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Big South Notebook

February 25, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big South Conference Notebook

by Michael Protos

Organized Chaos

With the close of the regular season less than a week away for the Big South Conference, familiar patterns are forming. In each of the last four seasons, Winthrop captured the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament that rewards the victor of the conference tournament. After this week’s action, Winthrop appears ready to defend that title.

Entering last week, several teams threatened Winthrop’s spot atop the standings. But the Eagles changed that scenario quickly. By the end of Saturday, Winthrop had wrapped up the regular season title.

A rematch with the Big South’s other top team, Liberty, was Winthrop’s first step toward claiming the number one seed in the post-season tournament. Winthrop won the first meeting at Liberty Jan. 16, 74-64. After weathering an early run by the Flames, the Eagles took over the game to nearly double up Liberty at the half, 40-22.

Junior forward Tyrone Walker led the way with 21 points and nine rebounds. The Eagles were killer from the floor – shooting nearly 55 percent while extinguishing the Flames, holding them below 40 percent. The shooting difference rendered Liberty’s rebounding advantage irrelevant. Eight blocks attest to Winthrop’s great defensive effort that led to the 84-72 defeat that all but ended the Flames’ shot at deposing Winthrop.

Mathematically, the Flames could still have slipped ahead of Winthrop. But the Flames lost again Saturday. Birmingham Southern continued its great practice run in the Big South by defeating Liberty in Lynchburg, Va., officially ending the Flames’ conference title hopes.

Now the Flames join the rest of the conference, which can only hope the tournament will be different from the regular season.

Elon Moves Up

With wins over UNC Asheville and Radford last week, Elon moved to 6-6 in conference play and tied Charleston Southern for fourth place. And fourth place is the crucial cutoff line for teams to host a first round game in the conference tournament. The Phoenix finishes the season against Coastal Carolina and High Point while Charleston Southern hosts UNC Asheville and Coastal Carolina. If Coastal Carolina beats both teams, there could be a logjam in the middle for that final coveted home court position.

History Lesson

Despite all the talk of playoff positioning, the post-season manages to defy logic. Look no further than the Big South’s tournament last year to prove the point. High Point earned a No. 7 seed in the tournament but upset UNC Asheville and Radford before being walloped by Winthrop 70-48 in the championship game. High Point gets an even lower seed this year.

Last year, the prize of the automatic bid was a No. 16 seed in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament. The ACC’s Duke Blue Devils tuned up against Winthrop in typical unmerciful Blue Devil fashion – winning 84-37. This year, the Big South ranks 28th out of 31 conferences, according to the conference RPI rankings, so the odds are that the automatic bid will send a Big South team to face a No. 1 seed again.

It’s Cinderella season and teams must get their final business in order before preparing for the ball.

Big South Player of the Week

Coastal Carolina’s senior forward Torrey Butler helped keep the Chanticleers within striking distance of hosting a first-round conference tournament game. He averaged a double-double, 17.5 rebounds and 10 points, in two games last week, including a 68-55 win over UNC-Asheville.

Big South Rookie of the Week

Radford guard Whit Holcomb-Faye averaged 17.5 points a game last week, including leading the Highlanders to a 59-57 victory over Charleston Southern.

Big South Schedule:

If you want to catch Big South regular season action, these dates are your last chance:

Monday: Charleston Southern vs. UNC Asheville
Monday: Radford vs. Birmingham Southern
Wednesday: High Point vs. Liberty
Wednesday: Coastal Carolina vs. Elon
Thursday: Birmingham Southern vs. Savannah State
Friday: Radford vs. Liberty
Saturday: UNC Asheville vs. Winthrop
Saturday: Charleston Southern vs. Coastal Carolina
Saturday: High Point vs. Elon


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