Posted on: March 14, 2010 5:40 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2010 11:07 pm

Know Your Play-In Team: Winthrop

Thomas Beisner

6:00 PM

 It's finally go-time for the NCAA as the brackets are being rolled out.  Like every year, there will be a handful of teams from small schools that make a brief one-day appearance and retreat back to their small town celebrity.  But, is that fair to them?  Absolutely not.  They worked their tails off to get here and it's only fair that you get to know them.  So, here is the one in a serious of introductions to these tiny Davids.  Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Winthrop Eagles.

1. Middleweight Muscle - Winthrop, a founding member of the Big South conference, has established itself as the muscle in the conference, clinching their seventh NCAA berth in the last nine years with last week‘s win at Coastal Carolina. By knocking off sixth-seeded Notre Dame in 2007 and playing second-seeded Tennessee to within two points in 2006, it’s safe to say Winthrop is a big-time small school. However, the Eagles have not let it go to their head though, resisting the urge to name their Rock Hill, South Carolina school “The Campus of Champions”. Oh, they did? I take that back then.

2. Don’t keep it close - The Eagles haven’t really given anyone the impression that they’re going to push a major conference school to the brink, going 0-4 with an average loss margin of 20 this year against BCS squads. But, if it’s close at the end, go with Winthrop. The Eagles are 8-2 in games decided by 5 or less this season and have wins against a rock (Limestone), a religion (Presbyterian) and an idea (Liberty).

3. Offensively offensive - The Eagles have a style of play that’s one part Hoosiers and one part running up an escalator, politely termed by analysts as “deliberate”. It will most likely be called “plodding” in the tournament or “Geez, I can’t take this. Can they flip to another game?” by your roommate. Sophomore Reggie Middleton leads a Winthrop attack with 10 points per game and six of Winthrop’s ten players that log over 10 minutes per game shoot below 40% from the field. Winthrop played 32 games this year. They topped 70 points four times.

4. Jack Frost is nipping at your nose - And also answering all your basketball questions. He’s Winthrop’s SID.

5. Famous Alumni - Winthrop boasts a lot of politicians, foreign basketball players and writers, none of which I care about. Outside of a producer for “Reading Rainbow”, it appears to a pretty bland alumni group. That is, until you get down to John Michael Nix, who I would assume to be a made up Wikipedia entry. It says he’s the inventor of the front tuck, which we all know as Gregg Doyel’s favorite part of Silence of the Lambs.

Up Next:  Dayton, Ohio and the NCAA play-in game against SWAC champion Arkansas - Pine Bluff on March 17

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 8, 2010 3:00 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2010 4:51 pm

Five for Fighting


The NCAA Tournament is set to deliver four more bids tonight as Conference Championship week #2 tips off, but for the five schools with hands already stamped, the waiting game is now the formidable foe. Let's take a quick look into the waiting room, where knees and champagne are iced, and dated periodicals and Kiss FM will have to suffice until Sunday. 



Cornell  (Ivy League)

Mascot: Big Red

Record: 27-4

Projected seed: 10-12






The Big XII will send 7 or 8 teams to the big dance this season and could potentially have two #1 seeds, and still, only one team managed to scare the Kansas Jayhawks on their home floor all season...yep, Cornell. Boasting an ever-so-rare senior laden starting lineup, Cornell ran roughshod through the Ivy League and secured their second straight spot in the NCAA Tourney. This time, however, the Big Red should receive a much more favorable draw with the potential to make a run to the Sweet 16 behind a lethally accurate 3-point barrage and what else, but a gritty, intelligent approach to the game. The Washington Post's Sultan of Sentiment, John Feinstein, profiled the team in February and discovered that the entire team lives together in an off-campus house. Which, of course got me thinking...what happens when 14 teammates, picked to live in the same house,  stop being polite, and start being real? 


Mark Coury, forward: Umm, who ate my last string cheese?

Geoff Reeves, guard: Dude, don't you even look at me. You know I'm lactose intolerant. 

Coury: Yes, I know all about your gastrointestinal deficiencies as a result of enzymatic short-comings, but I need some answers. And I need cheese!

Jeff Foote, Center: What are you crying about now, Mark? Another B in organic chem? 

