All first round games are played at home sites of the higher seeds:
#8 Gardner-Webb at #1 Coastal Carolina - PR Projected Line: Coastal Carolina -11.5
The Desmond Holloway suspension is still intact as of this morning while the NCAA continues its investigation but his status for tonight’s game remains unclear. Holloway’s 18.5 ppg leads the team and he shoots 50.2% from the field. With the junior guard, Coastal is the favorite to advance on to the NCAA Tournament…without him they’re very beatable. They are currently down to seven scholarship players and a walk-on after having lost starting power forward Mike Holmes five games ago (suspension) and starting point guard Kierre Greenwood four games ago (ACL).
Season Series: Gardner-Webb went to Coastal Carolina just 14 days ago and even with Holloway in the starting lineup, GW pulled off the 59-57 upset. The other meeting between these teams was also close as Coastal won 58-55 at Gardner-Webb.
#6 Charleston Southern at #3 NC-Asheville – PR Projected Line: NC-Ashville -6.5
Each team enters this contest fairly hot going 3-1 straight up down the stretch. Charleston Southern narrowly missed going 4-0 as they lost 81-77 to Coastal Carolina on the last day of the regular season. Biggest difference between these teams is on the defensive end where UNC-Ashville held league opponents to just 40.3% shooting while Charleston Southern allowed 48% or better in six of their final nine games. CSU is the league’s #1 free throw shooting team at 76.4% while UNCA ranks #2 in FG% with an impressive 47.7% mark.
Season Series: Each team held serve at home with Asheville winning 77-69 on Jan 22nd and Charleston Southern winning 79-70. The game totals of 146 & 149 should be noted as well as the fact that UNC-Ashville shot 52.7% and 49.1% in those meetings.
#5 Winthrop at #4 VMI – PR Projected Line: VMI -6
There is no hotter team than VMI in the Big South right now as the Keydets ride a five game conference winning streak into this one. Head Coach Duggar Buacom cites a team meeting after their loss on February 5th at Coastal Carolina as the turning point. VMI’s warp speed identity is the same it has been the past few years as they rank second in KenPom’s tempo ratings but they are now at least attempting to get a few defensive stops. Winthrop closed the season heading the opposite direction losing four of their final five but all four losses were by five points or less. The losses also came against three of this tournament’s top four seeds while the other was on Bracket Buster Saturday against Ohio U.
Season Series: This is a quick turnaround for these teams who just played each other Saturday afternoon at Winthrop with VMI winning 89-85. The initial contest was back on December 2nd and Winthrop won right here at VMI 88-82.
#7 High Point at #2 Liberty : PR Projected Line: Liberty -11
Liberty stumbles in as losers of four consecutive games and while many believe they’re capable of winning this tournament, there is some concern about their psyche. The Flames have gone 7-1 straight up on this court with four of the wins by 11 or more and six of them by eight or more. Due to decimating frontcourt losses (starting forwards Corey Law and De’Vaughn Maxwell combined for 300 total rebounds and 15.4 points per game), High Point has shifted to a four guard lineup the past three games. The last two results were 14 & 24 point conference road losses but the team is keeping a positive attitude.
Season Series: Liberty swept the season series by winning 66-60 at home on January 13th with High Point at full strength. They then notched a 65-54 road victory on February 12th with Maxwell in the lineup but Law out. The game totals were obviously very low in each as 126 and 119 points were produced but it will be interesting to see if the extremely small High Point lineup brings about a change in those results.