Winthrop coach Randy Peele was reminded of one of sports' oldest cliches on Saturday after his team beat Coastal Carolina 70-50 in the final game of the regular season.
Reminded his Eagles could play UNC Asheville in the first round of the conference tournament on Tuesday, Peele rolled out the adage.
"They say it's hard to beat a team three times," he said, "but I don't see why not."
After all the ties were broken following Saturday's games, the Eagles (11-18, 9-9 Big South) wound up the No. 5 seed and will travel to Asheville (14-15, 10-8) on Tuesday. Winthrop routed the Bulldogs 87-67 at home on Jan. 17 and eased to a 56-49 win at Asheville on Jan. 28.
Winthrop has beaten the Bulldogs three straight times, including last year's win in the conference tournament finals.
"Asheville has been playing well of late," Peele said, "and they'll go into the tournament expecting to win."
The Eagles got the No. 5 seed thanks in part to Presbyterian, which knocked off the Bulldogs 76-61 on Saturday. That win, coupled with Gardner-Webb's 68-59 win over Charleston Southern, left a three-way tie for fifth among the Eagles, PC and G-W. Because Winthrop had a 3-1 record against those two, including a sweep of PC, the Eagles got the No. 5 seed.
The only other deadlock in the standings came at the bottom, with Charleston Southern and High Point at 4-14 in the league. With both teams losing season series to the top four teams, the tiebreaker came down to Winthrop. High Point swept the Eagles, while CSU went 0-2. Charleston Southern will miss the tournament.
Presbyterian, which is transitioning to NCAA Division I status, is not eligible for the tournament, but the team's games counted in the standings and in determining all tiebreakers.
Regular-season champion Radford could host every game it plays in the tournament. The Highlanders host High Point on Tuesday. Because of TV, Thursday's semifinals will be played at Radford even if the Highlanders lose in the opening round.
If Radford does not reach Saturday's finals, the championship game, to be televised nationally by ESPN2 at 4 p.m., will move to the home court of the highest remaining seed.
The tournament winner gets the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Radford, if it does not win the league tournament, is assured a spot in the NIT because of its regular-season championship.
|MEN'S BIG SOUTH TOURNAMENT|
All games 7 p.m.
Game 1: No. 7 Coastal Carolina at No. 2 VMI
Game 2: No. 6 Gardner-Webb at No. 3 Liberty
Game 3: No. 8 High Point at No. 1 Radford
Game 4: No. 5 Winthrop at No. 4 UNC Asheville
Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 8 p.m.
at highest remaining seed
Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 4 p.m.
Gary McCann, 329-4074