The Bulldogs are officially alone atop the Big South after a win over Campbell, 66-53, and Winthrop’s win over Liberty. Asheville struggled against the Camels to start the game and Campbell played great defense. However, without some the Camels’ top scorers, they were unable to keep pace with UNCA.
The hot hand of the day was David Robertson, whose seven 3’s accounted for over one-third of Asheville’s total points. Props to Kevin Vannatta too, whose poor shooting day turned into a great passing day, with nine assists.
The two persons I most want to discuss, though, are Will Weeks and Jonathan Baehre. In a previous post, I wrote of my affinity for Baehre because of his size. It’s great seeing him grow as he contributed 15 minutes against Campbell, including two offensive rebounds and five points. But his biggest contribution was size, despite some deficiencies in speed. His defensive presence gave Campbell trouble multiple times. Weeks, on the other hand, shined on the offensive side of the court with 18 points. Come tournament time, UNC-Asheville’s opponents will work hard to cover our guards, which is why the post needs to be versatile and ready to score.
The Bulldogs have two critical games left to finish the season. First, on Thursday in Boiling Springs, Asheville faces off against another Baptist school in Gardner-Webb. The first meeting went into overtime before UNCA could grab the “W.” I suspect this game will no less thrilling as the Runnin’ Bulldogs of GW have been a tough beat all year for everyone.
Second, UNC-Asheville will end the season against Liberty inside Kimmel Arena. After getting beat-up by Winthrop, Liberty will face an exhausted Longwood squad before coming to Asheville. When they played in early January, the Bulldogs were able to grab victory in Lynchburg which hasn’t happened for many teams. And, thankfully, the Bulldogs are unbeaten at home in conference play.
So the Big South standings could play out a few different ways:
- Bulldogs win out. By winning both games, Asheville takes the regular season crown and hosts the tournament. Again, we’re unbeaten at home, so hosting the tournament is a huge advantage.
- Bulldogs lose at GW, win against Liberty. If UNCA loses to GW, assuming Liberty and Winthrop win, then all three teams will have the same conference record. Therefore, while, I cannot say this is definitive, I will justify my position as to how the Big South would judge this situation: should Asheville defeat Liberty, the Bulldogs should be the conference winner because they will have the most recent victory over both of the opponents with whom they’re tied.
- Bulldogs win at GW, lose to Liberty. Honestly, if this happens, and assuming Winthrop and Liberty win their other games, I have no idea how the Big South will judge this situation. It becomes a rock, paper, scissors-scenario where there is no definitive way to declare a conference champion because each has one up over the other.
- Bulldogs drop both games. No-just, no.
After destoying Longwood at home this past Saturday, UNC-Asheville has four games remaining. As I’ve mentioned before, injuries hurt this team in ways they’ve not been able to recover. The Bulldogs are third from the bottom in the standings with games to go against the currently 1st and 4th best teams. If the Bulldogs were able to grab all four victories, they would be in premier position to win the tournament riding such a hot streak. However, I expect the Bulldogs to play well and play hard, but, come tournament time, I don’t expect victory.