Posted on: March 3, 2012 2:29 pm

Tiny Dancers: UNC-Asheville

We have our first official dance participant, as UNC-Asheville knocked off VMI in the Big South championship game, 80-64. Five players scored in double figures for the Bulldogs, who dominated the second half en route to the victory.

Asheville dominated the Big South regular season for much of the campaign, losing just two games and winning the league by four games. The Bulldogs have one of the nation’s most underrated backcourts in Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm, two experienced players who have been to the NCAA tournament before. Five guys average in double-figures and they really get up and down the floor.

Located in Asheville, N.C., the Bulldogs have been to the NCAA tournament twice in the past decade, going 2-0 in “play-in” games. Eddie Biedenbach’s group is going to be a pain for whichever No. 1 seed it faces. This year’s group is better than last season’s squad, which finished third in the conference but won the automatic bid.

Player to know: Matt Dickey. The 6-foot-1 senior guard is coming off a 15-point, six-assist, five-steal performance in the title game against VMI. He’s the team’s best scorer and has topped 20 points eight times this season. Dickey averaged 21.5 points last season in Asheville’s two NCAA tournament games. 

The Vitals:

  • Record: 24-9 overall, 16-2 in the Big South
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2011, No. 16, beat Arkansas-Little Rock 81-77 in the opening round before losing 74-51 to Pittsburgh.
  • We’re thinking: 16
  • KenPom ranking: 123
  • Sagarin ranking: 128
  • RPI: 115
  • Best wins: USC-Upstate, Charleston Southern
  • Worst losses: Western Carolina, Coastal Carolina
  • Notable stat: UNC-Asheville ranks fourth nationally in free-throw percentage and fourth in free-throw rate.

-- Jeff Borzello

Posted on: March 3, 2012 10:19 am
Edited on: March 3, 2012 10:37 am

Championship game preview: Big South

No one expected this. 

Eddie Biedenbach's top-seeded Bulldogs were supposed to be here, but not the No. 7 seeded VMI Keydets. 

VMI edged Radford (55-53) in the opening round before pulling the upset over No. 2 Coastal Carolina in the quarterfinals. Then the Keydets knocked off sixth-seeded Winthrop to become the third No. 7 seed in league history to advance to the title game. 

The bad news, though, is that a seventh-seed has never won the league tourney. 

UNC Asheville has rolled through its two victories over High Point and Charleston Southern. The backcourt of J.P. Primm and Matt Dickey will look to lead the Bulldogs to a second consecutive NCAA tournament berth. 

-- Jeff Goodman
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 26, 2012 4:21 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 5:09 pm

What-to-know conference previews: Big South

UNC Asheville was the preseason pick to win the league after returning four starters. The Bulldogs didn't disappoint, rolling through the regular-season and tying the Big South mark with 16 conference wins.

Top-seeded UNC Asheville, who will attempt to defend their conference tourney title, earned homecourt advantage as they will host the quarterfinals and semis in their new on-campus facility, Kimmel Arena. The championship game is at the highest remaining seed. The Big South will also utilize a new format, featuring all 10 eligible teams in the field -- the largest in the event's history.

Eddie Biedenbach's team is a veteran group that's led by senior guards J.P. Primm, the school's all-time assists leader, and Matt Dickey, one of the top scorers in UNC Asheville history. It's one of the nation's most underrated backcourts and the primary reason why the Bulldogs are a potent offensive team.

Coastal Carolina earned the No. 2 seed after going 19-10 and 12-6 in league play and will open with the winner of the VMI-Radford game on Tuesday in the quarterfinals. The Chanticleers, who struggled down the stretch, are led by senior forward Chris Gradnigo and junior guard Anthony Raffa.

Campbell and Charleston Southern tied for third-place at 11-7. The Fighting Camels win games with their defense while Barclay Radebaugh's team, picked to finish eighth in the preseason poll, come into postseason play having won four of its last five games.

While UNC Asheville certainly appears as though its the team to beat, just once in the last four years has the top seed wound up winning the Big South tourney.


