We’re about a month and a half into the season, and the Big South appears to be following many preseason expectations.
Faced with a mix of non-Division I opponents and power conference favorites, Big South teams notched a respectable 42-40 record thus far against non-conference teams. Coastal Carolina will look to carry momentum from a couple of big wins into the Big South schedule. The Chanticleers claim wins against LSU of the SEC and Charlotte of the Atlantic 10.
Every Big South team has played at least one conference match up so far, and High Point and Liberty sit atop the standings at 2-0. High Point figures to remain in competition for the Big South title while Liberty is supposed to fade toward the middle of the pack. But don’t tell that to the Flames, who have tallied wins against Presbyterian and Winthrop.
Early Season Dominator: Kelvin Martin, Charleston Southern
The Buccaneers might not be near the top of the standings, but junior forward Kelvin Martin is near the top of several statistical categories in the conference. Most impressively, he’s shooting an astounding 74.6 percent from the floor. Martin also adds nine rebounds per game, including four at the offensive end. Martin has logged three perfect games, going 5-of-5 against Montreat, 6-of-6 against Southern and 7-of-7 against Toccoa Falls. Granted, two of those three have asterisks because he missed free throws against Montreat and Southern.
Best Win: Coastal Carolina 78, LSU 69 OT
Big South teams are frequent visitors to power conference teams looking to pick up easy wins. And the usually overmatched squads typically oblige their hosts. But not the Chanticleers.
Led by Chad Gray’s 22 points and seven rebounds, Coastal Carolina stormed Baton Rouge and left with a 78-69 overtime victory, the team’s first win against a power conference school in 17 years. As the early season favorite to win the Big South, this win is the type of victory that will give the Chanticleers plenty of confidence if they end up representing the Big South in the NCAA Tournament as a seemingly overmatched No. 15 or 16 seed.
VMI is on pace to be the fastest-paced team in Division I for the third consecutive season. The Keydets play an utterly frenetic style of basketball in which they jack up three-pointers at will and attack on offense as if they were playing with a 10-second shot clock. In past seasons, poor shooting has doomed VMI to an ugly record.
So far, VMI is shooting a respectable 45.1 percent. That hasn’t translated into a gaudy record, despite leading the country in scoring at 95.5 points per game, mostly because VMI has faltered in close games. The Keydets are 0-2 in Big South play after dropping an overtime game to Winthrop and losing to Presbyterian by 14.
Half of the Big South’s 10 teams are posting at least 70 points per game, giving those teams a decent shot of at least entertaining a crowd, if not competing for a win. Radford isn’t one of those teams.
The Highlanders lost several key players and are rebuilding. And the results this season have been ugly. Radford is barely cracking 56 points per game and shooting 36.4 percent from the field. According to Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency statistics, Radford has the fifth-worst offense among 345 Division I teams. This team doesn’t shoot well, doesn’t grab offensive rebounds and doesn’t protect the ball. So it’s not a surprise that Radford doesn’t win much — no wins against Division I opponents. It’s going to be a long season for the Highlanders.