High Point at Winthrop (Big South)
Winthrop Coliseum - Rock Hill, SC
7:00 PM EST
This is a season for big changes in mid-majordom, and most are not necessarily the positive kind that our president-elect talks about. There have been massive shifts in power as multi-bid conferences like the Valley, WAC and CAA struggle to retain their national relevance, a situation exacerbated by the dwindling number of chances
against the nation's top teams. Brand names like Bucknell and VCU are having worlds of trouble maintaining BracketBusting consistency, and Davidson fans are surely fearing a dropoff that looks inevitable whenever superstar Stephen Curry plays his last game there. And then, of course, there's Winthrop.
Anybody who fills out a bracket in March knows the name, as it's been drilled into their consciousness nearly every year for the last decade. But the perennial Big South champions are 2-10 on the young season, with a 1-2 league record that includes blowout road losses to VMI
-- teams the Eagles chewed up and spit out for years. Last season, teams couldn't score 60 points against them, now they're often having trouble reaching that number themselves (60.5 PA), and the defense isn't forcing the turnovers like it used to. The reason why Winthrop is so down is because simple college reality caught up to it: there are no seniors in the regular rotation, and just three juniors (including leading scorer Cameron Stanley
, with a modest 11.2 ppg). It's a young team, and will grow up in the face the brunt of the league's anger. After all, the Eagles have been rubbing the Big South's collective nose in the mud for a long time, and they won't get any mercy.
Even though they lost, often badly, High Point has been the Eagles' most consistent rival during the past decade -- mostly due to the fact that the Panthers showed the least fear of any Big South team. Between on-court confrontations, nasty recruiting battles and back-and-forth trash talk, High Point has never backed down from Winthrop. This year, however, they're in the same boat, and a three-year streak with winning marks (including a 22-10 campaign in 2006-07) seems doomed to end. HPU hasn't found a replacement for two-time conference POY Arizona Reid
, and probably won't for a while. In the interim, the team's 4-9 record conceals a 1-9 record against Division I teams, with only a win over North Carolina Central
to date. The offense has been just as woeful as WU's, with a paltry .828 points scored per possession (325th among 343). It's a long road back for both teams, but there will be rewards for those who stick with these teams during these times.Basketball State Preview/Box