Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Big South Conference Tournament Preview

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The Big South Conference race came down the final day, when preseason favorite Winthrop went on the road and defeated Birmingham Southern to finish 13-3. BSU finished 12-4. Coastal Carolina also finished 12-4. No other team finished more than two games above .500 overall.

Favorite: Winthrop was expected to run away with the league from the start. However, they were swept by Coastal Carolina and also lost on the road to Liberty. They are still the odds-on favorite to win the conference tournament, though. James Shuler and Torrell Martin form an excellent wing combination, while Craig Bradshaw might be the best big man in the league. The Eagles also play excellent defense.

Contenders: Coastal Carolina swept Winthrop in the regular season, and has also won 10 in a row. Buzz Peterson might have the best player in the conference in guard Jack Leasure. Pele Paelay is one of the best all-around players in the Big South, and Moses Sonko is a solid forward. Birmingham Southern had won 9 in a row but have lost 3 of their last 6 since then. Four players average in double-figures, led by guard James Collins. The Panthers might have the best frontcourt in the league in post players Sredrick Powe and Thomas Viglianco, as well as forward Dwayne Paul.

Sleeper: Radford finished 4th in the league, and has already beaten Coastal Carolina and Birmingham Southern this season. More importantly, they have the best duo in the conference in guard Whit Holcomb-Faye and forward Chris Oliver. Holcomb-Faye is the league's leading scorer and Oliver leads the Big South in rebounding.

Prediction: Winthrop came into the season as the favorite, and I think that the Eagles will end the season as the champions. Their defense is the best in the league, plus they have a variety of options on the offensive end. They have great inside-outside balance and the necessary experience to pull out tight games. Coastal Carolina could be the team to knock them from their perch, though.

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