I’m not going to attempt to profile every tournament team, but Winthrop is a team that deserves some attention. They are a program that loves to dance. They won the Big South title on Saturday to earn their fourth straight tournament bid, and their eighth in the last ten years. This is their first bid under new coach Randy Peele, who was an assistant under Gregg Marshall before Marshall left for Wichita State.
Winthrop tied for the regular season league title with UNC-Asheville, the home of 7’7″ Kenny George, the biggest guy in college basketball. Asheville swept Winthrop in the regular season, but Winthrop returned the favor when they ran over the Bulldogs in their home gym in the tournament final, winning by 18. Asheville was favored by one, so it was an easy cover for Winthrop. Owing to the fact that they play in the obscure Big South they haven’t seen a lot of games with lines, but this cover moves the to 3-2 ATS on the season.
The engine for the Eagles is senior guard Michael Jenkins. He led the team in scoring for the second straight year, and had a massive 33 point performance in the tournament final. He also led the team in free throw shooting, but that’s more of a sign that the team is lousy from the line – he only shot 69.7%. Beyond Jenkins, it is a couple of other seniors – Taj McCullough and Chris Gaynor – who lead the teams to wins. Gaynor set the all-time career conference assist record in the tournament final.
The Eagles haven’t had a lot of tournament success, but they are always pesky. Their biggest glory came last year when they upset Notre Dame as an #11 seed. That was their only tournament win in school history, and they were no match for Oregon in the second round. They are 3-2 ATS in their last five tournament appearances, but only 3-5 ATS overall. The low point in their tournament experience came in 2002 when they lost by 47 to Duke.
This is not the same team that made the tournament last year, and the outlook for an upset is not good. They should enjoy their time, though, because with the seniors departing it might take a year or two to get back.
Likely seed: 16
Upset?: As a 16? You’re kidding, right?
Tournament outlook: Short stay