There is no magic formula to winning a regular-season championship in any conference, including the Big South.
It's simple really. It wasn't included in James Naismith's original rules of basketball, but you can bet it cropped up in some coach's head shortly after the first league was formed.
Win all your home games, steal some on the road -- better yet, dominate on the road -- and you finish first.
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Winthrop has won three straight Big South Conference regular-season titles with relative ease thanks to a 20-3 record away from the Winthrop Coliseum. Last year they ran the Big South table, going 14-0, 7-0 on the road. The year before they went 13-3 and 6-2, the year before that 15-1, 7-1. No other team in the league has won with such consistency on the road.
And with this season looking to be as balanced as any in recent memory in the league, a handful of road wins could be like gold. In the first eight conference games, the home team won six. VMI got a leg up on the rest of the conference by winning road games at Charleston Southern and Coastal Carolina.
Winthrop (1-0), High Point (1-0) and UNC Asheville (2-0) got off on the right foot at home.
The standings could tighten up even more today. VMI hosts UNC Asheville and Coastal Carolina goes to High Point.
So, you can understand why Winthrop coach Randy Peele understands the importance of today's 2 p.m. game at Radford. The Eagles (1-1, 10-7), having already lost at High Point, need to establish themselves on the road again. The Highlanders (0-2, 5-12) are 4-2 in the Dedmon Center.
"Our two biggest non-conference road wins (Miami, Georgia Tech)," Peele said, "have come on neutral courts, and we won at East Carolina. The next step for us is to get a true road win.
"We've got to go on the road and find a way to get it done."
The Eagles have lost true road games by one at High Point, five in overtime at Marshall, five at Mount St. Mary's and 17 at West Virginia. They also lost to Ole Miss on a neutral floor, albeit in Jackson, Miss.
Winning on the road doesn't get easier for Winthrop. The Eagles still wear the bull's-eye of the team everyone loves to beat, and the rest of the league is thinking it's going to be easier this time around.
"Last Saturday, when they announced the score of the High Point game at UNC Asheville, the fans applauded," Peele said. "The people in the league are saying 'now is our time.'"
Because he thinks this won't be an easy season, that most games are going to be grinders, Peele is worried about the Highlanders despite their record and the fact they've given up an average of 92 points the past seven games.
They scare Peele because they have four solid players all averaging in double figures, they change defenses and -- of course -- they're playing at home. One of the Eagles' biggest scares came last year at Radford, when they had to rally late to win 62-59.
"We're going to take everybody's best shot," point guard Chris Gaynor said. "We've got to prepare like every game is a championship game."
It would also help if Taj McCullough, the 6-7 senior, snaps out of a funk caused in part by some nagging injuries and nagging foul problems. He's missed minutes the past four games with fouls and has not scored more than 10 points since getting 19 on Miami on Dec. 29.
"I've got to stay out of foul trouble," McCullough said. "Coach has been on me about gambling too much on the perimeter."
That will be more important today, since 6-3 forward Antwon Harris (sprained ankle) has not practice all week and will be a game-time decision.
Peele might change things up today. The Highlanders don't handle the ball very well. They've committed 320 turnovers and only point guard Amir Johnson has more assists (95) than turnovers (66). Peele could elect to pressure more defensively to try to speed up the game.
He's looking for anything to change the team's luck in Saturday afternoon games. They played a 2 p.m. game at Marshall and blew a five-point lead in the last minute. They played a 1 p.m. game at West Virginia and got blown out by 17.
"We've played badly on Saturday afternoon and I'm not sure why," Peele said.
Today isn't the day to keep up that pattern.
"We need to go on the road and get a win," Peele said, "but we know it will be a war."
BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE
Conference All Games
W L PCT W L PCT
UNC Asheville 2 0 1.000 13 4 .765
VMI 2 0 1.000 10 6 .625
Winthrop 1 1 .500 10 7 .588
Coastal Carolina 1 1 .500 8 7 .533
High Point 1 1 .500 8 7 .533
Chas. Southern 1 1 .500 6 10 .375
Liberty 0 2 .000 8 9 .471
Radford 0 2 .000 5 12 .294
Winthrop at Radford, 2 p.m.
UNC Asheville at VMI, 1 p.m.
Charleston Southern at Liberty, 7 p.m.
Coastal Carolina at High Point, 7 p.m.
Coastal Carolina at Liberty, 7 p.m.
Charleson Southernn at High Point, 7 p.m.
Radford at UNC Asheville, 7 p.m.
VMI at Winthrop, 7 p.m.
WINTHROP (10-7, 1-1) AT RADFORD (5-12, 0-2)
• When: 2 p.m.
• Where: Dedmon Center, Radford, Va.
• Radio: WRHI (1340 AM, 94.3 FM); airtime 1:30 p.m.
• Tickets: Available