Seeding almost set for Big South tourney

02/26/2009 11:50 PM

02/27/2009 12:04 AM

The Big South Conference race heads into the final weekend of the regular season, with only two of the eight seeds decided for the conference tournament that begins next Tuesday.

Radford (15-2) has clinched the regular season title, the No. 1 seed and is in position to host every game it plays in the tournament. The Highlanders, winning their first regular season title since 2000-01, would play a first round game against the No. 8 seed.

VMI (12-5) has locked up No. 2 and would host the No. 7 seed.

Liberty (11-7) and UNC Asheville (10-7) will be the No. 3 and 4 seeds depending on how the weekend shakes out. The No. 3 seed hosts No. 6 and No. 4 entertains No. 5.

Liberty is No. 3 if it wins at Radford or UNCA loses at Presbyterian, which is not eligible for the tournament but could be a factor in the seedings because all its games count in tie-breaking situations.

If Liberty loses and UNCA wins, they tie at 11-7. Since both would have lost twice to Radford and split with VMI, the tie would be broken by results against the next highest finishing team -- either PC, Gardner-Webb or Winthrop. Liberty split with all three. UNCA lost twice to Winthrop and, with a win Saturday, would have swept PC and G-W.

Gardner-Webb (8-9) and Winthrop (8-9) will be No. 5 or No. 6.

If those two and PC tie at 9-9 or 8-10, Winthrop would be No. 5 because of its 3-1 record against the other two. If Winthrop and G-W tie, G-W gets the higher seed because of its win over Radford.

Coastal Carolina (5-11), which played at Charleston Southern on Thursday, is assured either the seventh or eighth seed. If the Chants beat Charleston Southern, they would be No. 7. High Point (4-13) or Charleston Southern (3-13) gets the last spot, and that one could go down to tiebreakers since they split during the regular season.

• TOURNEY TIDBITS: The league tournament opens on Tuesday, with those four games hosted by the highest seeded teams.

Radford, even if the Highlanders lose in the first round, will host the semifinals on Thursday, because of TV (ESPNU), and the finals will be played on the home court of the highest remaining seed.

The finals will be played at 4 p.m. on March 7, a departure from the early starts of past years.

For the record: No. 3 seeds are 1-6 since the league moved to home court sites.

In the previous 23 tournaments, the No. 1 seed won just 11 times, with Winthrop producing five.

The lowest seed to win was No. 5 UNCA in 2003.

The only No. 8 to make the finals was Winthrop in 1993.

• WHEN IT MATTERS: Winthrop's Andre Jones has hit what proved to be game-winning shots against Presbyterian and Appalachian State this season, and he's making a case that when the game's on the line in the last minutes, he's at his best.

In the final five minutes of games, the 6-2 freshman has made 22-of-46 shots, including half of his 24 3-pointers, and 9-of-12 free throws.

Break that down to the final three minutes, and he's made 13-of-30 field goals overall, 7-of-16 3-pointers and 4-of-8 from the line.

He hasn't been as good in the final minute, hitting just 2-of-10 shots, including 2-of-7 3-pointers, but those two makes won games.

"He really makes tough shots," coach Randy Peele said. "The kid has ice water. I don't know of a freshman in the league who's better down the stretch."

• COMEBACK: Winthrop's rally from 27 down against Charleston Southern on Tuesday may have been one of the most impressive in college hoops history.

The Eagles were behind 40-13 with 3:37 left in the first half and down 42-19 at halftime before rallying to win 57-52.

New Mexico State came back from a 28-0 deficit to beat Bradley 117-109 on Jan. 27, 1977. That's the NCAA record for largest deficit overcome before scoring. And in 1994, Kentucky rallied from 31 down (68-37) to beat LSU 99-95.

• CURRY COUNT: Liberty's Seth Curry is a shoo-in to be freshman of the year. He's averaging 20.5 points, the top average for a freshman in the nation. He's also averaging 36.4 minutes per game and taking shots almost at will.

Curry has taken a team-high 508 shots, including 256 3-pointers. He's scored 615 points, a record for a Big South freshman.

He's averaging 17 shots a game, more than eight of them 3-pointers.

Take away his 95 points at the free throw line and he's scored 520 points on 508 shots, about one point for every jumper.

He's taken more shots than any player in the league. Charleston Southern's Jamarco Warren is second with 380. Only VMI's Austin Kenon (253) has launched more 3-pointers.

• 3-POINTERS: Winthrop has played 16 games decided by 10 or fewer points, with 11 of those decided by five or fewer. The Eagles are 8-8 in those games, 6-5 in those decided by five or fewer ... VMI's 109-72 win at Liberty was the school's most lopsided road win since the 1953-54 season and the worst home loss for the Flames since 1991 ... Liberty was without point guard Jesse Sanders, who is listed day-to-day with a sprained ankle. Curry is playing the point in his absence.

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