The parity among Big South Conference men's basketball teams may be at its apex right now following Tuesday night's losses by league-leading Coastal Carolina, second-place Liberty and third-place UNC Asheville.
Coastal Carolina had the nation's longest active winning streak at 22 games before they were knocked off by Gardner-Webb, 59-57, in Conway. In the process the Chants (24-3, 15-1 Big South) lost point guard Kierre Greenwood to a knee injury. They played the second half without the sophomore who was injured just before halftime.
An MRI was performed on Greenwood's left knee on Wednesday that revealed a torn ACL. Greenwood is done for the season.
"That's a good basketball team. They beat us," Coastal coach Cliff Ellis told The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News. "We don't have any excuses. They beat us. And to be honest with you, they should have beaten us twice. We were very fortunate to beat them at their place (last month). For whatever reason, that is a team that gives us more trouble than anybody. And they deserved to win."
CCU's starting five will be fine with Anthony Raffa, Danny Nieman and Desmond Holloway at the guard spots. The Chants' bench, though, becomes more depleted. They are without reserve guard Willie Kirkland (academically ineligible) and power forward Mike Holmes (no longer with the team due to disciplinary problems).
Coastal will be the No. 1 seed in the Big South tournament. Gardner-Webb is a good bet to be the No. 8. If that plays out, Gardner-Webb would play at Coastal in the first round of the tournament on March 1. CCU escaped Gardner-Webb on Jan. 22 with a 58-55 win.
Liberty lost 79-69 at VMI on Tuesday. The Flames (19-9, 13-3) only two league losses had been against CCU. The Flames own the No. 2 seed but the loss to VMI is further proof that the conference tournament may be up for grabs.
UNC Asheville dropped a 79-70 decision at Charleston Southern. The Bulldogs (13-12, 8-7) still hold a half-game edge over VMI, CSU and Winthrop as the regular season heads into its final week.
Winthrop (12-14, 8-8) lost in double overtime at High Point to sink into a three-way tie for fourth in the league. The Eagles regrouped after a season-low 13 points in the first half. They held High Point to 14 percent shooting in the second half (3-for-22) to tie the game at 49 and send it into overtime.
Winthrop turned the ball over 26 times and struggled to shoot 56 percent from the foul line. In the end, those factors cost them a win.
Eagles coach Randy Peele talked about the oddity of Tuesday's results where the top three teams lost.
"There is no separation in the league right now," Peele said. "Any team on any night is capable of winning. I think this is the most parity I've seen at any time in my four years as head coach."
Five teams -- Asheville, VMI, Charleston Southern, Winthrop and High Point -- are now vying for the coveted third and fourth seeds in the conference tournament. The top four seeds earn a home game in the first round. The semi final and championship games will be played at the highest remaining seed.
Winthrop hosts Ohio in the BracketBuster game at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Eagles have two games remaining in the regular season, both at home, against Liberty and VMI.