While the NCAA tournament is the crown jewel of the college basketball season conference tournaments should not be overlooked, especially those in which only the winner will be headed to the NCAA tournament. That desperation to play one more day when the next loss means the end of the season is one thing that makes March such a special month.
Thursday afternoon seven-seed Radford and ten-seed Presbyterian met in the first round of the Big South tournament, and the two teams produced an thriller in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Gregg Nibert’s Blue Hose had never won a Big South tournament game since joining the conference in 2007, but that changed thanks to a DeSean Murray put-back as time expired to give Presbyterian the 65-64 victory.
The video above has the court side angle of the finish, and the embedded clip below is the television angle.
Murray’s shot came 7.5 seconds after Radford’s Rashun Davis gave the Highlanders a one-point lead on a jumper just inside of the three-point arc. Presbyterian had two shots at the win before Murray collected Janeil Jenkins’ missed shot and put the ball into the basket just before the final horn.
Presbyterian will play two-seed Winthrop in Friday’s quarterfinal round.
VIDEO: Radford upsets Georgetown on Rashun Davis three-pointer
Friday night featured a few upsets, and the second day of the college basketball season has provided another as Radford beat Georgetown 82-80 in double overtime. A deep three from Rashun Davis, who finished with a game-high 28 points, with 1.5 seconds remaining in the second extra session was the difference for the Highlanders, who were picked to finish fourth in the Big South preseason poll.
The game was part of the 2K Classic, with the semifinal and championship rounds scheduled for November 20 and 22 at Madison Square Garden. So with this win Radford has a shot at playing at the World’s Most Famous Arena, right? No.
Something that some early season tournaments have done in recent years is ensure that their top drawing teams will play in the championships rounds of the event, regardless of what happens in the preliminary round games. In addition to the ticket sales this also ensures those programs opportunities to play against other highly regarded teams, thus helping their overall resumes with an eye towards March.
That’s why the Hoyas will still make the trip to New York for the semifinals of the 2K Classic along with Duke, Wisconsin (which lost to Western Illinois Friday night) and VCU.
The Hoyas opened the game playing sluggish basketball, with senior point guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera not scoring a point during those opening 20 minutes, and they wound up with a major fight on their hands as a result. Davis’ shot capped a productive afternoon for the point guard, with Cameron Jones supplementing his teammate’s efforts with 20 points and seven rebounds. Bradley Hayes led four Hoyas in double figures with 19 points while also grabbing 12 rebounds.
Next up for Georgetown is their highly anticipated trip to College Park to take on preseason Big Ten favorite Maryland as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games Tuesday night. And with that game being followed by match-ups with Wisconsin and either Duke or VCU, the Hoyas will need to make significant strides while taking on tough competition over the next week.
Video credit: ESPN
Big South Preview: Can John Brown take down Coastal Carolina?
Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.
Today, we are previewing the Big South Conference.
A month before the Big South Tournament started, seven teams were tied for first place in the conference standings. Once the tournament began, the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds were bounced in the quarterfinals. Despite all the parity and chaos in the league, the tournament champion remained the same.
Coastal Carolina is eyeing a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament in its final season in the Big South before moving to the Sun Belt Conference.
The Chanticleers bring back Elijah Wilson, the Big South Tournament MVP, point guard Shivaughn Wiggins and power forward Badou Diagne. That trio could make a three-peat possible. Coastal Carolina boasted one of the conference’s most efficient offenses and defenses, and tops in both offensive and defensive rebounding 2014-15. The production of graduating guards Warren Gillis and Josh Cameron won’t be easily replaced, but if they defend and crash the boards like they’ve done in the past, the Chanticleers will be in a good position when they host the Big South Tournament again in March.
Like the Chanticleers, many of the teams across the Big South have lost start players. Of the 15 players named to the all-conference teams last March, only two of them return this season.
One of them is High Point senior John Brown, the ultra-athletic and physically imposing forward. Through his first three years he’s averaged 18.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He’s helped the Panthers win at least a share of the last three regular season titles, but has no NCAA tournament appearances to show for it. Click here and check out some of the dunks he’s thrown down over the years. Now imagine him playing on the first Thursday or Friday of the NCAA tournament. Fun, right? Surrounded by a cast of upperclassmen, Brown could finally get that shot this spring.
Winthrop graduated two double-digit scorers, including first-team selection Keon Moore. Keon Johnson will be the key holder over in a new-look perimeter that could feature not one, but two Division II transfers. Jimmy Gavin’s amazing journey was chronicled back in May. Roderick Perkins, a 6-foot-5 wing, was the second-leading scorer in all of D2 in 2013-14. Winthrop’s defense, rated as the most efficient in the Big South, returns a pair of shot-blockers — Xavier Cooks and Duby Okeke — the frontline. Zach Price, the former Louisville and Missouri big man, is eligible this season, as well.
