The Big South standings seem to have a lot in common with the weather in this part of the country these days.
If you don’t like what’s going on, wait five minutes.
We had another significant Saturday in league play, with new ties forming in second and seventh places. Just one week remains in the conference slate, and there are still many unanswered questions. Here’s what we know:
- Asheville, Winthrop, Liberty — and, as of Saturday, Gardner-Webb — have clinched first-round byes. As you’re undoubtedly aware from reading this space in prior weeks, there will be two play-in games (we’ll discuss who is slated for those games in a bit) at campus sites next Tuesday night. High Point is currently in the most advantageous position of any remaining club to lock up a day off next Tuesday, needing just one win in its final two games (vs. Campbell Thursday, vs. Gardner-Webb Saturday) to achieve the feat.
- Presbyterian and Longwood will play first-round games. The Blue Hose will be the tenth seed and the Lancers ninth, with both set to hit the road next Tuesday night.
What might happen?
Atop the league, we essentially have three scenarios.
The Most Likely (statistically)
Asheville wins out this week. Winthrop wins out. Liberty defeats Longwood, but loses at Asheville.
Result: Asheville wins the league and hosts the tournament quarterfinals and semifinals. Winthrop finishes second. Liberty finishes third.
Asheville loses one of two, at Gardner-Webb or hosting Liberty. Winthrop wins out. Liberty wins out or goes 1-1.
Result: If Asheville loses to Gardner-Webb and Gardner-Webb finishes ahead of High Point in the league standings (thanks to our good friend Jeremy for that last caveat), Winthrop wins the league and hosts the quarterfinals and semifinals, by virtue of a tiebreaker. Asheville finishes second. Liberty finishes third. If Asheville loses to Liberty, Winthrop wins a three-team tiebreaker, with Asheville second and Liberty third.
The Doomsday Scenario
Asheville loses at Gardner-Webb and at home against Liberty. Winthrop loses twice. Liberty wins out.
Result: Liberty wins the league and hosts the quarters and semis. Asheville finishes second. Winthrop finishes third.
There are several additional variations of this — Winthrop could very easily get clipped by a surging Charleston Southern squad, for instance — but those are the three most likely at the top of the standings.
Now, to the middle and bottom…
- Gardner-Webb will play in the 4-5 game. The Runnin’ Bulldogs’ win against Radford cannot be overstated, in terms of importance. Tim Craft’s squad looked to be in real trouble going into last week, but a home win over the Highlanders and a convincing finish at Presbyterian (more on this in a bit) has a 10-plus win season in league play back in the realm of possibility. The main advantage for which the ‘Dogs will play this week is the right to wear the white jerseys in their first tournament game.
- High Point needs a win — we mentioned that. High Point is a fairly significant favorite against Campbell Thursday, and a coin-flip, one-point favorite against Gardner-Webb Saturday. If the Panthers win both of those games — or maybe even just one, depending on what Gardner-Webb does — they’ll finish fourth. If they somehow lose both, things get complicated.
- Radford has the inside track on the sixth — and final — bye. That could change, however, depending on what happens this week. The Highlanders are a favorite against Presbyterian, but KenPom has them losing next Saturday against Campbell. That could throw everything into upheaval, because the Camels could pull even with Radford with two wins, and Kevin McGeehan’s club would own a two-team tiebreaker there.
- Charleston Southern can still avoid a play-in game. Sure, it will take wins at Winthrop and Longwood for Barclay Radebaugh’s charges to pull this off, but the Bucs can still get it done. CSU doesn’t have a tiebreaker over any of the teams against whom they’re battling, so they would need to win out, have Radford lose twice and Campbell lose once.
So yeah, virtually all of the 10 remaining league games have pretty serious significance. Buckle up, friends.
