)
My Prediction: UNC Asheville 78, Charleston Southern 71

#5 Liberty vs. #4 Campbell, ~9:30pm EST (ESPN3)
The final game on Thursday has the potential to be very entertaining.  Both the Flames and Fighting Camels like to shoot the three (and both shoot it well).  So no lead will be safe, and either team will be capable of going on a quick 9-0 run if they can get hot.  In the two regular season match-ups, Campbell was the hot team…and hot is probably an understatement.  They went 23 for 33 from three in the first game, and 15 for 27 from three in the second meeting.  However, neither game was a blowout (they won by 9 and 10 points), primarily because Liberty is usually able to score around the basket against Campbell’s defense, either through Scottie James or from the guards driving the lane.  Liberty’s defense typically allows teams to shoot a lot of threes as it is, so will Campbell try and bomb away again?  Will Liberty adjust the defense at all?  And can the Camels hit 50%+ from behind the arc again?  I don’t know if they’ll be that hot, but I think they’ll hit enough threes, and I think Chris Clemons will show up and carry CU to the win.
My Prediction: Campbell 75, Liberty 71

2018 Big South Tournament Preview

February is wrapping up, so that means that Conference Tournament season is upon us.  The Big South Tournament gets started on Tuesday night with a pair of ‘play-in’ games before the main course starts on Thursday at UNC Asheville.  Thursday’s four-game quarterfinal lineup is one of my favorite basketball days on the calendar, and I look forward to making my first trip to Kimmel Arena to catch the action, along with hoping to see Winthrop bounce back from a rough final week of the season and attempt to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Winthrop had a chance to earn the #1 seed with a win last Thursday, but instead, WU comes into the Tournament on a two-game losing streak and as the #3 seed.  So can we expect the Eagles to turn things around and play better once the bright lights of March Madness shine on them?  That’s a question that can’t really be answered at this time, as a lot depends on if WU’s defense can play better than it did in the last couple of games, and if WU’s outside shot can start falling again (the Eagles made 5 threes in each of the final two games…that’s the fewest makes they had in any conference game).  Also, Xavier Cooks has seemed a bit off the last couple of games, so if he’s able to return to form, WU will be as good as anyone in the tournament.

I’m sure this is said in most seasons, but the Big South Tournament looks pretty wide open this year.  Asheville is very good, and they will be playing at home, so it is safe to call them the favorites…but the Bulldogs defense has been shaky at times this year, and Ahmad Thomas injured his ankle against WU last Thursday…will he be close to 100% for the tourney?  Radford is going to be a tough out, but they don’t have a ton of tournament success to fall back on, and one of their key players is a freshman (Carlik Jones).  Winthrop has some key pieces back from last season’s championship team (namely Cooks and the Broman Brothers), so will that experience be an advantage for the Eagles?  And the other two interesting teams will face each other in the quarterfinals, as Campbell and Liberty are each capable of beating anyone in the league, but can either of them string together three straight wins?

Winthrop is also attempting to make history.  No program in Big South history has ever made it to five straight championship games….not even the prior Winthrop teams back in the 1999-2010 era.  In fact, once you remove Winthrop from the equation, no other Big South program has even made it to three straight finals.  So if the Eagles can win their first two games, they’ll do something that has never been done in the league.  And also, if they can make it to the Finals, and if Asheville gets knocked off in the quarterfinals or semis, the Big South Championship game would head down to Rock Hill….

