It's finally go-time for the NCAA as the brackets are being rolled out. Like every year, there will be a handful of teams from small schools that make a brief one-day appearance and retreat back to their small town celebrity. But, is that fair to them? Absolutely not. They worked their tails off to get here and it's only fair that you get to know them. So, here is the one in a serious of introductions to these tiny Davids. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Winthrop Eagles.
1. Middleweight Muscle - Winthrop, a founding member of the Big South conference, has established itself as the muscle in the conference, clinching their seventh NCAA berth in the last nine years with last week‘s win at Coastal Carolina. By knocking off sixth-seeded Notre Dame in 2007 and playing second-seeded Tennessee to within two points in 2006, it’s safe to say Winthrop is a big-time small school. However, the Eagles have not let it go to their head though, resisting the urge to name their Rock Hill, South Carolina school “The Campus of Champions”. Oh, they did? I take that back then.
2. Don’t keep it close - The Eagles haven’t really given anyone the impression that they’re going to push a major conference school to the brink, going 0-4 with an average loss margin of 20 this year against BCS squads. But, if it’s close at the end, go with Winthrop. The Eagles are 8-2 in games decided by 5 or less this season and have wins against a rock (Limestone), a religion (Presbyterian) and an idea (Liberty).
3. Offensively offensive - The Eagles have a style of play that’s one part Hoosiers and one part running up an escalator, politely termed by analysts as “deliberate”. It will most likely be called “plodding” in the tournament or “Geez, I can’t take this. Can they flip to another game?” by your roommate. Sophomore Reggie Middleton leads a Winthrop attack with 10 points per game and six of Winthrop’s ten players that log over 10 minutes per game shoot below 40% from the field. Winthrop played 32 games this year. They topped 70 points four times.
4. Jack Frost is nipping at your nose - And also answering all your basketball questions. He’s Winthrop’s SID.
5. Famous Alumni - Winthrop boasts a lot of politicians, foreign basketball players and writers, none of which I care about. Outside of a producer for “Reading Rainbow”, it appears to a pretty bland alumni group. That is, until you get down to John Michael Nix, who I would assume to be a made up Wikipedia entry. It says he’s the inventor of the front tuck, which we all know as Gregg Doyel’s favorite part of Silence of the Lambs.
Up Next: Dayton, Ohio and the NCAA play-in game against SWAC champion Arkansas - Pine Bluff on March 17