The NCAA Basketball season has arrived at conference tournament time! Many of the smaller conferences have now concluded their regular seasons and this week will be filled with plenty of tournament play. The second conference to tip off with an automatic bid on the line will be the Big South Conference.
The conference was up for grabs up until the very last day of the regular season. Winthrop and UNC Asheville would end the season with identical conference records. Thanks to a tie-breaker, Winthrop earned the top seed in this tournament. However, it has been UNC Asheville that has been seen as the best team by most of the experts throughout the season.
Things will tip-off on Tuesday, February 28th. Games will continue through March 5th. The bottom four teams will square off on day one for a chance to play the top two seeds. You can check out the seedings and bracket below.
(2) UNC Asheville
(5) High Point
(8) Charleston Southern
JUST ANNOUNCED: The 2017 #BigSouthMBB🏀 Championship bracket!
— BigSouthMBB (@BigSouthMBB) February 26, 2017
First up we have Charleston Southern taking on Longwood, with the chance to take on Winthrop. To put this kindly, Longwood might be one of the worst team’s in the country. With a created possession margin sitting around negative 11, I see Charleston Southern taking this one with ease, 84-67. While I do not think Winthrop will run over Charleston Southern as easily as most expect, they shoot the ball better and play much better defense. Give me the one seed, 75-70.
Now to the flip side of the bracket. Campbell will take on Presbyterian for the right to take on UNC Asheville. Both clubs are pretty bad statistically. The big difference comes in the form of being able to shoot threes, while their opponents are terrible at defending them. I’m going with Campbell, 76-63. Then comes UNC Asheville, who like Winthrop, will not roll over their opponent as easily as expected. But just like that Winthrop game, I am taking the favorite by the score of 75-70.
Now for the right to take on Winthrop we have Gardner-Webb and High Point. This may be the most entertaining game of the tournament. Both of these teams have the potential to be this conference’s sleeper team in this tournament. If only Gardner-Webb could hit free throws, they could be a threat to get the automatic bid. I do see them pulling this one out, beating High Point by the score of 71-69.
On the flip side of the bracket, we have Liberty and Radford going at it. This one will not have the same excitement as the previous game, as Radford is not that good. Liberty will use its superior shooting and defense to cruise to an ugly 69-64 win.
Now we enter the semi-finals of the Big South Conference Tournament. Gardner-Webb will take on Winthrop. Gardner-Webb is going to be in control most of the game, well on their way to an upset victory. But then their porous free throw shooting will come back to haunt them. Winthrop survives the scare, winning 74-72.
With Winthrop set for the finals, it is time to determine if they will square off with Liberty or UNC Asheville. I think the key to this game will be the created possession margin. Given Liberty tends to allow their opponents more possessions a game and UNC Asheville averages roughly three extra over their opponents, the points earned in those possessions will be the difference. Give me UNC Asheville 72-68.
No surprises here as the top two teams square off for the automatic bid in this one-bid conference. UNC Asheville is the better offesive team while Winthrop relies more so on defense. It will be a back and forth game that will see its fair share of lead changes. But when all is said and done, UNC Asheville will prove they are the top team in the Big South Conference. Final score, UNC Asheville 73 – Winthrop 72.
So there you have it. That is how I forsee the Big South Conference Tournament playing out based on the numbers. Who do you see winning a seat in the NCAA Tournament? Tell us in the comments!