March is officially here, and with it comes three more mid-major conference tournaments set to tip off tonight. One of those tournaments will be in the Big South Conference, and we’ll break down both first-round games set to be played tonight before going over my play in each of them.
It will be a tough road to the championship game for the winner of this matchup, as the next round will be against one-seed UNC Asheville. The nine seed, Charleston Southern, will not be coming into the tournament on a high note as they went 2-8 in their final ten games of the season to finish conference play with a 5-13 record.
Arguably the biggest issue for them this year has been defense. Entering tonight, they are ranked 360th in the country in defensive efficiency rating, which means they have the third-worst rating in D1 basketball. Opponents managed an average shooting percentage of 47.8% and a three-point percentage of 36.9% against them this season.
In the most recent matchup between these two teams, High Point was able to walk away with an 81-73 win at home, as they shot 42% from the field and outrebounded the Buccaneers 41 to 27. This win evened the season series as Charleston Southern picked up a 106-69 win back on January 11th.
That first loss to Charleston Southern is an excellent example of the High Point defensive inconsistencies this season. The Panthers currently rank 315th in defensive efficiency on KenPom; however, in three of their last four games, they managed to hold opponents to 69 points or less.
On the offensive end, the Panthers like to run at a high tempo. In fact, they run at the 21st fastest tempo in the country, according to KenPom. The fast tempo would likely be more effective if they didn’t shoot 44.1% from the field as a team this season, but they do have three starters averaging double-figure scoring numbers entering the tournament, so there are clear pros and cons to the fast pace.
High Point is currently listed as -1.5 point favorites, and I’ll be backing them as my play in this one. The Panthers have more momentum heading into the tournament, winning three of their last four games and going 6-4 ATS in their previous ten games. Charleston Southern was 2-8 ATS in that same span, and when listed as underdogs this season, they were 10-12 ATS.
When these teams last met, it was a high-scoring affair, but if it weren’t for an outlier performance from Charleston Southern’s Tahlik Chavez, who had 31 points when he averages 11.2 on the season, this game would not have been close. The Panthers dominated some critical aspects of the game that they should be able to tonight, like rebounding.
On the season, High Point ranks 47th in the country in rebounds per game, and after pulling down 18 offensive rebounds in the last meeting, they should have plenty of second-chance opportunities tonight. Additionally, the Panthers rank 86th in the country in opponent three-point percentage, so if they can run the Buccaneers off the line, they should be able to build and hold the lead in this one.
Presbyterian comes into the tournament as the highest seed since they finished 1-17 in conference play this season. After winning their first Big South game of the year against Campbell on December 29th, the Blue Hose have not won a game since. Entering the tournament on a losing streak is never ideal, but entering on a 17-game losing streak is quite the challenge.
Unsurprisingly, the Blue Hose ranks 349th in the country in adjusted efficiency margin, according to KenPom. Of 363 division-one programs, the Blue Hose are 351st in offensive rating, as they only scored 70 or more points in five of their 18 conference games. For the entire season, they have an effective field goal percentage of 47.1% and a shooting percentage of 41.5%.
Despite beating Campbell back in December, the Fighting Camels were able to even the series on February 18th with a 74-57 win. Campbell finished that game with four players scoring in double figures while shooting 51% from the field as a team.
The Fighting Camels ended conference play with an 8-10 record, giving them the seven seed in the tournament. Offensively, they are an excellent shooting team, ranking 81st in the country in shooting percentage; however, it is worth noting they rely more on interior scoring than from three. Their 54.4% two-point shooting percentage ranks 32nd, while their 32.7% three-point percentage ranks 251st.
Defensively, the Fighting Camels are ranked 257th in defensive rating, according to KenPom. Depending on the night, Campbell can look like a competent defensive team, but that inconsistency caused a lot of their trouble this season. In the first matchup between these teams, they allowed 82 points, while in the second game, they only allowed 57 points while holding the Blue Hose to 41% shooting.
Campbell can be found as -6 point favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play in this one. The Fighting Camels went 8-2 ATS in their last ten games, while the Blue Hose went 3-6-1 ATS in that same span. Presbyterian’s average scoring margin this season was -8.7, which ranks 330th, while the Fighting Camels' average scoring margin was -.8.
The Fighting Camels have scoring depth on their team that I don’t think the Blue Hose can keep pace with tonight. Campbell currently has four players averaging in double figures for scoring, while as a team, Presbyterian is averaging just 21.9 made field goals per game, which is ranked 350th. The Blue Hose have struggled to limit interior scoring this season, allowing a two-point percentage of 52.1%, which plays right into Campbell’s offensive gameplan.
Neither team runs at an exceptionally quick tempo, which will hurt Presbyterian in the long run since they need as many shot attempts as possible. On the season, Campbell is holding opponents to an average of 54.2 field goal attempts per game, which is the 59th-best average in the country. With the lack of interior defense and the inability to put up points in bunches, I don’t think the Blue Hose can stick around in this one.
High Point (-1.5)