Reeves: Someone ate his cheese. 

Coury: Fine, I'm calling a house meeting. Game room, 10 minutes. 

Coury: (in confessional booth) It wasn't so much about the actual cheese as it was respect. Look, I can always go get more cheese at the grocery store but they don't sell loaves of respect. They also don't sell ginger ale, which really perturbs me. 


Winthrop (Big South)

Mascot: Eagles

Record: 19-13

Projected seed: 15


To most low-majors, simply earning a trip to the big show is enough to hang the proverbial hat, but for Winthrop, it's a habit. The Big South Tournament champs for the 9th time in 11 seasons are playing their best ball of the season at precisely the right time and will look to put a their patented scare into their first round opponent. In 2006, a 15-seeded Winthrop came up just two points shy of knocking off 2-seed Tennessee, and in 2007 as an 11-seed, stunned 6-seeded Notre Dame in what proved to be an upset on paper only. This year's Eagles don't appear quite as dangerous as in brackets of the past, but an unusually vulnerable slate of potential two seeds better take this tournament-tested bunch seriously. 



East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun)

Mascot: Buccaneers

Record: 20-14

Projected seed: 16


The Bucs enter the dance for the second consecutive season winners of their last six, and appear bound for bloodshed as an ornamental 16-seed. The Atlantic Sun was fairly mediocre this season even by low-major standards and their signature win against the Arkansas B-team merits only a golf clap, but back-to-back league crowns in an impressive feat nontheless, eh Ken?


Hey folks, Kenny Chesney here, pop-country chart topper, beach bum, and proud ETSU alum. I'm in the middle of recording my next album right now, Puka Shells n' Cheese, but you can bet I'll be in attendance to watch my Bucs in the big dance. I'll be sittin' courtside in my old rickety rockin' chair with a big ol' jug of sweet tea. I remember watching this team win the conference last year and thinkin, man, that's something that just don't happen twice, but lo and behold, here we are again, and I can proudly say I never wanted nothing more...well, other than Jimmy Buffet's career, of course. 




Murray State (Ohio Valley)

Mascot: Racers

Record: 30-4

Projected seed: 12-13


The Racers dominated the OVC this season and notched their NCAA leading 30th win dispatching defending champ Morehead State in the finals. Murray might be the most balanced team in the entire tourney, with all five starters averaging 10ppg. Second in the nation in FG%, third in scoring margin and fifth in steals, Murray has the ability on both sides of the ball to make a run at the Sweet 16. 



Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley)

Mascot: Panthers

Record: 28-4

Projected seed: 8-10


Trust me, nobody wants to meet UNI in the first round because the Panthers will certainly make you earn it. Second nationally in scoring defense at 55ppg, UNI dominated a stacked MVC tourney by allowing just 132 total points in three games. Aside from conquering MVC foes, UNI throttled Big Conference bottom-feeders Boston College and Iowa this season, which doesn't say much, but they'll likely draw one of the numerous mediocre teams from the power leagues in the first round and notch at least one win in the dance. Who knows, their savage approach to defense could certainly propel them even further and into immortality like two-time NFL MVP, one-time Cedar Falls bag boy, and UNI alum Kurt Warner. 

Now that, is immortality. 


Posted on: March 6, 2010 6:56 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2010 7:00 pm

No you 'Chant'!

7:00 PM

Apologies to Jim Nantz for beating him at his own game. 

For the 9th time in 11 years, Winthrop is your Big South champion

The Eagles managed to implore their plodding, physical brand of basketball on Coastal Carolina, stunning their hosts 64-53, before a star-studded record crowd of a thousand? No, more like 1,030!! 

Winthrop lacks star power and pizazz but they could potentially be a worthy test for a number of projected 2 and 3 seeds, due to their ability to slow down the tempo and defend. 

Tough ending to a banner season for Coastal and head coach Cliff Ellis, who tumbles back into 'that old Auburn coach.' Honestly, I watched pretty much every play of this game and none of them were very memorable, nor any single performance spectacular, but some might argue it's not really about what I want. 

In a rather ironic twist, a building on the Winthrop campus nearly burned down this afternoon, it's cause unknown, it's presence, symbolical. You know, a mattress or sofa would have been just fine. Much more controlled and still hammers home the same point: Winthrop, Big South Champs. 

