We've finally made it, it's time for some basketball! Many think the Big South is poised to be one of the most tightly fought conferences in the nation this year and this week we'll get our first glimpse at many of the teams.
Week 1 Storylines
We have seen four Big South teams take the floor so far this season in exhibition match ups with non-Division I opponents. Three of the four teams cruised to victory while one struggled to pull out a win.
Longwood was likely the most anxious team to get on the floor this past weekend to take on crosstown rival Hampden-Sydney. The Lancers cruised to a 95-60 win lead by UAB transfer Quincy Taylor who dropped 22 points and 6 assists in his Longwood debut. Longwood was also on fire from three point range going 17-for-26 on the night lead by freshman Ryan Badowski who finished with six three pointers and 18 points.
The High Point Panthers took down Piedmont 89-66 but the question on everyone's mind was where was John Brown? Brown did not play in the Panthers debut and according to HPE.com it was due to a coach's decision/suspension, "he made a mistake. He owned up to it. He’s held to the same standards that everybody else is held to. He’s held accountable. So that was just a coach’s decision.". High Point was also without starting point guard Jorge Perez-Laham and new forward Miles Bowman. HPU has to be a little concerned about their rebounding as they actually tied Piedmont in the category.
The third team that cruised to victory was UNC Asheville who took down Brevard 81-58 lead by Andrew Rowsey with 18 points and 4 assists. Rowsey was a little cold from three though going just 3-for-11. Freshman Kevin Vannatta had a promising debut also posting 18 points and 3 steals.
Campbell was the team that struggled falling behind Coker 32-23 at halftime. Campbell fans had to have visions of last year's loss to Chowan running through their head but at least this game wasn't official. D.J. Mason lead the Camel to a big second half and 73-65 victory with 23 points and 6 rebounds. The most disturbing stat of the night had to be the fact that the Camels' starting backcourt of Kyre Hamer and Luke Moyer combined for zero assists on the evening.
Message Board Rumblings
It's hard to sort out truth and rumors this time of year as a lot of coaches try to keep things close to the vest going into the season. Despite that there has been some interesting tidbits from message boards around the league:
- Reco McCarter did not play in Campbell's exhibition game this past weekend. According to Fighting Camel FansMcCarter has been suspended for at least the first four games of the season. This is obviously a big blow for the Camels as McCarter is their leading returning scorer.
- UNCA Fans has a mention that the Bulldogs will likely be without Will Weeks until conference play due to injury. Weeks is definitely an integral part of Bulldogs lineup. UPDATE: The Asheville Citizen-Times confirmed Weeks is suffering from the same knee surgery that is plauging his career. (h/t @jacobanix)
- As we reported here on Tuesday, Presbyterian will be without starting point guard Reggie Dillard for the whole season. Markus Terry is thought to take over primary ball-handling duties.
- Longwood big man Jason Pimentel has been suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules. Pimentel previously played at Old Dominion and was expected to come off the Lancers bench to start the season.
Five teams could make some news this weekend if they can pull off a big upset.
UNC Asheville at Wake Forest, Friday Nov 14: The Bulldogs definitely have the firepower to take down the new look Deacons under Danny Manning but everything is going to have to click. I'm sure the Deacs will be heavily focused on Andrew Rowsey so the question is who can step up in his absences, especially without Will Weeks?
Charleston Southern at Ole Miss, Friday Nov 14 (SEC Network): I have no idea what to expect from Charleston Southern this year with the return of Saah Nimley and Arlong Harper, along with a ton of newcomers. If the Bucs can fire on all cylinders and live up to their preseason hype from some then they should have a chance in Oxford.
Radford at Richmond, Friday Nov 14: The Richmond Spiders should have their hands full Friday night when former assistant Mike Jones brings his Radford Highlanders into town. Richmond should have the advantage in the paint but can they stop all-everything Javonte Green and his supporting cast of guards in R.J. Price and YaYa Anderson?
Gardner-Webb at LSU, Saturday Nov 15 (SEC Network+): Gardner-Webb is a bit of a wildcard but Jerome Hill and Tyler Strange alone will keep them in games. Can they sneak up on the Bayou Bengals in Week 1? Maybe... They definitely won't let former UNC Asheville guard Kyle Hornsby sneak up on them in the purple and gold.
Coastal Carolina at UCLA, Sunday Nov 16 (Pac 12 Network): By all accounts Coastal Carolina's frontcourt has struggled a bit this preseason and they'll need that to change if they want to take down UCLA on their own floor. If the guards of the preseason favorites can get going then they can definitely make some noise on the left coast.
High Point in Hawaii
What will we see from Scott Cherry's High Point Panthers in Hawaii this weekend? Three games against comparable competition should be a good gauge but will the Panthers struggle in non-conference play like they did a year ago. High Point will play back-to-back days against Cal State Bakersfield and Arkansas-Pine Bluff before a 5 AM Tuesday match up with a Hawaii team in disarray. Keep an eye on HPU's shooters and if they can buoy the Panthers offense with John Brown really being the only post player.
Non-Division I Match Ups
Five Big South teams will begin their season against Non-Division I opponents at home. On Friday Liberty will host crosstown foe Randolph, Longwood takes on Averett, Campbell plays Barber-Scotia, and Coastal Carolina will play Trinity Baptist before heading to California. Winthrop will take on Pfeiffer Saturday for their annual Homecoming.
Game of the Week
UNC Asheville at East Carolina, Nov 16: UNC Asheville takes on two big in-state foes before heading home next Wednesday to host a non-D1. Some are high on the Bulldogs going into the season and others think they'll have trouble replacing the production of Jaron Lane and D.J. Cunningham. Asheville's match up Sunday with ECU should be a good early gauge to see where this team is at before their next test November 22 at East Tennessee State.