UNC-Asheville and Coastal Carolina Play for First Ticket to the Dance: Big South Championship

Big South Championship Game
North Carolina-Asheville Bulldogs at Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, Kimbel Arena, Conway, SC
Opening Line: Coastal Carolina -5
Current Line: Coastal Carolina -5
Opening Total: 142
Current Total; 140
Money Line: CCU -220 / UNCA +180

UNC-Asheville and Coastal Carolina play for the Big South Championship and the first officai ticket to the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Coastal carolina is 4 1/2 point favorite on their home court.

The first official ticket to the 2011 NCAA tournament will be punched for the winner of this game for the Big South Championship. Coastal Carolina has been the class of this league all year with a 28-4 record overall and a 16-2 conference record. However, injuries and suspensions for violating NCAA rules have depleted Coastal’s roster and they are down to only 8 players. Two of the Chanticleers’ three leading scorers have either been suspended or dismissed from the team, including guard Desmond Holloway and forward/center Mike Holmes. The team has been without Holloway for the last 5 games and gone 4-1 without him. Holloway was averaging 18.5 points to lead the team, 6.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.3 steals a game. He was tied for the team lead in steals. Holmes hasn’t played since January 8 but was averaging 14 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.7 assists a game.  Coastal is also playing without guard Kierre Greenwood who is out for the season with a knee injury and guard Willie Kirkland who is out for not meeting academic standards. Greenwood was averaging 7.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.assists and 1.3 steals a game. He led the team in steals in assists. To get to the championship game Coastal beat Gardner-Webb 83-72 in the quarters and VMI 89-81 in the semifinals.

UNC-Asheville finished third in the conference behind Coastal and Liberty with an 18-13 overall record  and 11-7 in the Big South. Coastal and Asheville split the season series with each winning on the other’s home floor. The Chanticleers won in Asheville 80-59 in January before Holloway was suspended and Greenwood was injured. Asheville won at Coastal on a  buzzer  beater 61-58 February 22. That started a 5 game winning streak for the Bulldogs. UNCA beat Charleston Southern 72-63 in the Big South quarters and High Point 62-45 in the semifinals. High Point upset Liberty in the first round.

Since 1997, UNC-Asheville leads the series against Coastal Carolina 16-15, but Coastal is 11-6 at home in those games. In the last 3 years Coastal has dominated winning 5 out of 7 straight up including 3-1 at home. The Big South games are not usually on the board, so only one of those games was available to bet. For what it’s worth, Coastal is 1-0 ATS versus Asheville since 1997. That game did go over the total as well.

Asheville Center D.J. Cunningham will not play in this game with a foot injury. He averaged 9 points, 7.5 rebounds to lead the team, and 1.5 blocks a game to lead the team. The Bulldogs are led by guard Matt Dickey who averages 15.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.9 steals a game. He leads the team in scoring. Guard J.P. Primm averages 14.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 2.1 steals a game. He leads the team in assists and steals. Guard Chris Stephenson averages 9.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.4 steals a game. Forward John Williams averages 8.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.5 blocks a game. He is only 6’4″ but will have to pick up the rebounding slack without Cunningham. Asheville is outscoring opponents 75-69 on the season. The Bulldogs are shooting 45.7% from the field and 33.6% from 3-point range. Bulldog opponents are shooting 41.9% from the field. Asheville makes 70.7% of their free throws. The Bulldogs pull down 35.9 rebounds a game and  have a rebounding margin of -0.4. UNCA averages 14.8 assists and 15.2 turnovers a game. They force 17.5 turnovers a game on defense. Asheville averages 9.3 steals and 4.4 blocks a game.

Without Holloway, Holmes, and Greenwood, Coastal Carolina is down to only 8 players. Forward Chad Grey has assumed a lot of the scoring load without Holloway. Gray averages 14.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.3 blocks a game. Guard Anthony Raffa averages 11.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists a game. Forward Sam McLaurin averages 7.5 points, 7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.8 blocks a game. Guard Danny Nieman averages 6.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists a game. Coastal is outscoring opponents 78-64 on the season. The Chanticleers are shooting 49.3% from the field and 33.8% from 3-point range. CCU opponents are shooting 39.3% from the field. Coastal makes 69.5% of their free throws. Coastal averages 39.6 rebounds a game and has a rebounding margin of +7.5. They average 15.8 assists and   12.6 turnovers a game. The Chanticleers force 13.7 turnovers a game on defense. Coastal averages 6.8 steals and 4.5 blocks a game.

Fortunately, for Coastal Carolina the Big South tournament plays all of its games at campus sites, and they give the teams a day to travel after each round. It would be difficult for Coastal to play 3 games in 3 days like a normal conference tournament with only 8 players on their roster. Both these teams are battling injuries and suspensions. However at full strength both have wins at SEC teams . Coastal won at LSU in overtime 78-69 in mid-December. Asheville won at Auburn 70-69 in overtime to start the season. Though Coastal’s roster is in worse shape, I still think they have talent to beat Asheville and clinch a spot in the Big Dance.

Our college basketball handicappers are red hot this season. Don’t miss out on any more winners from now until they cut down the nets in Houston next month.

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