Longwood could be a dangerous team, especially if the Lancers can get quality play from the back court. The Lancers have one conference’s best front courts. Shaquille Johnson is one of the league’s top athletes. Lotanna Nwogbo, the 6-foot-8 forward, is back after missing the last 17 games of conference play with a thumb ligament tear. In three full Big South contest, he was averaging 19.3 points and 12.0 boards per game. Gardner-Webb is dealing with the loss of Jerome Hill and Tyler Strange, but returns six of its top nine scorers, including Tyrell Nelson. Radford should be another potential sleeper. YaYa Anderson is joined by senior Rashun Davis and Cameron Jones, the potential breakout star of the league.
Favorite: “In my mind, it would probably be High Point. There will be several teams that have really good players back, but High Point has several really good players back and John Brown has been one of the top players in the league for the last three years. Probably the team with the most experience, top to bottom, coming back is Coastal. I think they have four starters back, but I think they lose two really good players. On paper, as you look at it, Coastal makes sense to pick first.”
Sleeper: “I think a lot of people would say Longwood. I think they have a talented roster and they have a player on their team (Lotanna Nwogbo) I think a lot of people would talk about having a chance to be one of the better players in the league. He got hurt the second or third game in the conference season.”
Star to watch: “I’d say John Brown should be the favorite for preseason player of the year. There are a lot of good ones, but he’s definitely been really good for a long period of time. I think it starts with his motor and how hard he competes and how physical he is. He just stays after it every possession. He really plays so hard on both ends. He’s great at working at working on catching the ball at the rim and using his size and athleticism to score in the paint. Then he’ll get stuff in transition and on the offensive glass. He’s a monster.”
PRESEASON BIG SOUTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR: John Brown, High Point
Brown, maybe the best dunker in all of college basketball, returns for his senior season after averaging 19.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in 2014-15. The 6-foot-8 nightmare matchup plays with a consistent motor. He understands angles and where to position himself on the floor in order to get easy buckets. Brown also creates opportunities for himself in the open floor and offensive glass.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON BIG SOUTH TEAM:
Tyrell Nelson, Gardner-Webb: The 6-foot-7 center was top-10 in the Big South in both scoring and rebounding at 13.9 points and 6.5 rebounds a night.
Elijah Wilson, Coastal Carolina: Had a strong finish to last season, earning Big South Tournament MVP honors. The 6-foot-4 guard is the top returning scorer at 11.3 points per game.
Shaquille Johnson, Longwood: The best athlete in the conference not named John Brown, Johnson averaged 13.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game last season.
DeSean Murray, Presbyterian: The Blue Hose will rely heavily on the 6-foot-5 sophomore, who recorded five double-doubles during conference play last season.
The Big South will be one of the most entertaining mid-major conferences to follow this season, and it’s not just because of the absurd about of young talent in the league. Let’s talk about that before I get into the meat and potatoes of this preview. The best player in the conference, High Point’s John Brown, is a junior this year. Last year’s leading scorer, Andrew Rowsey of UNC Asheville, is a sophomore this season. The leading scorer on Coastal Carolina, the team that won the automatic bid last year and the favorite to win the league this season, was now-sophomore Elijah Wilson. How many leagues can make that same claim, particularly at that level?
It’s not just the talent in the league that’s exciting, however. Last season, seven of the 12 teams in the Big South won at least 10 games, with six teams finishing within two games of regular season champ High Point. While VMI has left the conference for the SoCon, there are still enough quality teams here to make this regular season title race wild.
It starts with Coastal Carolina, who will strengthen what is the best perimeter attack in the conference. Wilson returns, as does senior point guard Warren Gillis, the best player on the Chanticleers. Add in senior Josh Cameron and transfer Shivaughn Wiggins, who may end up being the best point guard on the roster, and Cliff Ellis has himself some serious back court talent.
Should I mention that the Big South tournament is played at the HTC Center, Coastal’s home floor?
The biggest question mark, however, is CCU’s front court simply because they don’t have anyone on the roster that can matchup with Brown, a 6-foot-8 athletic specimen that led High Point with averages of 19.5 points and 7.7 boards. Brown is a workhorse that creates all kinds of matchup problems with opponents because, quite frankly, he has no business being a Big South player. Sharpshooter Devante Wallace, who hit nearly 60% of his threes in league play, is back, as is Adam Weary. The x-factor for this group will be sophomore Anthony Lindauer, who played well when HPU’s starting point guard got hurt last year.
Anyone looking at last year’s standings may not realize this, but Charleston Southern is a team to keep a very close eye on this year. They entered last season as the favorites to win the league, but injuries to Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper derailed their season. Those two are reportedly healthy now, and if they are, the Buccaneers will be a factor in the conference race.
Radford brings back five seniors from last year’s team, headlined by Javonte Green, who may be the best player in the conference not named John Brown. He’s a bit undersized at 6-foot-4, but he scores, rebounds and defends well. Size will be an issue, however, as there are times the Highlanders play Green at the four with three guards on the floor. UNC Asheville will never be out of a game when Rowsey is on the floor, but losing Jaron Lane and big man D.J. Cunningham will be a lot to overcome.
