Presbyterian at Radford (Big South)
D.N. Dedmon Center - Radford, VA
Saturday, 7:00 PM EST
There are some fascinating contests that will shape league races on Saturday, mostly games that pit a runaway leader with a team that may or may not be capable of knocking them down a half-peg -- most specifically this
. But we're long overdue for a Big South shout
, a visit to a conference that was ruled by Winthrop for a decade but is now experiencing one of the best one-bid league races in all of Hoops Nation.
The Big South made an early splash with VMI's win at Kentucky
, followed by the Keydets' newfound solid play
-- that's a team with 18 overall wins so far. But tied with the Runnin' Roos at the top of the Big South charts is Radford (12-10, 9-2), which has ascended in true stealth mode. The Highlanders did not beat a single Division I team in nonconference play, and would have been oh-fer if not for glorified exhibitions with Brevard, Bridgewater and Shenandoah. But safely in the confines of the league, Radford has unleashed a pair of weapons that no other BSC team can match: a pair of big guys who can score. Artsiom Parakhouski
, a 6-10, 260-lb. Belarusian, is one of only nine players nationally averaging a double-double (14.4 ppg, 10.7 rpg). A nice complement is the considerably more athletic Joey Lynch-Flohr
(19 points on 8-for-8 shooting vs. run-and-gun VMI
to Parakhouski's two should give you a clue), a Fairfax County native from up the road who's contributing 14 ppg. Bad news for best-comeback-of-2010 aspirant Winthrop and the rest of the league: both are juniors.
Then there's Presbyterian, which embarked on one of the most symmetrical seasons in history last year (5-0 at home, 0-20 on the road) in its Division I debut. Division II teams hoping to make the jump after the NCAA moratorium expires use the Blue Hose as inspiration (much more so than they use NJIT as a cautionary tale, anyway) -- with a conference home, they've compiled a 7-4 Big South mark and have already doubled their 2008-09 overall win total. It's an impressive team to watch: they hit 3's at a 39 percent clip, and have a low-post player in Al'Lonzo Coleman (14.4 ppg) who can seemingly hit a four-foot shot whenever he feels like it. But as like all transitionals, they're not eligible to Dance quite yet. So head coach Gregg Nibert, following the lead of North Dakota State, is planning to redshirt nearly his current sophomore class next year, including Coleman, so they'll all get a shot at the NCAA tournament in 2011-12. Note to the NJIT's of the world: to make it at this level, sometimes you've got to get a little crazy.
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