If we have anything like last season’s Big South tournament, those who plan to be in attendance need to pack their nitroglycerin pills.
Last postseason, the first five games went down to the final possession or were decided in overtime, consuming many work days as the first two games on both Wednesday and Friday were in the middle of the afternoon.
This season, expect the same excitement with the automatic bid up for grabs.
The official Big South Tournament bracket pic.twitter.com/15BrZFeIdr— Kyle Neptune’s Burner (@marchmayhem54) February 26, 2023
Note: All games are at the Boplex in Charlotte. All times Eastern.
First Round (Wednesday, March 1), ESPN+
Game 1: No. 9 Charleston Southern vs. No. 8 High Point, 6 p.m.
Game 2: No. 10 Presbyterian vs. No. 7 Campbell, 8 p.m.
Quarterfinals (Friday, March 3), ESPN+
Game 3: Game 1 Winner vs. No. 1 UNC Asheville, Noon
Game 4: No. 5 Gardner-Webb vs. No. 4 USC Upstate, 2 p.m.
Game 5: Game 2 Winner vs. No. 2 Longwood, 6 p.m.
Game 6: No. 6 Winthrop vs. No. 3 Radford, 8 p.m.
Semifinals (Saturday, March 4), ESPN+
Game 7: Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner, Noon
Game 8: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner, 2 p.m.
Finals (Sunday, March 5), ESPN2
Game 9: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner, 1 p.m.
UNC Asheville (24-7, 16-2): Led by a special player in Drew Pember, this team had signs of a special season after beating UCF in game one.
Pember scored 40 points, leading the Bulldogs to their highest-ranked win since December 2015. A couple of months later, he backed up that performance with 48 points against Presbyterian, leading the Bulldogs to a 10-1 start to Big South play.
They eased to a conference regular season title not only because of him but the team's league-leading defense and 3-point shooting — both win championships.
Longwood (20-11, 12-6): The core of last season’s NCAA Tournament team returned and put together another impressive season. When holding their opponents to less than 70 points, the Lancers finished with a 14-3 record. The success on the defensive end oftentimes relied on turnovers, a strong suit of the program that ranked fourth in the country in non-steal turnover percentage.
The Long Shots
Radford (18-13, 12-6): The Highlanders have possibly the best one-two punch in the league with DaQuan Smith and Bryan Antoine but have lost three of the last four since head coach Darris Nichols was arrested for a DUI.
USC Upstate (15-14, 10-8): One of the hottest teams in the country, Upstate has won six of the last seven. Jordan Gainey is playing like an all-league guard on both ends of the ball, averaging 15.1 points per game while ranking first in the league in steal percentage.
Gardner-Webb (15-15, 10-8): The Runnin’ Bulldogs have an elite defense, ranking in the top 100 of eight KenPom categories. They’ve gotten cold though, losing four straight games after a 10-4 start to league play.
Winthrop (15-16, 10-8): Winthrop has the strongest offense in the league, ranking in the top 20 of the country in both effective field goal percentage and 3-point shooting. They’ve won four straight games, hitting their stride at the right time of the season.
High Point (14-16, 6-12): A lot was expected out of this team after its 8-1 start with the return of two potential all-league players in Jaden House and Zack Austin. Once mid-December hit, the Panthers lost eight straight games and opened league play with an 0-5 record. They’ve found their season-opening form over the last two weeks though, winning three of the last four.
Charleston Southern (9-20, 5-13): If this core sticks around, the Buccaneers could be a legitimate Big South contender in a year or two. Their problem this season is a lack of defense, finishing with a bottom-five defense in the country.
Players to Watch
Drew Pember, UNC Asheville (20.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 46.8% FG%)
Taijon Jones, UNC Asheville (14.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 51.4% FG%)
Isaiah Wilkins, Longwood (13.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 45.8% FG%)
DaQuan Smith, Radford (13.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 42.1% FG%)
Bryan Antoine, Radford (11.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 46.5% FG%)
Jordan Gainey, USC Upstate (15.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 39.6% FG%)
D.Q. Nichols, Gardner-Webb (12.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 46.0% FG%)
Anthony Selden, Gardner-Webb (11.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 47.9% FG%)
Kelton Talford, Winthrop (16.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 67.2% FG%)
Corey Hightower, Winthrop (13.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 43.4% FG%)
Sin’Cere McMahon, Winthrop (13.7 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 39.3% FG%)
Ricky Clemons, Campbell (14.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 50.2% FG%)
Jaden House, High Point (17.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 43.0% FG%)
Zack Austin, High Point (14.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 44.3% FG%)
Abdoulaye Thiam, High Point (13.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 42.3% FG%)
Claudell Harris Jr, Charleston Southern (17.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 47.3% FG%)
Tahlik Chavez, Charleston Southern (11.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 36.3% FG%)
Taje’ Kelly, Charleston Southern (10.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 58.4% FG%)
Tyeree Bryan, Charleston Southern (10.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 45.5% FG%)
There won’t be as much drama as last March, but Longwood-Winthrop will be an instant classic in the semifinals. The Eagles will get revenge on the Lancers but fall to UNC Asheville in the finals, as Pember finally makes a NCAA Tournament.