Winthrop is heading back to the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time in 22 years.
After clinching the automatic bid last season and not being able to go to the NCAA Tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eagles dominated Campbell to clinch another bid to the big dance, 80-53.
The Camels were able to take the lead out of the gate, but it wouldn’t last much longer. They tied the game back up at 10-all at the 14:42 mark, but didn’t score a field goal for the next 7:30 off the game clock. Winthrop went on a 10-2 run, taking a half-high 20-12 lead heading into the under-eight media timeout.
The score just went up from there. Winthrop led 32-26 at the break, ultimately winning by 27, which wasn’t the Eagles’ largest of the day though as they led by as much as 31.
A lot of the domination had to do with the sharpshooting effort from D.J. Burns Jr. In last year's championship game, he dropped 16 points against Hampton. On Sunday, he scored 22, going 11 of 12 from the field. Winthrop as a team shot 62.7% from the field.
They did this as Big South Player of the Year Chandler Vaudrin did not have his best game, scoring eight and picking up 10 rebounds. I say this because during Monday’s quarterfinal he picked up his third double-double of the season, and on Thursday he was only two rebounds and an assist shy of another.
The Camels were not able to get much going in the second half, as the 27-point deficit was the largest in the Big South final since Liberty beat High Point in the 2004 installment, 89-44.
The victory handed Winthrop their second straight Big South Tournament title, as they’re on the way to their first NCAA Tournament since 2017. They lost to 4-seeded Butler in the Round of 64 that season, but this season has Winthrop fans reminiscing of 2006-2007.
Winthrop finished that season ranked No. 22 in the country, ran the table in the Big South, and upset 6-seeded Notre Dame in the first round, on Saint Patrick’s Day, 74-64. There wasn’t much luck for the Irish that day.
Once again, Winthrop was the top seed this season and made light work in a pretty chalk bracket. The only upsets were five-seeded Longwood over four-seeded UNC Asheville in the quarterfinals, and third-seeded Campbell beat 2-seed Radford in the semifinals. Winthrop would beat those Lancers in the next round by 21, 82-61, then later the Camels.
The highlight moment of the tournament happened in the first round when 7-seeded Hampton beat 10-seeded Presbyterian on a Raymond Bethea Jr. three with 2.9 seconds remaining. They would go on to lose to Radford by 15 in the next round.
Raymond Bethea Jr. sinks the contested game winning 3 for Hampton with 1 second left and sends the Hampton Pirates onto the next round in the Big South Tournament with their win over Presbyterian pic.twitter.com/SheCqCEqsz— NCAA Buzzer Beaters & Game Winners (@NCAABuzzerBters) February 27, 2021
Campbell’s run was one to be proud of, as it was their first Big South title appearance since 2017. A win would’ve given the Camels their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1992. This is a bright sign for a young program though, as five of their seven top scorers are not seniors.
Winthrop (23-1, 17-1, #87 KenPom) now awaits its NCAA Tournament seed.
A lot of “experts” have them as a 12-seed, but they could easily move up with that record. It would be their highest seed since that 2007 team that earned an 11 seed.