Winthrop returns four starters, including another standout sophomore in Keon Johnson. The Eagles will be a serious threat to win the league if former Louisville and Missouri center Zach Price gets a waiver to be eligible immediately. Gardner-Webb brings back Jerome Hill, but they lose three starters, including Naji Hibbert and Donta Harper.
PRESEASON BIG SOUTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR: John Brown, High Point
Brown has been one of the most productive players in the country since he made his debut with the Panthers two seasons ago. Expect much of the same from the reigning Big South Player of the Year, and don’t be surprised when one of the nation’s hardest-working big men routinely makes it on Sportscenter’s Top Ten.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-BIG SOUTH TEAM:
Andrew Rowsey, UNC-Asheville, So.: Rowsey averaged 20.3 points as a freshman, the second person to ever do that. The first? Seth Curry. And he’s just getting started.
Saah Nimley, Charleston Southern, Sr.: Nimley is just 5-foot-8, but he’s one of the best mid-major players in the country … when healthy.
Javonte Green, Radford, Sr.: A 6-foot-4 forward, Green averaged 16.9 points and 8.1 boards last season.
Warren Gillis, Coastal Carolina, Sr.: Gillis, a point guard, was the best player on the Big South’s conference tournament champion last season.
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.
High Point and Charleston Southern finished atop the North and South Division standings last season, both teams fell at the hands of Liberty — a team that lost 20 games and didn’t beat a Division I opponent until Dec. 31 — in the Big South tournament. Liberty went on to steal the automatic bid, and narrowly missed advancing to the field of 64 after dropping a one-point game to North Carolina A&T in the First Four.
The Panthers and Buccaneers return strong teams again this season, and while both should be atop the regular season standings, the Big South will be one of the conferences to experience chaos come March. High Point returns sixth-year forward Allan Chaney, but more importantly redshirt sophomore forward John Brown has recovered from the broken right foot he suffered at the beginning of March. Charleston Southern has one of the best back courts in the conference returning with Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper. The duo both averaged more than 15 points a game for the Buccaneers, but they will have to replace starters Mathiang Muo and Jeremy Sexton.
While High Point and Charleston Southern are once again the projected favorites in their respective divisions, several teams looked poised to be this year’s Cinderella come spring. Radford has one of the best perimeter attacks with the trio of Ya Ya Anderson, R.J. Price and leading scorer and rebounder Javonte Green. They’re a young team but they may have enough returners to make that jump. Charleston Southern will battle a pair of contenders in its own division as well, as Winthrop and Gardner Webb both return multiple starters.
PRESEASON BIG SOUTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR: John Brown, High Point
The redshirt forward was named freshman of the year after averaging 16.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. His season was cut short, and High Point’s NCAA tournament hopes were dashed when he broke his foot a week before the conference tournament. He’s one of the nations most exciting players to watch:
FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:
Saah Nimley, Charleston Southern: Charleston Southern has some of the best returning guard play in the Big South with Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper. The 5-foot-8 Nimley was the team’s top scorer and fourth in the Big South in assists last season.
Davon Marshall, Liberty: The Flames senior guard scorched nets down the stretch with his 3-point shooting. The senior guard shot 43 percent on the season and shot 18-of-32 during a four game stretch beginning in the Big South quarterfinals and ending in the First Four for his 20-loss Liberty team.
D.J. Covington, VMI: The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 15.0 points, 7.2 boards and 3.0 blocks per game last season. He’ll have a bigger role with the loss of Stan Okoye, who averaged almost a double-double last season.
Javonte Green, Radford: The junior wing led the Highlanders in scoring and rebounding last season with 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Radford has one of the conferences best perimeter attacks with Green, Ya Ya Anderson and R.J. Price.
The Radford Highlanders were champions of the Big South as recently as 2009, winning 21 games, making the NCAA tournament, and seeming ready to build a dynasty under Brad Greenberg.
Fast-forward to 2012, and the Highlanders have completed a miserable 6-26 campaign that followed a 5-24 season one year prior. Greenberg – brother of Virginia Tech’s Seth – quit in disgrace one year ago following revelations that he had committed NCAA infractions. Relative unknown Mike Jones has been left to clean up the mess.
Good news continues to be mixed with bad news for Jones, who announced the signing of 6’6″ forward Juwan Wells at roughly the same time as he revealed that he will lose high-scoring sophomore Jareal Smith and role-playing forward Lukas Winegarner. Smith — who led the team in scoring as a freshman — is the bigger loss by far.
Jones, saddled with a very difficult rebuilding job, chooses to focus on the positives. “[Wells] does a little bit of everything well,” Jones told the Roanoke Times. “With some added strength and the further development of his game, he can be a nice player in the Big South.”
Jones is working hard to bring Radford back to prominence, and he has the backing of one of college basketball’s most popular coaches in VCU’s Shaka Smart. Jones was a VCU assistant before making the move to Radford, and Smart’s willingness to vouch for Jones’ talent and character no doubt went a long way toward assuring the Highlander faithful that he’s the man for the job. There’s little doubt that his complete overhaul of the program will take time, however, as he struggles to build a roster of his own players.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He likes to crack wise and talk college hoops @stfhoops on Twitter.