Posted: 5:05 a.m. Friday, April 18, 2014
By Parks Smith
It was a wild year in the Big South in 2013-14 where not a single team was able to pull away during the regular season. Expect more of the same next year, as this conference is loaded with young talent from top to bottom.
If you haven't seen the movie Big, the main character, Josh Baskin, ends up being transformed into an adult version of himself (played by Tom Hanks) by a fortune telling machine called Zoltar. And all he wanted to was to be tall enough to go on a ride at the carnival. Talk about not getting what you paid for. We don't accept quarters here, but we will look into the hazy future and hope to predict what will be coming in the 2014-15 season for our leagues. Sorry, no refunds.
The Big South was just about as tangled as it gets during the 2013-14 season and was full of young talent. How will that talent blossom in 2014-15 and who will rise to the top? That's a tough question to answer but the defending champions, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, should be a tough out just like they were in the NCAA Tournament against Virginia.
VMI departs to return to the Southern Conference which means the Big South will have 11 teams next year. That change likely means a switch to an unbalanced 18 game schedule and the end of the divisional structure.
A lot is unknown regarding the Big South heading into 2014-15 and plenty will change before November 14, but here is our best guess at how the conference will shake out.
POY:John Brown, High Point
DPOY: Javonte Green, Radford
COY: Pat Kelsey, Winthrop
There will be plenty of dark horses that will pop up on this list throughout the year but I'm expecting a real battle between John Brown and Javonte Green for Player of the Year. Radford's Green is one the conference's best and most under appreciated players and I think he may be set to go off and get Radford over the hump in his senior year. Green gets boards, blocks, and steals which lead to his Defensive Player of the Year selection here. Rowdy sophomore Andrew Rowsey will continue to turn heads as well with his scoring prowess.
Rod Days, F, JR, Campbell (from UCF): Campbell needs all the help they can get after limping to the finish line this past year. The former Florida 2A State Player of the Year will add some talent to the lineup.
Shivaughn Wiggins, PG, SO, Coastal Carolina (from Mount St. Mary's): Wiggins left Mount Mayhem as the NEC Freshman of the Year and now he'll add some serious talent to the defending champs. Wiggins averaged 9.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals a year ago.
Adonis Burbage, F, JR, Gardner-Webb (from Central Connecticut State): Tim Craft is losing a lot in Boiling Springs to graduation and the transfer market and Burbage will be leaned on to fill some gaps. In his last year at CCSU he averaged 10.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Brian Richardson, G, SR, High Point (from South Carolina): Scott Cherry's backcourt will get an instant upgrade with former Gamecock Brian Richardson. Richardson started nine games for Frank Martin and averaged 7.5 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.0 assists in his last year in Columbia.
Quincy Taylor, G, SR, Longwood (from UAB): Longwood fans would probably be freaking out a little more about Lucas Woodhouse's departure if it wasn't for Quincy Taylor. Taylor is a former starter at UAB and brings a veteran guard that Jayson Gee needs to the fray.
Lotanna Nwogbo, F, JR, Longwood (Tulane): The Lancers' biggest deficiency in 2013-14 was in the paint and Nwogbo will be an instant upgrade in Farmville. Jayson Gee has said several times that Nwogbo will be among the top shot blockers in the Big South.
1. Coastal Carolina: It's hard not to keep rolling with defending champs with El Hadji Ndieguene being the only meaningful contributor moving on. Coastal has almost everyone back and adds a very talented player in Shivaughn Wiggins. Expect the core of Gillis, Wilson, and Cameron to thrive with some added weapons for Cliff Ellis.
2. Winthrop: Pat Kelsey's Eagles ran out of gas in the Big South Championship this past year but ran out of gas. Almost everyone is back for Winthrop and the scoring trio of Keon Moore, Keon Johnson, and Andre Smith will continue to carry this team.
3. Radford:Mike Jones' core from when he came in of Javonte Green, RJ Price, Kyle Noreen, and Jalen Carethers are seniors now and it's time for the Highlanders to finally get over the hump. Radford has a two year window of being a real force in the Big South.
4. High Point: As long as John Brown is in purple and white the High Point Panthers will be contending for a conference title. Scott Cherry has still not found any postseason success and he's hoping that South Carolina transfer Brian Richardson and the emergence of Jorge Perez-Laham can lead this team to a Big South title.
5. UNC Asheville: Losing D.J. Cunningham and Jaron Lane hurts a lot for Asheville, but Andrew Rowsey alone will keep the Bulldogs in games due to his scoring prowess. It'll be interesting to see how this team will operate in the paint.
6. Charleston Southern: Barclay Radebaugh's full freshman class from this past year has all transferred out which has made for a questionable offseason in Charleston. With that being said, the Bucs will be a threat if Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper can hit the reset button and stay healthy.
7. Longwood: The Lancers are bringing in a lot of talent with former Division I players Shaquille Johnson (Auburn), Jason Pimentel (Old Dominion), Quincy Taylor (UAB), Lotanna Nwogbo (Tulane) and highly touted freshmen Ryan Badowski and Kanayo Obi-Rapu. The question now for second year head coach Jayson Gee is can all of this talent come together quickly in 2014-15?
8. Liberty: Dale Layer's Flames lose a lot across the court but they still have talented forwards Tomasz Gielo and human highlight reel Andrew Smith. Like Longwood, Liberty brings in a lot of talent with their freshman class with Braxton Bonds, Ezra Talbert, Peter Moller, and Stavian Allen but can this young talent come together. The Flames also will not have much in the paint, which was probably their biggest strength the last two years.
9. Gardner-Webb: Transfers and graduation loom large for Gardner-Webb and there continues to be rumors that big man Jerome Hill will also bolt. If that transpires then the Bulldogs will have lost nearly 75% of their scoring from last year total. It'll be interesting to see how second year head coach Tim Craft responds.
10. Campbell: Darius Leonard has transferred and the Camels will have to lean on Reco McCarter, Andrew Ryan, and others to help try to make Kevin McGeehan's second year a successful one. D.J. Mason may be the wild card in the creek.
11. Presbyterian: It'll be the Jordan Downing show for the Blue Hose this year and it'll be interesting to see if he can finally pull Presbyterian out of the Big South basement.