North Carolina-Asheville at Winthrop (Big South)Winthrop Coliseum - Rock Hill, SC7:00 PM EST
Nine teams and fourteen conference games make for a lot of floating variables; it's mathematically unlikely that a league title could come down to any single game, especially the last one of the season. But that's what we've got in the Big South, a winner-take-all No. 1 seed battle between the Eagles and Bulldogs. There are two scenarios... UNCA (9-4) wins if they can pull into a tie, because they'd own the tiebreaker based on a season sweep. Winthrop (10-3) would go two losses clear of the field with a victory with zero games to go. Because this is a conference that plays all its tourney games at the homes of higher seeds, this G!O!T!N! is H!U!G!E!.
As recently as Groundhog Day, UNCA was league-undefeated, flying high at 7-0, celebrating a crushing 71-56 win over Winthrop at home. Since then, however, the offense went off the rails, and Asheville struggled to find points in a four-game losing streak where no loss was by fewer than nine points. A couple of home games against teams with losing records made for the perfect slumpbuster, as the Bulldogs sank Charleston Southern
and Coastal Carolina
. The leading scorer against CCU was none other than 7-6 man/mountain Kenny George
(12.6 ppg, D-I leading 71.7 percent shooting), who's been playing 16-18 minutes recently, as his severely taxed knees become more accustomed to the grind.
Winthrop also had the opportunity to tuned up for this match with an easy home win over Charleston Southern
, following up their disappointing BracketBusters loss to Davidson last Friday night, in which the Eagles scored a season-low 47 points
. But there's been nothing dispiriting about the defense, which has held every opponent but one since the first UNCA game at 60 or below. (You can decide whether or not to count the 70 VMI scored against them
, playing the Keydets requires stat adjustments like pre-Humidor Coors Field). It's not as if the Eagles don't have weaponry or anything, though -- we're big fans of sophomore guard Mantoris Robinson
. The Eagles are 11-1 when he scores above his 6.1 ppg average.UNCA 63, WINT 50
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