Title game: Saturday, March 3, ESPN or ESPN 2 (Noon ET)


  1. Matt Dickey, UNC Asheville
  2. J.P. Primm, UNC Asheville
  3. Nick Barbour, High Point
  4. Chris Gradnigo, Coastal Carolina
  5. Eric Griffin, Campbell

Conference RPI: 27

KenPom.com rating: 25

Sagarin rating: 26

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: None

Last NCAA Tournament Appearances:

Campbell Fighting Camels: 1992, 16 seed, an 82-56 loss to Duke

Charleston Southern Buccaneers: 1997, 15 seed, an 109-75 loss to UCLA

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers: 1993, 16 seed, an 83-54 loss to Michigan

Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs: N/A

High Point Panthers: N/A

Liberty Flames: 2004, 16 seed, an 83-62 loss to Saint Joseph's

Radford Highlanders: 2009, 16 seed, an 101-58 loss to North Carolina

UNC Asheville Bulldogs: 2011, a 81-77 overtime win over Arkansas-Little Rock followed by a 74-51 loss to Pittsburgh

VMI Keydets: 1977, an 93-78 loss to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen

Winthrop Eagles: 2010, 16 seed, an 61-44 loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the opening round >

-- Jeff Goodman
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2011 6:14 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2011 6:22 pm

Welcome to the Dance, UNC-Asheville Bulldogs

Heading into the Big South tournament, UNC-Asheville was playing arguably the best basketball in the league. The Bulldogs proved that over the course of three games, culminating in a 60-47 victory over top-seeded Coastal Carolina on the Chanticleers’ homecourt. Forward John Williams played one of his best games of the season, posting 10 points, nine rebounds and six blocks. Head coach Eddie Biedenbach, the conference’s all-time winningest head coach, will be in the NCAA Tournament for the second time since coming to Asheville 15 years ago.

UNC-Asheville, one of the many branches in the University of North Carolina system, has an undergraduate enrollment of fewer than 3,500. The Bulldogs have won four Big South conference titles, reaching the NCAA Tournament once, in 2003, when they finished 15-17 but won the conference tournament. They went to the NIT in 2008, after a 23-win season. Asheville has had 23 winning seasons since starting its program in 1964.

Player to know: Matt Dickey. Although Dickey was inconsistent towards the end of the season, he is capable of carrying the Bulldogs. He scored 29 points in the tournament opener against Charleston Southern, then followed it with 18 points, six rebounds and six assists in the semifinals. On the season, Dickey averaged 15.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 19-13, 11-7 Big South
  • Team colors: Royal blue and white
  • We’re thinking: 16-seed
  • KenPom ranking: 150
  • RPI: 176
  • Best win: Coastal Carolina, twice (28-5)
  • Worst loss: USC-Upstate (5-25)
  • Notable stat: The Bulldogs rank ninth in the country in steals per game, racking up 9.3 per game.
  • Most recent tournament history: 2003. Defeated Texas Southern in the opening-round game, lost to Texas in the first round.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Jeff Borzello

More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Big South, BSOU
Posted on: March 4, 2011 6:11 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 7:56 pm

Big South championship game preview

The first bid to the NCAA Tournament will be handed out Saturday when Coastal Carolina and UNC-Asheville battle for the Big South Conference tournament championship (4 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Top-seeded Coastal Carolina (28-4, 16-2) went through plenty of turmoil down the stretch of the season, losing its starting point guard to a season-ending injury and its leading scorer to suspension. The Chanticleers lost two of their last three Big South games, backing into the conference tournament. Despite struggles against Gardner-Webb and VMI in the quarterfinals and semifinals, Coastal is still alive, one step from the NCAA Tournament.

Without Kierre Greenwood and Desmond Holloway, the Chanticleers have been led by former South Carolina transfer Chad Gray. Gray has scored at least 21 points in four of his last five games. Guard Anthony Raffa has been playing his best basketball of late, averaging 18.9 points in his last seven games, while Sam McLaurin has also stepped up in the frontcourt.

No. 3 UNC-Asheville (18-13, 11-7) was the hottest team in the league heading into the tournament, and the Bulldogs haven’t slowed down. They had won three in a row to finish the campaign, and have rolled through the first two games of the tournament. On Thursday night, Asheville put on a tremendous defensive display in the second half against High Point, holding the Panthers to seven points and 0.71 points per possession in the first 14 minutes of the second half.