If the season closed today:
First-Round Games (at campus sites – Tuesday, February 28)
#10 Presbyterian (1-15) at #7 Campbell (6-10)
#9 Longwood (3-13) at #8 Charleston Southern (6-10)
Quarterfinals (at regular-season champion – Thursday, March 2)
Presbyterian/Campbell winner vs. #2 Winthrop (13-3)
#6 Radford (7-9) vs. #3 Liberty (13-3)
#4 Gardner-Webb (9-7) vs. #5 High Point (8-8)
Longwood/Charleston Southern winner vs. #1 UNC Asheville (14-2)
Semifinals (at regular-season champion – Friday, March 3)
Presbyterian/Campbell-Winthrop winner vs. Radford-Liberty winner, 6pm
High Point/Gardner-Webb winner vs. Longwood-CSU/UNC Asheville, 8pm
Finals (at highest remaining seed – Sunday, March 5)
Championship game, 1pm, ESPN
Players of the Week – February 20
Winthrop’s Xavier Cooks took home Player of the Week honors. The Aussie junior recorded double-doubles in both contests last week, including a 21-point, 20-rebound performance in a win at Longwood last Wednesday. He then followed up that performance with a 14-point, 13-board outing against Liberty Saturday afternoon. Big South Media Relations Director Mark Simpson also noted the significance of Cooks’ performance in Farmville.
Charleston Southern guard Christian Keeling took home the Come Ready Nutrition Freshman of the Week award for an incredible sixth time this season. The Augusta, Ga. native led the Bucs to two wins last week, with performances of 22 points, eight boards and 14 points, eight boards against Campbell and High Point, respectively. Keeling’s free throw also provided the winning margin against the Panthers on Saturday. Keeling’s performance also earned him nomination for the Player of the Week award, which ultimately went to Cooks.
Winthrop 84, Liberty 67
Liberty outscored Winthrop, 59-58, over the game’s final 28 minutes. Winthrop, however, started the game on a 26-8 run that helped it hold off the co-league leader. For more on this game, including stats and postgame audio, check out our game story.
UNC Asheville 66, Campbell 53
Campbell guard and league-leading scorer Chris Clemons missed the contest due to injury, and his absence was felt in the loss. Asheville held the Camels to just 12 points on just 5-of-27 shooting in the first half. David Robertson and Will Weeks combined for 41 of the Bulldogs’ 66 points. Three Camels finished in double digits, as Shane Whitfield and Marcus Burk scored 14 apiece, while Cory Gensler added 11.
Radford 79, Longwood 72
Longwood’s Khris Lane had a monster afternoon, pouring in 32 points and hauling in six boards in 40 minutes, but the Lancers fell just short against the Highlanders. Ed Polite, Jr. recorded a double-double for Radford (18 points, 10 b0ards), and was one of four double-digit Highlanders. Donald Hicks led RU with 19 points, while Christian Bradford scored 13 and Justin Cousin 11. Isaiah Walton scored 16 and D.J. Allen 14 for the Lancers.
Charleston Southern 76, High Point 75
As mentioned above, Christian Keeling hit the game-winning free throw for the Bucs, as they scored a mild upset over High Point and kept themselves alive in the race for a first-round bye in the conference tournament. Keeling’s 14 points were bettered only on his club by Rae Robinson’s 15, with Patrick Wallace (12) and Armel Potter (11) contributing double-digit totals for CSU. High Point’s Andre Fox and Tarique Thompson combined to lead all scorers with 19 apiece. Anthony Lindauer scored 11 and Miles Bowman, Jr. 10 for the Panthers.
Gardner-Webb 84, Presbyterian 56
The Runnin’ Bulldogs and Blue Hose played a back-and-forth affair for much of the night Saturday — Gardner-Webb led by just seven points with 12 minutes remaining — before the ‘Dogs pulled away with a 33-12 run to close the game. GWU forced 23 Blue Hose turnovers, converting those pilfers into 30 points. PC guard Will Adams led all scorers with 21 points, adding seven boards to his total. Five ‘Dogs finished in doubles. For more on this game, check out our game story.
This Week’s Games (all times Eastern and broadcasts on BigSouthSports.com, unless otherwise noted)
Thursday, February 23
Charleston Southern at Winthrop, 6:30
Campbell at High Point, 7
Longwood at Liberty, 7 (MASN)
Presbyterian at Radford, 7
UNC Asheville at Gardner-Webb, 9 (ESPNU)
Saturday, February 25
Liberty at UNC Asheville, 2 (ASN)
Gardner-Webb at High Point, 4
Radford at Campbell, 4:30
Winthrop at Presbyterian, 4:30 (ESPN3)
Charleston Southern at Longwood, 5