Big South

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Introducing Cinderella: Winthrop wins the Big South

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Hampton, which finished 8-10 in the Big South and is ranked outside the top-300 on KenPom, looked like it might pull a monster upset in the Big South final to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016. The Pirates led Winthrop, the conference tournament’s two seed, for the league’s automatic bid by 15 before the midway point of the first half.

It didn’t hold up, though.

The Eagles dominated the second half to put Hampton away and claim a 76-68 victory and their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2017 with the Big South’s automatic bid. Winthrop shot 66 percent from the field in the second half to pull away. Freshman DJ Burns scored 16 points in 18 minutes for Winthrop.

LEAGUE: Big South

COACH: Pat Kelsey

RECORD: 24-10, 15-3 Big South

RELATED: Bubble Watch | Bracketology | Conference Tournaments

METRICS:

  • NET: 146
  • KENPOM: 138
  • TORVIK: 160

PROJECTED SEED: Winthrop won 14-straight from December into February, but lost three games – Radford, Gardner Webb and Hampton – over the last month of the season, and the Eagles are likely destined for a 16 seed.

WHO DID THEY BEAT?: There’s no question that Winthrop’s best win of the season came in November when they went on the road to defeat St. Mary’s 61-59 in Moraga. They played East Tennessee State, Duke, TCU and Furman tough, but to defeats as well.

WHY WINTHROP CAN WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME

Certainly the competition in the Big South isn’t going to intimidate any of the teams Winthrop is likely to be matched up against in the NCAA tournament, but the Eagles did rip through 14-straight games this winter. If nothing else, that’s a sign of being able to consistently play at a high level. The Eagles play at a fast pace, and if they get the right matchup, they might be able to dictate tempo enough to create some problems for a high-major with their ability to score near the basket.

WHY WINTHROP WON’T WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME

It’s been a long time since Winthrop played a fellow NCAA tournament team, and the competition they’re likely to face – probably a top-two seed – is going to be a major upgrade from the programs they’ve been going up against for the better part of three months. The Eagles also aren’t elite any any area, which makes pulling an upset against a more talented team all the more difficult. The biggest issue, though, is their defense, which ranks 250th nationally in effective field goal percentage.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?

Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey first came into your life as Skip Prosser’s point guard at Xavier for three seasons in the late 1990s that resulted in two NCAA tournaments for the Musketeers. After assistant stops at Xavier and Wake Forest, he took over Winthrop in 2013 and has turned in four 20-win seasons with this being the second NCAA tournament appearance for his Eagles. The 44-year-old could be a name that gets mentioned for mid-major gigs during this go-round of the coaching carousel after getting Winthrop another automatic bid. He reportedly was close to replacing John Brannen at Northern Kentucky last spring.

AUTOMATIC BID OUTLOOK

Like any team facing a No. 1 or No. 2, Winthrop is going to have a heck of a time trying to get into the second round. With just one senior in the rotation, though, this could be a great dress rehearsal for 2020-21 when the Eagles theoretically could be even better with added experience. If it’s going to happen for Winthrop this season, though, the Eagles probably will want a contrasting style matchup, forcing walk-it-up teams like Kansas, Baylor, San Diego State or Dayton to push the pace, even if that might expose the talent gap.

Introducing Cinderella: Gardner-Webb earns the autobid in the Big South

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Gardner-Webb is heading to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history as they went on the road and knocked off Radford for a 76-65 victory. The Bulldogs pulled off one of the toughest feats in college hoops by winning back-to-back road games as the underdog during the Big South conference tournament.

Knocking off the nation’s leading scorer in Chris Clemons and Campbell in the previous round on Friday night, Gardner-Webb followed that up with a convincing win over Radford on Sunday afternoon. DJ Laster got rolling early for the Bulldogs against the Highlanders as he scored 30 of the team’s first 44 points to finish with a career-high 32 points.

CONFERENCE: Big South

COACH: Tim Craft

RECORD: 23-11, 10-6 in the Big South

RATINGS:

  • KENPOM: 183
  • NET: 185

PROJECTED SEED: Gardner-Webb likely projects as a No. 16 seed.

NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW: Senior guard David Efianayi is the team’s leading scorer as he’s putting up 18.5 points per game while shooting a blistering 41 percent from three-point range on the season. While Efianayi is the team’s leader, he has other weapons to turn to on offense. Freshman Jose Perez (15.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.0 apg) has emerged as a capable all-around player while senior forward DJ Laster (13.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg) showed how dangerous he can be in the Big South title game. Sophomore Nate Johnson (10.0 ppg) is the team’s fourth double-figure scorer. All four of those players also shoot at least 37 percent, or better, from three-point range.

