The Big South Conference has some pretty good offensive teams. Unfortunately, nobody in the conference really plays defense. Per the conference ratings of the great Bart Torvik, the Big South actually rates 25th out of the 32 conferences in adjusted offensive efficiency, which is great for a conference with no big names.
The conference also ranks 32nd in adjusted defensive efficiency. The best defensive team in the conference is probably the biggest name in the Winthrop Eagles. They will be the #2 seed because Radford won the tiebreaker with an identical record of 15-3.
All 11 teams qualify for the Big South Tournament, with first round games at the higher-seeded campus, quarterfinals and semifinals at the #1 seed, and then the championship game at the higher-seeded campus. If all goes according to plan for Radford, they’ll be at home on March 8 with a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament.
Here are the teams, seeds, and odds from 5Dimes Sportsbook for the Big South Conference Tournament:
- Radford 20-10 (15-3) (Hampton/UNC Asheville tiebreaker) +120
- Winthrop 21-10 (15-3) +140
- Gardner-Webb 15-15 (11-7) +610
- Longwood 14-17 (9-9) +3000
- Hampton 13-18 (8-10) (H2H UNC Asheville) +3000
- UNC Asheville 14-15 (8-10) +5000
- USC Upstate 12-19 (7-11) (H2H tiebreaker) +7500
- Charleston Southern 13-17 (7-11) (H2H tiebreaker) +7500
- Presbyterian 10-21 (7-11) +15000
- High Point 9-22 (6-12) (H2H tiebreaker) +32500
- Campbell 15-15 (6-12) +4000
Radford and Winthrop split their regular season meetings and each team lost to Gardner-Webb. Radford went 3-1 against Hampton and UNC Asheville and Winthrop only went 2-1 in three combined meetings. As a result, the road to the NCAA Tournament goes through Radford, Virginia instead of Rock Hill, South Carolina.
We have the chance at some real pace wars in this conference tournament. Winthrop, UNC Asheville, and Hampton like to run, while Radford, Campbell, High Point, and Gardner-Webb do not. With the back-to-back format, tempo differences are always intriguing.
Here is the schedule for the 2020 Big South Tournament:
(first round campus; quarters & semis at Radford)
Tuesday March 3
7 p.m. ET: 10 High Point at 7 USC Upstate
7 p.m. ET: 11 Campbell at 6 UNC Asheville
7 p.m. ET: 9 Presbyterian at 8 Charleston Southern
Thursday March 5
12 p.m. ET: 10/7 winner vs. 2 Winthrop
2 p.m. ET: 11/6 winner vs. 3 Gardner-Webb
6 p.m. ET: 9/8 winner vs. 1 Radford
8 p.m. ET: 5 Hampton vs. 4 Longwood
Friday March 6
6 p.m. ET: 10/7/2 winner vs. 11/6/3 winner
8 p.m. ET: 9/8/1 winner vs. 5/4 winner
Sunday March 8
1 p.m. ET: Championship Game at higher seed
This is a pretty decent offensive conference. If you can’t do either one, you aren’t likely to make it far in this tournament. USC Upstate and High Point are the two worst teams in this league, so Winthrop draws an excellent Thursday matchup, which is good because Gardner-Webb likely awaits.
Radford actually has a tricky semifinal game here. The Highlanders won’t lose to the Presbyterian/CharSo winner, but Hampton has a solid offense that gets to the line a ton and has played better in the second half of the season. Longwood would be the scarier opponent, though, as the Lancers have been coming on strong late in the year. The Lancers were 2-7 through nine conference games and managed to win seven of their last nine.
Gardner-Webb is the team I like coming off of the pace a little bit. G-W has to play Winthrop, who is probably the best team in the conference and Winthrop’s higher tempo gives that game a little higher degree of variance. Gardner-Webb won this conference tournament last season and beat both Radford and Winthrop during the season. The losses were by 3 to Radford and by 4 to Winthrop in triple overtime. Gardner-Webb was right there in both of them.
The Bulldogs have also won six of seven to close out the regular season. If we look exclusively at conference play, Gardner-Webb is first in 3P%, first in eFG% against, second in 3P% against, and first in 2P% against. Gardner-Webb lost seven games in conference play by a total of 39 points and one of those was a nine-point loss in double overtime.
Radford does look to be something of a vulnerable #1 seed here, but not until the championship game. They are likely to get there, so taking a Radford price makes sense.
For me, though, I’m looking at Gardner-Webb. They are the best team in the conference shooting from distance and only really struggle with defensive rebounding. That could be an issue having to go through both Winthrop and Radford, who rank first and second, respectively, in ORB%. I do think that the winner of Gardner-Webb and Winthrop wins the conference, even with the title game on the road.
The value is just better on Gardner-Webb for having to win twice. G-W looks to be about +6 against Winthrop and +4 against Radford. With some rough math on a money line rollover, this price is maybe a little bit better than what you are likely to get. That leaves Gardner-Webb +610 as the pick.
Winthrop at +140 isn’t worth the futures price, but I would play them as an underdog against Radford if that’s where the line came out.
Pick: Gardner-Webb +610