The Big South is the only Division I conference to schedule a full slate of league games for men's basketball on New Year's Eve. There are 51 schools hosting games and nearly 10 percent of those will be at Big South institutions.
The five Big South contests are: VMI at UNC Asheville (2 p.m.); Radford at Coastal Carolina (2 p.m.); High Point at Charleston Southern (4:30 p.m.); Liberty at Gardner-Webb (5:30 p.m.) and Presbyterian at Winthrop (6 p.m.).
The Winthrop game has the distinction of hosting the latest start time on the East Coast along with No. 4 Connecticut. It makes sense for UConn to play late. They drew an average of 10,724 fans for two games last week and probably will get another 10,000-plus crowd on Friday night.
Winthrop is averaging 2,071 fans in three home games this season. A season-high 3,024 were at the season-opener against Queens. It was homecoming. The parking lots were full with tailgaters, many of whom didn't wander into the Coliseum to watch the game.
It took a Winthrop decision, and a Presbyterian agreement, to start the game at 6 p.m., instead of an afternoon tip time.
RPI -- The Big South comes in at No.16 (out of 32) in the latest conference RPI rankings by the website realtimerpi.com. The Big South has three wins over SEC schools; two against the ACC and Atlantic 10; and one each against the Colonial, C-USA and the Ivy League. All of those conferences are ranked ahead of the Big South.
The Big South was 12th in its strength of schedule. That number will begin to drop as the conference schedule takes hold for the rest of the season.
SUNDAY'S GAMES TO WATCH -- Coastal Carolina (10-2, 1-0 Big South), the league's preseason No. 1 pick, entertains High Point (5-5, 2-0). The 2 p.m. game at Kimbel Arena in Conway could be for first place.
Also on tap is Liberty (8-6, 2-0) at UNC Asheville (6-6, 1-1). The Bulldogs have won four of their last six and are 4-0 at home. Liberty has won its first two conference games for the first time.
INDIVIDUAL STATS -- VMI's Stan Okoye leads the Big South in scoring (20.0 ppg) and is second in rebounding (10.1 rpg). He is the only player in the league averaging a double-double. UNC Asheville guard J.P. Primm is shooting a league-best .415 from 3-point range while Liberty's Evan Gordon has drained the most 3-pointers (34) so far.
SLOW START FOR RADFORD -- The Highlanders 3-9 start is the worst in coach Brad Greenberg's four years at the school. His teams were 4-8 in each of his first two seasons and then went 7-5 in the first 12 contests of 2009-2010.
Radford moved its game against Dickinson from Tuesday to Wednesday due to snow. The Highlanders won 86-59 to snap a nine-game losing streak. They converted 31-of-43 free throws.
ROAD WARRIORS -- Presbyterian (6-7) has played 12 of its 13 games on the road thus far. The Blue Hose will make it 14 out of 15 away from the Templeton Center in Clinton with games at Winthrop and Navy this weekend.