BIG WINS, BAD LOSSES: Gardner-Webb knocked off two ACC opponents during the regular season with road wins at Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. The Bulldogs also had Q1 losses to Furman, VCU and Virginia Tech during the regular season. Losses to Eastern Illinois and Arkansas state represented the only two Q4 losses of the season for Gardner-Webb. A shaky

STATS YOU NEED TO KNOW: Three-point shooting could be the key for Gardner-Webb pulling off a UMBC-like upset of a major powerhouse. Shooting 37.9 percent from three-point range as a team on the season, the Bulldogs are 32nd in the country from distance. Gardner-Webb also has options from a shooting perspective with four players who canned at least 35 three-pointers on the season.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?: Gardner-Webb doesn’t have a lot of relevant men’s basketball history but the school did help produce current Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann. A former assistant (2002-2008) who later returned as head coach for three seasons (2010-11 through 2012-13), Holtmann left the program to become an assistant, and eventual head coach, at Butler.

FINAL THOUGHT: UMBC set the recipe for beating a No. 1 seed last season by making a lot of perimeter shots and blitzing an ice-cold Virginia team early. While Gardner-Webb is unlikely to win as a potential No. 15 or No. 16 seed, the potent perimeter shooting they bring to the table makes them an intriguing deep upset candidate — depending on opponent.

Four conferences sign on to basketball officiating alliance

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Four more Division I conferences will join a men’s basketball officiating alliance formed last year by the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association.

The Big South, the Ivy League, the Northeast and the Patriot League are joining ahead of the 2017-18 season, according to announcements from the leagues Thursday. The alliance launched last summer for conferences to work together on officiating matters and enhance training, development, recruitment, retention and feedback for officials.

John Cahill, the Big East’s supervisor of officials, and Bryan Kersey, the ACC’s coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, will continue to lead the alliance operations.

ACC commissioner John Swofford says the new additions to the alliance “provide an even greater opportunity to build chemistry and quality” across the officiating ranks.

Guard Cortez Mitchell holds firm with Charleston Southern commitment

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The recruitment process, while it can be fun for prospects, also requires that they do their due diligence before making a decision. Also key in the process is understanding one’s potential role at a new school, with some looking to make the player a focal point while others may simply be looking for a stopgap after falling short in their pursuit of other players.

For 6-foot-3 Pearl River CC guard Cortez Mitchell, the recruiting process meant weighing the school that had expressed major interest all along against some higher profile programs that made their pushes late. Ultimately Mitchell decided to stick with the program that was there from the start, as he signed with Charleston Southern Friday afternoon.

“When I went on my visit there it was like I was part of the family,” Mitchell told NBCSports.com.

Something else that stuck out to Mitchell was that he felt he was a priority for Charleston Southern from the start, and that had an impact on his decision to not only commit there but eschew any advances from high profile programs before making things official on Friday.

Among those who looked to work their way into the mix late were Missouri and Louisiana Tech.

As a freshman at Pearl River, Mitchell averaged 14.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Mitchell, who attended Callaway HS in Jackson, Mississippi, can fill multiple roles on the perimeter due to his ability to both score and distribute the basketball. And given his production thus far, the expectation is that Mitchell will arrive on campus ready to help head coach Barclay Radebaugh keep the Buccaneers in the discussion amongst the top teams in the Big South.

Big South moving 2016 conference tournament

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The Big South is moving its 2016 men’s basketball tournament out of Coastal Carolina and a new site will be figured out by November. According to a release from the conference the Big South is using a league bylaw that stipulates that members leaving with less than two years of notice are not eligible to host championships. Coastal Carolina announced this summer that it would be leaving for the Sun Belt as of July 2016, so the Big South wants to find a new location that benefits teams staying in the league.

The Big South men’s and women’s conference tournaments are now also going to be split into two unique events, with the men’s championships being held Thursday-Sunday, March 3-6. The women’s event comes the next week from March 10-13. Bids for both events will come into the league and a new location will be selected in the next few months.

It will be interesting to see if the site of the conference tournament is moved to a campus site or placed at a neutral venue. That type of thing could alter how the NCAA tournament autobid gets played out. With Coastal Carolina coming off of back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, this obviously changes their approach to the postseason now that they have to leave their city.

Campbell rewards walk-on guard Casey Perrin with scholarship (VIDEO)

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While walk-ons tend to do much of what scholarship players are asked to do, there’s the noticeable lack of assistance with their college tuition that can make the situation a difficult one for many who take that path. That’s why so many get the respect of their teammates and coaches for the hard work they put in, with few seeing much playing time either.

Campbell showed its appreciation for walk-on guard Casey Perrin during the team’s trip to Ireland, with head coach Kevin McGeehan informing Perrin prior to the team’s game that he would be on scholarship for his senior season. The reactions from both Perrin and his teammates, who are genuinely happy for him, are great.

h/t CBS Sports