Big South Conference Looks to Produce This Years Cinderella

October 31, 2014
By Kevin Russell
 big south logo
    While many people across the country are not familiar with the Big South Conference, it has the potential this season to be one of the better and more exciting Mid Major Conferences in all of college basketball.  With multiple top performers from a year ago returning, the level of talent in the Big South will be at an all time high.
    Do you know the name Gregg Marshall?  Well just about a decade ago he was leading Winthrop University, a member of the Big South, to multiple appearances in the NCAA tournament.  Coastal Carolina nearly shocked the world last year, holding a half time lead against number one-seeded Virginia.  And who can forget UNC Asheville taking Syracuse down to the wire in the 2012 tournament.  Folks the Big South Conference may not be filled with house hold players or programs , but it always seems to produce competitors.
    This season the conference is wide open.  There are at least six teams that are strong candidates to walk away with the title and a few more that might have a shot if things break their way.  Coastal Carolina was voted the favorite heading into the season, as they return nearly everyone from their 2013-14  championship squad, but so do a lot of other teams in the conference.
     It starts with High Point and preseason player of the year John Brown.  The Panthers much like the Chanticleers return 85 percent of their scoring from a season ago, along with the human highlight reel in Brown, but that does not mean guaranteed success.    This league is about more than just having one guy who can take over a game.  In the Big South  you need a whole team of guys to win, as no player, Brown included is good enough to win on his own.  Devante Wallace  will try to help Brown out this season, along with newcomer Miles Bowman.  Wallace led the conference in three-point percentage last season, while Bowman averaged 20 and 10 last season at the JUCO level.
    Over the past few seasons the team to win the Big South has a good mix of inside and outside play.  The UNC Asheville teams from a few years back got great guard play, from Matt Dickey and JP Primm, but also had great big men in Jeremy Atkinson and DJ Cunningham.   During Liberty’s great run in 2013 they had a great mix between their guards and big men, and the same statement is true for last years’ Coastal Carolina team.
    Who could be that team to shine without  a so-called superstar like Brown? Look no further than  the Winthrop Eagles.  Last season the Eagles made a run to the conference tournament finals, but ran out of gas against Coastal.  This season, the third under head coach Pat Kelsey, the Eagles much like Coastal and High Point bring back everyone.  While the Eagles do have second- team All – Conference guard Keon Moore, who some might say is on the verge of being a superstar, they also bring back Keon Johnson and Andre Smith.  Both Smith and Johnson were major contributors last season and you can expect both to produce once again this season.
    The big question surrounding Winthrop  comes from a potential newcomer,  Zach Price.  Price, a transfer from Missouri, is still awaiting his eligibility status from  the NCAA.  If Price is ruled eligible this season it will be a huge boost to the Eagles front court and could very well make them the team to beat.
    Radford and Charleston Southern are two other teams that on paper would seem to have a great mix of talent in the front and back courts.  Radford brings back an extremely athletic lineup highlighted by Javonte Green, while Charleston Southern brings back maybe two of the best guards in the conference in Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper.  The key for these two teams will be staying healthy, as neither could seem to keep all of their talent on the floor last season.
    The main key to success in this conference is balance which is why it is so hard to predict a winner before watching teams play.  Before the season starts it is easy to predict the stars, but it is hard to predict the role players or the glue guys. In the end it these players that will determine if a team will realize its dreams of dancing come March.
    The Big South will be a fun conference to watch this year and will surprise some people in terms of talent and competitiveness.  Don’t be surprised at all if a Big South team is talked about as trendy upset  pick or  “Cinderella” come tournament time.
 
Big South Conference Preseason Poll
 
Team (first-place votes)
 
 
Total Points
1.  Coastal Carolina (14)
297
2.  High Point (12)
293
3.  Radford (1)
233
4.  Winthrop
221
5.  Charleston Southern (1)
199
6.  UNC Asheville (1)
191
7.  Gardner-Webb
168
8.  Campbell
113
9.  Liberty
85
10.  Presbyterian College
67
11.  Longwood
47
 
First-Team
John Brown, High Point – R-Jr. – F – 6-8 – 205 – Jacksonville, Fla.
Javonte Green, Radford – Sr. – F – 6-4 – 205 – Petersburg, Va.
Andrew Rowsey, UNC Asheville – Soph. – G – 5-10 – 175 – Lexington, Va.
Warren Gillis, Coastal Carolina – Sr. – G – 6-3 – 205 – Philadelphia, Pa.
Saah Nimley, Charleston Southern – Sr. – G – 5-8 – 158 – Lawrenceville, Ga.

Second-Team
Jordan Downing, Presbyterian College – R-Sr. – G/F – 6-5 – 205 – Huntersville, N.C. 
Jerome Hill, Gardner-Webb – Jr. – F – 6-5 – 210 – Adel, Ga.
Keon Moore, Winthrop – R-Sr. – G – 6-5 – 190 – Windsor, N.C.
Elijah Wilson, Coastal Carolina – Soph. – G – 6-4 – 205 – Wilmington, N.C.
Arlon Harper, Charleston Southern – Sr.-  G – 6-2 – 180 – College Park, Ga

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