Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Postseason Hoops in Alphabet Soups

Lots of teams, lots of tourneys, lots of terms, right? That time of year...

So let's try to clear up the postseason basketball picture for everybody, okay?

Right now it appears that no Big South teams this year will be going into things like the CBI and similar ad hoc tourney set-ups, so that leaves us with the "big four": the NCAA & NIT fields for both the men and the women.

Interesting that this year the regular-season champions in the Big South both came up short in the finals of their respective tournaments, so they both wind up in NIT brackets: Coastal Carolina for the men and Liberty for the women.

The teams that knocked those strong squads off the top of their mountains will be going to the world of NCAA brackets: UNC Asheville for the men and Gardner-Webb for the women.

Of course, in Asheville's case, it still isn't that simple because they are in the "First Round" or "First Four" group, formerly known as the "Opening Round", yet widely regarded as play-in games by hoops followers across the country despite what branding the NCAA chooses in a given year.

Let's break this down first by team and then by the calendar...

UNC Asheville -- the Bulldogs open with Arkansas-Little Rock in Dayton, Ohio...the game is Tuesday night (tonight, as I post this), tipping at 6:40pm on tru-TV. Start looking for that before you get to 6:30, just to be sure you find it. You probably have it without realizing it, as it's part of the CBS-TBS-TNT-tru-TV partnership showing the NCAA and the powers that be WANT you to have this channel. As a DirecTV guy, I can tell you it's on channel 246, but again, consult your local listings, as they say. Now as much as we all believe in Asheville, certainly last year's Winthrop vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff opener should serve as a sufficient cautionary tale that just because you're not playing Pitt yet, that doesn't mean you're not in for a tough game.

Speaking of Pitt, that's the "reward" for the winner in that opening contest: a "Second Round" (what we've always called "First Round") game against the 1-seed Pitt Panthers in Washington, D.C., on Thursday afternoon. Win THAT one and we would have quite a story to tell!

Coastal Carolina -- 2nd straight year in the NIT, certainly not what the Chants were hoping for, and the news gets tougher, as Coastal will open with 1-seed Alabama, a team that had spent lots of time on the NCAA bubble and stood a chance of making the other tourney...perhaps the disappointment will be larger for the Tide and open up a chance for CCU, who already dispatched SEC foe LSU on the road in the regular season...the game will be at 7pm Tuesday on ESPNU. If Coastal stems the Tide, next up would be the winner of the New Mexico-UTEP game (details tba).

Gardner-Webb -- the third time WAS the charm for the Runnin' Bulldogs, who knocked off their nemesis, Liberty, in the Conference Final to earn the automatic NCAA berth...GWU got a 14-seed and faces Miami (the Hurricanes are a 3-seed) in Charlottesville, VA. That game is set for noon on Sunday the 20th and can be seen on ESPN2. The winner will face the winner of the Oklahoma-JMU ballgame on Tuesday the 22nd.

Liberty -- an odd position for the Flames, quite used to the NCAA side of life, but now moving into the WNIT bracket...Liberty opens up at Charlotte, Wednesday night at 7pm (no TV known). Strange part of that is it seems like the committee was using part of last year's bracket--GWU opened WNIT play at Charlotte's Halton Arena in 2010...go figure. The winner of this one would advance to play the winner of the South Carolina-App.St. contest. If the Flames are not too put out by falling short of their primary goal, they could do some damage in the WNIT field--watch out for that.

Okay, so here it is chronologically:

TUESDAY (today), March 15th:
M-NCAA, UNC Asheville
vs. UALR in Dayton-OH, 6:30pm on tru-TV;

M-NIT, Coastal Carolina
at Alabama, 7pm on ESPNU (winner vs. New Mexico-UTEP winner tbd)

WEDNESDAY, March 16th:
W-NIT, Liberty
at Charlotte, 7pm (winner vs. SC-App.St. winner tbd)

THURSDAY, March 17th...(M-NCAA, Asheville-Little Rock winner vs. Pitt in DC, 3pm)

, March 20th:

W-NCAA, Gardner-Webb vs. Miami in Charlottesville, 12pm on ESPN2

TUESDAY, March 22nd...(W-NCAA, GWU-UM winner vs. Okla.-JMU winner tbd)

Hope that helps--that's about as much as we can say as of Tuesday--good luck to all our teams and we hope everybody enjoys the upcoming games! SHOUT -- out.