Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Big South Conference Tournament Preview

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The Big South Conference featured a fun conference race, with Coastal Carolina holding off preseason favorite Radford down the stretch.  Coastal started off with six straight league wins, and finished with another four in a row, while Radford was never able to fully recover from a 7-4 start, ultimately finishing second. Winthrop lost its final two league games to drop to third, with three other teams finishing above .500. With only the top eight teams making the conference tournament, it should be competitive.

Favorite: With Coastal Carolina getting homecourt advantage throughout the conference tournament, the Chanticleers have to be considered the favorite to win the automatic bid. They won 12 conference games by double-figures, and have only lost one home contest all season. Despite being undersized at forward, Joseph Harris is a double-double threat every night, while Mario Edwards and Kierre Greenwood lead a solid group of all-around guards. Chad Gray is a high-scoring sixth man. The Chanticleers are a lock down defensive group, forcing teams to take difficult shots both inside and outside the arc.

Contenders: Radford was the preseason favorite to win the conference, as the Highlanders returned Player of the Year Art Parakhouski, as well as Joey-Lynch Flohr and Amir Johnson. With that trio – plus forward Lazar Trifunovic – this team still has the pieces to win the title. Parakhouski is a dominant inside force who averages about 22 and 13 a game. Despite its struggles to end the season, Winthrop is a threat. The Eagles play dynamite defense, although their offense leaves much to be desired. They are very balanced, but have no double-figure scorers. The inside-outside combo of Reggie Middleton and Matt Morgan is solid, while Mantoris Robinson and Andy Buechert are good on the glass.

Sleeper: High Point has defeated each of the top three teams in the conference this season, and the Panthers won four of their last six to get into fifth place. The main reason for their title hopes, though, is the fantastic backcourt duo of Nick Barbour and Eugene Harris. Both are high-volume offensive players who can get hot and carry High Point.

Prediction: While Radford might have the most talent in the conference, Coastal Carolina has played the best basketball in the league all season, and will be on its homecourt for the tournament. Joseph Harris and Chad Gray are primary offensive options, and the Chanticleers’ defense makes them difficult to beat. In the title game, Coastal Carolina will have to shut down Radford’s loaded frontcourt, but its inside-outside balance and depth will be the difference as the Chanticleers win the automatic bid and get into the NCAA Tournament.

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