BIG SOUTH TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND
#10 Longwood @ #7 High Point, 7pm (Big South Network)
I’ll let LancersBlog get into the nitty gritty of it, but based on how rough the last couple of seasons have been for Longwood, it won’t be terribly surprising if Jayson Gee’s last game as head coach will be Tuesday night.  High Point won the two meetings between these teams this season, by nearly identical scores (75-55 and 75-56), and it is difficult to see a situation where Longwood can score enough against HPU’s strong defense to pull out a win on the road.
My Prediction: High Point 80, Longwood 62

#9 Presbyterian @ #8 Charleston Southern, 7pm (Big South Network)
Presbyterian and Charleston Southern split their two regular season meetings, with each winning on the road.  But at this point in the season, CSU is playing just about as well as anyone in the league, and PC is still struggling to fill the void that was left when Francois Lewis became ineligible to play in the spring semester.  So I think that CSU will handle business in the BucDome, setting up an interesting quarterfinal matchup against UNCA.
My Prediction: Charleston Southern 77, Presbyterian 63

QUICK TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS
I’ll have more detailed previews/predictions of each game as the tournament unfolds, but I wanted to get my tournament picks in before it starts:

QUARTERFINALS:
#2 Radford over #7 High Point
#3 Winthrop over #6 Gardner-Webb
#1 UNC Asheville over #8 Charleston Southern
#4 Campbell over #5 Liberty

SEMIFINALS:
#3 Winthrop over #2 Radford
#4 Campbell over #1 UNC Asheville

FINALS:
#3 Winthrop over #4 Campbell

Chris Clemons finds a way to eliminate Asheville again and we have a rematch of last year’s Championship Game, back in Rock Hill…and just like last season, WU cuts down the nets.

Recap: WU vs. Charleston Southern

2017-18 Winthrop Men’s Basketball Season – GAME #29 (BIG SOUTH GAME #18)

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Final Score: Charleston Southern 78, Winthrop 75

Boxscore

Winthrop never led, and trailed by as many as 20 before making a big comeback that came up a possession short, as the Eagles fell to CSU, 78-75, on Senior Day.

The positives:
-As has been the case a few times this year, WU was able to make a valiant come back when falling behind by a big margin…unfortunately, it’s very difficult to pull out a win when you’re behind by 20 in a game.

The negatives:
-For the second game in the row, WU only made 5 three-pointers, this time they were 5 for 25 (20%) from behind the arc.  The Eagles don’t always have to shoot lights out to win games, but it makes the job much more difficult when the outside shot isn’t falling.
-You can survive a bad three-point shooting game if you are doing a lot of other things well, but unfortunately, WU also turned the ball over 19 times in the contest.  CSU’s defense really gave the Eagles problems and forced a ton of bad passes, many leading to easy baskets on the other end.

Final takeaways:
On Thursday evening, Winthrop had a chance to clinch the #1 seed with a victory.  But 48 hours later, WU has suffered two rough losses, and the Eagles have dropped to the #3 seed in the Big South tournament and have stumbled after looking like the best team in the conference for most of the last month of the season.  Hopefully the Eagles are able to regroup and play better when they get started in the Big South Tournament on Thursday afternoon.

Next game:
WU vs. Gardner-Webb (in Asheville) – Thursday, March 1, 3:00pm EST

Results around the Big South:
Liberty 65, High Point 45
Radford 70, Longwood 47
Gardner-Webb 72, UNC Asheville 61
Campbell 72, Prebyterian 56

Final Standings:
1. AVL 13-5
T2. RAD 12-6
T2. WU 12-6
4. CU 10-8
T5. LU 9-9
T5. GWU 9-9
T5. HPU 9-9
T5. CSU 9-9
9. PC 4-14
10. LW 3-15

Big South Tournament Schedule
First Round (Tuesday, February 27):
#10 Longwood @ #7 High Point, 7pm EST
#9 Presbyterian @ #8 Charleston Southern, 7pm EST

Quarterfinals (Thursday, March 1; all games at UNC Asheville):
LW/HPU winner vs. #2 Radford, 1pm EST
#6 Gardner-Webb vs. #3 Winthrop, 3pm EST
PC/CSU winner vs. #1 UNC Asheville, 7pm EST
#5 Liberty vs. #4 Campbell, 9pm EST

Semifinals (Friday, March 2; both games at UNC Asheville):
First semifinal, 6pm EST
Second semifinal, 8pm EST

Finals (Sunday, March 4; at highest remaining seed):
Championship Game, 1pm EST