The Bulldogs are led by their backcourt duo of Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm, who combine for 30 points and eight assists per game. Dickey has picked up his effort in the tournament, totaling 47 points in the first two games, while Primm broke out of his two-game slump with five 3-pointers against High Point. Jaron Lane and John Williams have improved their production down the stretch.

The key in this game will be the ability of Asheville to keep Coastal Carolina off the backboards. With D.J. Cunningham suffering from a foot injury, the Bulldogs don’t have much size down low. The Chanticleers crash the glass effectively, getting second-chance opportunities. On the other side, Asheville needs to force turnovers and speed up the tempo, as Coastal is thin on guards at this point. Dickey and Primm also need to knock down outside shots – Coastal is vulnerable on the perimeter.

Coastal Carolina will have the homecourt advantage for Saturday’s game, but it might not matter. The Chanticleers lost two of its final three regular-season home games, and have struggled on their homecourt in the conference tournament. If Dickey and Primm can get help from the supporting cast, I expect UNC-Asheville to go into the Chanticleers’ gym and come out with the automatic bid.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Jeff Borzello

More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 28, 2011 1:48 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 2:54 pm

Big South Conference Tournament Preview

A couple of weeks ago, the Big South Conference tournament lacked intrigue. At the time, Coastal Carolina (26-4, 16-2 in the Big South) was on a 22-game winning streak and rolling through the Big South with a 15-0 record. Since then, the Chanticleers lost their starting point guard for the season due to an injury, suspended their leading scorer, were investigated by the NCAA and lost two of their final three league games.

Coastal Carolina still won the conference by three games over second-place Liberty (19-12, 13-5), which lost four in a row to finish the season. UNC-Asheville (16-13, 11-7) won its last three games, while VMI (17-12, 10-8) went 5-0 in the Big South to end the campaign.

The favorite likely still remains Coastal Carolina, despite its struggles to finish the season. Without Kierre Greenwood and Desmond Holloway, though, the Chanticleers will need to rely on the inside-outside duo of guard Anthony Raffa and forward Chad Gray. Raffa has stepped up his production over the last five games, averaging 16.8 points in that span. Because it won the league, Coastal will have home-court advantage throughout the tournament.

Despite finishing in third-place, UNC-Asheville might be the biggest threat to Coastal. The Bulldogs went on the road and defeated the Chanticleers last week, forcing 17 turnovers in a 61-58 win. Asheville likes to get up-and-down the court, racking up steals and transition baskets. J.P. Primm and Matt Dickey comprise a high-scoring backcourt. Liberty finished the season playing arguably its worst basketball of the season, but the Flames are still a contender. Evan Gordon, Eric’s younger brother, can fill it up and John Brown is a double-double machine. Jesse Sanders is a productive point guard.

VMI is one of the most up-tempo teams in the country, with the second-fastest pace according to KenPom.com. If the Keydets are knocking down their 3-pointers, look out. One sleeper could be Coastal’s first-round opponent, Gardner-Webb. The Bulldogs lost by three in the first meeting, and then upset the Chanticleers in February.

Big South Conference Tournament Bracket

Top Three Players:

1. Jesse Sanders, Liberty
2. Chad Gray, Coastal Carolina
3. Austin Kenon, VMI

  • Conference RPI: 22
  • KenPom.com Conference Ranking: 27
  • Sagarin Conference Ranking: 22
NCAA Tournament Locks: None
NCAA Bubble Teams: None

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance

  • Charleston Southern: 1997 (lost to UCLA, first round)
  • Coastal Carolina: 1993 (lost to Michigan, first round)
  • Gardner-Webb: 0 NCAA appearances
  • High Point: 0 NCAA appearances
  • Liberty: 2004 (lost to Saint Joseph’s, first round)
  • UNC-Asheville: 2003 (lost to Texas, first round – won opening-round game)
  • VMI: 1977 (lost to Kentucky, Sweet 16)
  • Winthrop: 2010 (lost to Arkansas Pine-Bluff, opening-round game)

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Photo: US Presswire

More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
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