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Big South Quarterfinals Preview

March 3, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Big South Conference Quarterfinals Preview

Preview by Jeremy Dunlap

The Big South tips off its tournament today with a brand new format. All tournament games will now be played at the home court of the better seed instead of being played at a centralized location. The semifinals will be played on Thursday, March 4 and the championship game will be on Saturday, March 6 at 2:00 pm. Tonight’s quarterfinal games are:

Game 1: (8) Charleston Southern at (1) Liberty
For the first time in team history, the Liberty Flames (15-14, 12-4) hold the top seed of the Big South Tournament, and this could not be a better year for it to happen since they will be able to host every game they play. The Flames have been very strong at home, going 10-2 in the Vines Center this season, including a perfect 8-0 mark against Big South teams. The Charleston Southern Buccaneers (6-21, 3-13) may have finished last, but they did win three of their last five games coming into today and they gave Liberty its biggest scare at home, taking the Flames to overtime before losing 71-67. The Flames also won the other meeting between the two teams, winning 71-55 in Charleston. Liberty has been a bit sluggish since wrapping up the top spot, losing two of its last three games, so do not be surprised if this game ends up being a bit closer than most other #1 vs. #8 games, especially since Charleston Southern took them to the wire the last time these two teams met.

Game 2: (5) Radford at (4) Coastal Carolina
The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (13-14, 8-8) will have the home-court advantage tonight, but they have two ominous streaks that will be staring them the face as they take the court against the Radford Highlanders (12-15, 7-9). First, the Chants have not won a conference tournament game since they won this tournament back in the ’92-’93 season. Since then, Coastal has had first-round exits in the eight conference tournaments that they have competed in, losing by an average margin of twelve points. The other streak they will contend with is their current losing streak to the Highlanders, which stands at fourteen games after Radford won both meetings between the schools this season. In fact, Radford has won 25 of the last 27 games in the series. Radford does have its own (albeit smaller) streak to deal with. The Highlanders enter the tournament on a three-game skid, with their last win coming on the very same floor they are playing on tonight, when they beat the Chants in Kimbel Arena, 84-75 on February 16.

Game 3: (7) VMI at (2) High Point
These two teams played a very exciting game just this past Wednesday, with the High Point Panthers (17-10, 10-6) sneaking by the VMI Keydets (6-21, 4-12), 76-75 on a last second lay-up by freshman point guard Landon Quick. Unfortunately for the Keydets, that game was played on their home court while tonight’s game will be played in High Point’s Millis Center. That could be very bad news for VMI since they have yet to win away from home, going 0-15 away from corps-filled Cameron Hall. In the teams’ first meeting this season, High Point easily won, 78-57. High Point has been a team with very good karma lately, winning its last three games, each by only one point with decisive plays being made in the final ten seconds of each game. Tonight’s game will mark the first since the league announced that High Point junior forward Danny Gathings is this season’s conference player of the year. Gathings finished third in the league in scoring (16.3 points/game) and second in rebounding (7.9 rebounds/game).

Game 4: (6) UNC Asheville at (3) Winthrop
The Winthrop Eagles (16-11, 10-6) will host the UNC Asheville Bulldogs (8-19, 6-10) for the second straight game, as these teams wrapped up the regular season against each other at the Winthrop Coliseum on Saturday, with the Eagles winning, 75-68. Winthrop also won the first match-up between these two squads, beating the Bulldogs in Asheville, 76-62. UNC Asheville and Winthrop have combined to win the last five Big South Tournaments, with UNCA ending the Eagles’ streak of four championships last season in a dramatic 81-80 overtime victory in the semifinals. That game saw Winthrop guard Ivan Jenkins drain a three-pointer with less than eight seconds remaining in overtime to give Winthrop a one point lead, but UNC Asheville’s Alex Kragel answered with a shot at the buzzer, leading UNCA to the finals, and eventually to their first-ever NCAA tournament berth. But do not expect heroics from those two players tonight, as Jenkins has not played since December with a knee injury and Kragel graduated last year.

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