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Big South Conference Reset: Winthrop, High Point look like contenders

We take a look at the Big South as the conference strictly turns to conference play from here on out.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Non-conference play is in the books and we take a look at the Big South Conference as league play begins in a conference typically full of parity.

Current Big South Standings

School Overall Record Conference Record
Winthrop Eagles 9-3 2-0
High Point Panthers 9-4 2-0
UNC Asheville Bulldogs 8-5 1-0
Campbell Fighting Camels 7-5 1-1
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 7-5 1-1
Radford Highlanders 8-6 1-1
Gardner-Webb Bulldogs 6-8 1-1
Charleston Southern Buccaneers 5-8 1-1
Longwood Lancers 4-10 0-1
Presbyterian Blue Hose 5-8 0-2
Liberty Flames 3-12 0-2

Player of the Year Candidates

John Brown, High Point: John Brown probably has enough personal accolades and is solely focused on March but the Panthers senior continues with his impressive career. Thus far Brown is averaging 18.7 points, 7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.1 blocks, and 1.6 steals per game. The emergence of Lorenzo Cugini and a more solid supporting cast have helped Brown have more well rounded numbers this season.

Keon Johnson, Winthrop: Pat Kelsey has his Winthrop Eagles scoring in droves with a new high paced, run and gun offense. Leading that offense is Keon Johnson with 20.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. It'll be interesting if the maestro of the Eagles' high octane offense can finally get Kelsey's squad over the hump.

DeSean Murray, Presbyterian: The reigning Big South Freshman of the Year is playing seven less minutes per game this season but has picked up where he left off leading the conference in scoring with 20.7 points per outing. The 6'5 sophomore has also posted three double-doubles and is averaging over 7 rebounds per game. PC hasn't beaten a Division I team since November 21 but Murray will keep the Blue Hose a pesky squad in conference play.

Chris Clemons, Campbell: Chris Clemons is definitely the front-runner for Freshman of the Year but if he can somehow keep the Camels on track he may be in the discussion for even bigger awards. Clemons efforts will have Campbell heading into the new year with a winning record for the first time since 2011-12. The 5'9 freshman is averaging 17.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game.

Tyrell Nelson, Gardner-Webb: Tyrell Nelson was a solid performer a year ago and all of his numbers are up despite the Bulldogs 6-8 mark.  Nelson is averaging 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game.

Rashun Davis, Radford: The Highlanders senior has shown a propensity to play big in big moments this year and is averaging 14.1 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game for Mike Jones. He's rounded into the Big South's most complete guard at the moment.


High Point: Same old song and dance for Scott Cherry as he has another quality squad lead by John Brown.  Lorenzo Cugini is having a heck of a year but the whole season's success will be pinned on the Panthers performance in the Big South Tournament where they have historically wilted.

Winthrop: Pat Kelsey's Eagles have blossomed into one the nation's most fun teams to watch. Zach Price hasn't been as good as advertised but the Eagles deep roster and style of play have more than made up for it. The biggest question at this point is if a run and gun squad like this can vary its style or stay hot enough to win three straight in March?

Better than Expected

Radford: The Highlanders have been the biggest surprise to me after losing so much last season to graduation.  Mike Jones' squad is right in the thick of the Big South race again and has quality wins over Georgetown, Penn State, and UNC Wilmington.  Their accomplishments are even more impressive given they've played the toughest slate out of anyone in the conference thus far. If Kion Brown and Brandon Holcomb could get things going in the post then the Highlanders could be really dangerous in the Big South race.

Campbell: Kevin McGeehan sent a bit of a warning shot to the conference when the Camels knocked off Coastal Carolina in the November conference match up. The orange and black then got throttled by Asheville by 20 points. It's hard to say whether or not the Camels are for real as they've played the conference's easiest schedule at a 338 ranking nationally.  McGeehan's squad is greatly improved though and should be a factor in conference play more this season.

UNC Asheville: The Bulldogs competing in the Big South shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone but Asheville has become a more complete team this season with Andrew Rowsey leaving. Four of Nick McDevitt's top five scorers are underclassmen and their seems to be plenty of upside with this Bulldogs squad.

As Expected

Gardner-Webb: GWU has regressed a bit with Tyler Strange and Jerome Hill moving on.  They still have a solid core with Adonis Burbage, Tyrell Nelson, and Harold McBride but the Bulldogs have been throttled by a hard schedule and missed opportunities for wins against VMI and Army. Tim Craft's squad needs to learn how to take advantage of those opportunities in conference play.

Presbyterian: The Blue Hose started off hot but have cooled off recently.  This team looks to continue to be that pesky squad towards the bottom of the Big South.  Reggie Dillard really hasn't rounded back into form yet after missing a season due to injury.

Liberty: Liberty is bad, but we expected that in Ritchie McKay's first year. It's clear that the team is more well coached this season and the Flames should grab a few surprising victories in conference play. Evan Maxwell has been one of the conference's biggest surprises averaging 13.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.


Coastal Carolina: Really this decision comes down to the early Campbell loss and Coastal is still very much a contender for the Big South title. It's hard to say how good Coastal is, they hung with Wake Forest and Auburn but got beaten soundly by Nevada and Hawaii. This seems like a team that isn't as solid as Cliff Ellis' prior versions and they won't have the luxury of a home tournament this year.

Longwood: The Lancers 4-10 mark is certainly disappointing but it's been a rash of bad luck for Jayson Gee that has really hurt. On paper this is Longwood's most talented team since turning Division I but eight different key contributors have missed games due to injuries and the Lancers have never had their core rotation fully intact. Starting point guard Tra'Vaughn White returned last week but then Longwood immediately lost starters Kanayo Obi-Rapu and Leron Fisher. Longwood still has arguably the conference's best frontcourt with Lotanna Nwogbo, Khris Lane, and Shaquille Johnson and should still have a say in the conference when everyone is healthy and in rhythm.