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Big South Opening Round Preview

The Big South Tournament kicks off Wednesday afternoon with three opening round games on tap in Myrtle Beach.

Matthew Alexander

With the Big South at eleven teams now the format changes a little bit and we'll have three games on Wednesday in the HTC Center outside of Myrtle Beach. All the games will be streamed live on the Big South Network.

#9 Longwood vs #8 Presbyterian, Noon

The game of the day may be the match up between the Longwood Lancers and Presbyterian Blue Hose. The two teams split the regular season series which each team pulling out a road win by the score of 71-67. Presbyterian never faced the Lancers with Lotanna Nwogbo and Longwood's win over Presbyterian came with William Truss out due to injury.

The key to victory for Longwood is containing Presbyterian on the boards now that Truss is back and that might be the duty of Jason Pimentel who has never played against the Blue Hose. Pimentel is coming off his season high in rebounds with 9 against Campbell Saturday in the Lancers' five point win. PC has kept Shaquille Johnson in check offensively most of the year but Johnson did grab 15 boards in the first two meetings. He'll need to be a presence on the boards as well with Nwogbo not returning. Simply put, the Blue Hose should have the advantage in the frontcourt with Truss and Big South Freshman of the Year DeSean Murray also adding nearly 8 rebounds per game.

Longwood did keep Murray in check the last time out with just 9 points, his third lowest output of the season. Jayson Gee's squad will be hard pressed to back up that performance again. Gee's eye may turn to Jordan Downing who has burned the Lancers in the past to the tune of 21.5 points per game in his four career meetings with Longwood. Longwood could look to maybe a bigger lineup than normal with the emergence of Pimentel to put Shaq Johnson out on the wing against Downing.

In the backcourt the advantage will go to the Lancers with Leron Fisher and Big South 2nd Teamer Quincy Taylor leading the way. Fisher had 26 points against the Blue Hose in the last meeting and is averaging 18.5 points per game in the previous two meetings this year. Both guards can bring defensive pressure that can give the Blue Hose trouble as well. The key for Longwood is getting a third guard in D.J. Allen, Ryan Badowski, or Kanayo Obi-Rapu going and contributing on the scoreboard.

The first match up of the tournament should be a good one and it's really a toss up at this point. The winner will move on to play Charleston Southern on Friday at noon.

#7 Gardner-Webb vs #10 Campbell, 2:30 PM

The second game of the day also features two teams that split the regular season series in Gardner-Webb and Campbell. The two former Atlantic Sun rivals will square off in a game that really Gardner-Webb should dominate. Frustratingly, for Bulldogs fans, GWU keeps getting away from their bread and butter and basically rushing their offense which, in turn, turns to subpar defense. GWU has the ability to win the whole tournament but it's going to take almost a mutiny of Tim Craft's system and a takeover from Tyler Strange, Tyrell Nelson, and Big South first teamer Jerome Hill.

If Gardner-Webb slows down the game and squeezes the life out of Campbell with Strange feeding Hill and Nelson in the post then they will win. GWU cannot fall into the same trap of rushing offensive possessions and jacking up ill-advised threes. It was really the Bulldogs 78-59 loss in the Creek back January that showed the weakness in Tim Craft's gameplan. The Bulldogs did struggle a bit the second time around against Campbell as well winning just 73-65 in Boiling Springs.

For Campbell to win they need to get something going from the outside and live and die from the three ball. Andrew Ryan or Curtis Phillips needs to have a career day from beyond the arc and Reco McCarter and D.J. Mason just needs to have a very solid outings. Ryan had 21 points against GWU in the first game of the year which ended up being his high watermark in the Big South this season.

Campbell showed some life last week in a 65-50 upset over Winthrop. Can they find anything to build off of to possibly upset Gardner-Webb or are the Bulldogs destined for a Friday showdown with High Point?

#6 UNC Asheville vs #11 Liberty

We have a quick rematch from Saturday's match up between Asheville and Liberty in Lynchburg. Asheville swept the season series against the Flames by a combined margin of 35 points and are likely not expecting much of a battle from the Flames once again. Asheville fans are thinking of the Bulldogs playing a dark horse role in Myrtle Beach, while Liberty fans are likely thinking about who their next head coach will be after one of the worst seasons in program history.

Five Asheville players finished in double-figures on Saturday lead by Andrew Rowsey with 27 points. Expect Liberty to once again struggle on the perimeter with Rowsey and David Robertson, who posted 17 points on Saturday. Joe Retic could possibly play more of a role on Wednesday in slowing down the Bulldogs' perimeter attack.

One place that Liberty did do well last week was on the boards where they out-rebounded Asheville. Giacomo Zilli did his job with 13 points and 7 boards but Jaleel Roberts went missing with 2 rebounds in 12 minutes for the seven footer. Watch Liberty's Andrew Smith as he's averaging 15.5 points and 10 rebounds in his last four games for the Flames.

Perhaps Dale Layer and the Flames have some kind of miracle run left in them like two years ago, but more than likely expect for Asheville to be facing Coastal Carolina on Friday night.