The 2011 Big South Conference men's basketball tournament starts today without a clear-cut favorite but plenty of storylines.
Eight teams begin play at 7 tonight at the sites of the top four seeds.
We start with top-seeded Coastal Carolina (26-4) hosting No. 8 Gardner-Webb (11-20). Coastal's recent troubles have been well-documented. Mike Holmes was booted off the team, Willie Kirkland is academically ineligible and Kierre Greenwood is out with a torn ACL.
The Desmond Holloway story is still out there. Coastal's leading scorer is ineligible while the NCAA continues its investigation into the school's recruitment of the guard.
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CCU coach Cliff Ellis said he could not comment on that situation on Monday. He did say that his team has handled all of the changes pretty well.
"We made a good statement on Saturday to show that our team is ready for the tournament," Ellis said, referring to the Chants' 81-77 win at Charleston Southern.
Coastal had its 22-game winning streak snapped by Gardner-Webb on Feb. 15 in Conway and eked out a 58-55 win at Gardner-Webb with Holloway providing key baskets late in the contest.
No. 2 Liberty limps into the tournament with four straight losses. They will host No. 7 High Point.
Flames coach Dale Layer was named Coach of the Year and point guard Jesse Sanders was tabbed Player of the Year.
UNC Asheville is the No. 3 seed and will entertain Charleston Southern. Asheville might be considered a favorite in lieu of Coastal's depleted roster and Liberty's losing streak.
"I don't think so," Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach said. "But I like our chances. This tournament is wide open. I think everyone has a chance."