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Big South Offseason News Update

October 16, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Big South Offseason News Update

by Jeremy Dunlap

Swap Meet: The biggest off-season news in the Big South occurred on July 1, when VMI officially became a member of the conference and Elon officially left. VMI left the Southern Conference, of which they had been a member since 1925, and Elon took their place in the SoCon. The swap was primarily football motivated on both sides. In terms of men’s basketball, it is too early to tell what the long-term effect of this move will be for both conferences. While the Big South gains some tradition and name-recognition with VMI, they lose a team that has improved each year since their move up to Division I in Elon.

There’s No Place Like Home: The other big change in the Big South will be seen in March, as the conference has again changed its postseason tournament format. This year, each tournament game will be played at the higher’s seed home court. The change was made to reward regular season success and to help boost attendance for the finals. To facilitate the extra travel involved with the new format, there is now a day off between each of the rounds of the tournament.

The conference previously had its entire tournament played at a central, pre-determined site. Last year, they tweaked the format by having each of the first round games played at the site of the higher seed, but the semifinals and finals were still held at a central, pre-determined site. This season, they are taking the next step by playing all of the games at campus sites.

Birmingham Southern

Halfway There: Birmingham-Southern’s transition into a full-fledged Division I member has reached another milestone. This season, the Panthers’ conference games will count in the standings and their players will be eligible to win conference awards. However, if BSC wants to make the NCAA tournament, they will have to earn an at-large bid since they will be unable to participate in the Big South tournament (and receive the automatic bid) until the ’05-’06 season.

Charleston Southern

Gone in a Flash: If the loss of graduating seniors F Charles White (12.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 59.6 FG%), G Gene Granger (9.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg), and F/C Chris Warzynski (6.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) was not bad enough for the Bucs, they lost C/F Kevin Warzynski, who transferred to the Golden Flashes of Kent State University. Kevin Warzynski would have been a junior this season and was a Second Team All-Conference selection last year as he led the Bucs in points (13.8 ppg), rebounds (5.6 rpg), and free throw percentage (87.1 %). This departure leaves Charleston Southern with only two returning starters and little experience in the frontcourt.

Coastal Carolina

Returning to Duty: In a relatively quiet summer at the beach, the biggest news is the return of two injured starters. Senior G Brandon Newby (6’2″, 166 lbs) returns from missing the entire ’02-’03 season. Newby averaged 14.2 points/game in ’01-’02 and will be counted on to contribute immediately to help fill the void left by the graduation of Torrey Butler, who was a two-time Big South Player of the Year. Newby will be aided by the return of starting junior PG Alvin Green (5’9″, 160 lbs), who missed all but six games last year due to injury.

High Point

Change at the Top: The only head coaching change in the conference occurred at High Point University, as the Panthers replaced long-time coach Jerry Steele (31 years at High Point) with Bart Lundy. Lundy comes to High Point with a relatively short, but impressive, resume. Lundy spent the previous five seasons at Division II Queens University of Charlotte, where he amassed a 117-39 record and reached the Elite Eight in 2001 and the Final Four in 2003. Lundy’s teams at Queens were known for their high-octane offense, so expect the Panthers to run-and-gun their way through the Big South in hopes of improving their last place finish from last season.

Knight Moves: If Bart Lundy is going to have a successful first season with the Panthers, it will have to be without G Joe Knight. Knight has left High Point and has yet to commit to playing basketball elsewhere. Last year in his sophomore season, Knight was named to the Big South’s All-Conference Second Team and was the Panthers’ second leading scorer (16.3 ppg), highlighted by the 40 points he scored in game against Vanderbilt. In his freshman season in ’01-’02, Knight was named the Big South Freshman of the Year.

Liberty

Tournament Bound: Though the Liberty Flames will not know if they will be a part of the NCAA tournament until March, they already know they will take part in two tournaments this year. Liberty’s schedule includes a trip to Anchorage, Alaska for the Great Alaska Shootout and a trip to Tucson, Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl Classic. They will take on Canisius on Thanksgiving night in the first round of the Great Alaska Shootout, with a possible second round match up with Duke. The Fiesta Bowl Classic will give the Flames a match up with perennial national power Arizona on December 28. Their second game will be no slouch either as Valparaiso and Louisiana-Lafayette round out the field in Tucson.

Radford

No News is Good News: After going through a head coaching change and having a couple of players removed from the team before last season, Byron Samuels and the Highlanders were still able to make it to the championship game of the conference tournament last year. This year, there have not been any similar distractions in the off-season for Radford to deal with, which should allow them to have a better start than they did last year, when they only won two of their first eleven games.

UNC Asheville

Champion vs. Champion: The defending Big South champs had a quiet off-season, but their normally brutal non-conference schedule was released this summer with a game against defending national champion Syracuse. The Bulldogs will make their way up to the Carrier Dome on December 28 to face the Orangemen.

VMI

On Top of the World: Liberty is not the only Big South team making a trip to Alaska this season. VMI opens their schedule with a trip to Fairbanks as a participant in the Top of the World Classic. The Keydets open with Pac-10 foe Washington State on November 20 and hope to unseat host Alaska-Fairbanks as champions of this tournament.

Winthrop

Minor Changes: Gregg Marshall will have some new faces joining him on the bench as the Winthrop coaching staff has changed quite a bit during the off-season. Assistant coaches Robbie O’Bryan and Barclay Radebaugh both left for other jobs. O’Bryan returned to his alma mater, Lee University, as an assistant coach and Radebaugh took the head coaching job at Queens University of Charlotte. Replacing the two departed coaches are Randy Peele, who was once the head coach at UNC Greensboro, and Paul Molinari, who has served as an assistant at Kent State, Villanova, UNLV, Wichita State, and Cleveland State.

Along with the coaching changes, the roster saw a few changes as three reserves from last season are no longer on the team. Senior F Gabe Leventis (5.2 minutes/game) left the team but remains at Winthrop, senior G Alex English Jr. (4.4 ppg, 43.6 3PT%) did not make the grade, and junior F Sheldon Bailey (3.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg) transferred.

     

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