March, how did you get so mad?

AP Story
Posted on: March 6, 2010 3:47 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2010 3:58 pm

Big South Championship Game

3:45 PM

Just a reminder to you, off the beaten path college basketball blog fan, the big dance registers its second RSVP this afternoon as red-hot Coastal Carolina (28-5, 15-3) hosts resurgent Winthrop (18-13, 12-6) for the Big South Conference Championship just off the Grand Strand in Conway, SC. 

The Palmetto State rivals split their regular season match-ups with both schools holding serve at home, so we'll see how Winthrop manages amidst the hostility the second time around as they try to hand the Chanticleers their first home loss of the season in DI's second smallest gym (1,039 capacity...really). 

Winthrop is no stranger to success, winners of 8 Big South Tournaments since 1999. After beginning the season 7-9, the Eagles rode their defensive prowess to a respectable league record, but will have to find some scoring today if they want to pull the upset. Sophomore guard Reggie Middleton is their leading scorer at just 10 ppg, but is showing some post-season pluck averaging 21 ppg in the tournament. 

The Chants feature a balanced attack led by forwards Joseph Harris (14 ppg, 10 rpg) and Chad Gray (14 ppg, 5 rpg), and pride themselves on defense, as they led the league in FG% defense, so you can expect a low-scoring grinder today straight from the Tom Izzo clipboard. 

Ahh, come on John, tell us what we really want to know...

You got it, Italics. A Chanticleer is a fabled rooster featured in the Canterbury Tales, because when it comes time to choose a mascot, why look any further than Jeff Chaucer? 

So turn on and tune in as the Big South crowns its champ near the shores of Myrtle Beach. To the winner, a likely 14/15 seed awaits, and for the loser, well, a lovely parting package of local flair including Confederate flag beach towels and Girls Gone Wild Crew t-shirts. 

So really, everybody wins. 

Big South Tournament Championship Game
Winthrop @ Coastal Carolina 
4 PM 

Posted on: March 5, 2010 2:42 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2010 3:03 pm

The man can coach, but can he croon?


2:40 PM

Lefty Driesell. Eddie Sutton. Rick Pitino. Tubby Smith...Cliff Ellis?

Quite a Rushmore of coaches right there, and yes, Coastal Carolina's Cliff Ellis is just one win away from becoming the fifth coach in NCAA history to guide four different schools to the NCAA Tournament. 

Tomorrow, 4pm EST, Ellis and the Chanticleers play host to the Winthrop Eagles in the Big South Tournament Championship, as the former South Alabama, Clemson and Auburn maestro attempts to cement his legacy as Master of the Turnaround and assuredly, a spot in the coaching Hall of Fame. 

The bespectacled Ellis looks more Econ Prof. than basketball luminary, but there is really nothing "typical" about Ellis. In a profession in which it's widely believed one must sacrifice any semblance of a side hobby or life outside of the basketball offices in general, here is Cliff Ellis: avid musician, author, chef, ostrich farmer, gardener, philanthropist and probably even finds time to fold his own laundry. He's a dolphin in a shark-tank industry.

Before embarking on a career in X's and O's, Ellis was the lead vocalist for the Villagers, a headlining garage-band on the Southeast party circuit in the 1960's. How many other coaches have something like this on their resume? 

Tonight, at the Boardwalk Pavilion:

Bob Knight & the Stranglers, Roy Williams & the Aw Shucks Express, and Coach K & the Sweet 16's. 

About a week ago I was watching some SEC West shat-show and the announcer, Dave Neal, recalled a conversation he recently shared with a longtime referee. The ref remembered working an Auburn game during Ellis' tenure, and the typically docile coach exploding out of his seat to vociferously protest a call. Words were exchanged, a warning was issued, and play resumed. Not 5 minutes later Ellis called the official over and simply told him, "I'm sorry I said that." It was the first and only in-game apology he'd ever received. 

So if it's objectivity you like with your slice of the Big South, I'm sorry, I'll be rooting for Coastal Carolina to march forward to the dance for only the second time in school history, and Ellis to make a little history of his own. 

Take it away, Cliff: 


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com