Here we go again…

If you haven’t seen this, you’re about to be disappointed.

Coach McDevitt was tremendous. With his local ties, history and success with UNCA, I thought we might always have good hold, but it’s natural to ascend in a sport like college basketball.

From the MTSU website, “We had a thorough, national search and Coach McDevitt kept rising to the top,” said Massaro. “People all across the country have commented on his ability to coach at a high level while recognizing how well he has recruited. He is the total package and I think our community will embrace him because he is a great fit for Middle Tennessee.”

From that same article, McDevitt earns praise from Rick Barnes and Seth Greenberg to name a few.

Now, a thorough coaching search will begin.

Another important Big South concern is Xavier’s coach, Chris Mack, interviewing for Louisville. Pat Kelsey, the current Winthrop Men’s Basketball coach, played for Xavier. If Mack leaves, it could add some hype to someone who chose not to leave Winthrop last season two days after accepting a job at UMass. Those would be rough waters to tread for Coach Kelsey.

 

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Big South Tournament

UNC-Asheville hosts four games tomorrow, beginning at 1PM.

1PM #2 Radford v. #10 Longwood

Longwood, fresh off their Tuesday upset over High Point, faces a Radford squad it has yet to beat. While Longwood was able to break a losing streak that stretched back to mid-January, they did so with High Point’s help. High Point committed 17 turnovers and shot poorly, especially from the FT line. Radford, on the other hand, is riding a four game win streak, most recently defeating this Longwood team.

3PM #3 Winthrop v. #6 Gardner-Webb

After finishing the season with a victory over an Ahmad Thomas-less Asheville team, Gardner-Webb will face a Winthrop team that dropped its last two games of the regular season. GW finished the season with two road victories so Winthrop will have their hands full against a team that they split against in the regular season: 90-67 in Rock Hill, 71-90 in Boiling Springs.

7PM #1 UNCA v. #8 Charleston Southern

CSU will walk into Kimmel with a load of confidence. They easily put away Presbyterian on Tuesday to add a third win to their streak. The last time CSU lost: UNCA – and in OT! All I’m saying is, the Buccaneers can do it. UNCA will need to be prepared and Ahmad Thomas healthy to fend off this team.

9PM #5 Liberty v. #4 Campbell

Last year’s tournament could’ve been called the Chris Clemons Tournament after his tremendous performance (Sorry to bring it up again Bulldog fans). Add to that, Campbell has already beaten the Flames twice this year, and Campbell should feel pretty confident. Then again, beating any team three times in a season is a tough job.

 

I should be around all day so I hope to see you. GO BULLDOGS!!!

Mid-Season Patterns

Wow, with the end of December and breaking through the holidays, it’s taken some effort finding time to get back to this. So without further delay…

Men’s Basketball

After finishing 7-6 in nonconference play, the Bulldogs are 3-2 in conference play, with losses to High Point and Radford (both away) and wins over Campbell, Longwood, and Presbyterian.

As UNCA has moved forward, the turnover numbers have come down, but still not entirely under control. Free-throw percentage is up, except for the Presbyterian game. Asheville’s steals per game are steady and opponent’s are committing double-digit turnovers. On average, the Bulldogs win the rebound game.

On the other hand, with the exception of Presbyterian, most teams of late have shot at least 46% from the floor. And UNC-Asheville’s assists-to-turnovers ratio is too close to 1:1.

Of course, play in the Big South is as usual: teams win at home, lose on the road:

Radford: 2-0 at home, 2-1 on road. The two road wins were the two teams at the bottom of the conference.

Gardner-Webb: 4-0 at home, 1-1 on road. The road win a 2-point victory over Campbell.

Liberty: 2-1 at home, 1-1 on road. Honestly, the home loss to Longwood was pretty outrageous because they only scored 51 points. The road win was a 3-point victory over Winthrop.

Then UNCA, fourth in the conference: 2-0 at home, 1-2 on road. The road win was over Presbyterian, second to last in the conference.

I could keep going, but you get the picture. All but one Big South team is at least .500 at home. Three teams are undefeated at home, including UNCA. On the other hand, and as you would expect if a team plays a challenging non-conference schedule, no Big South team has a winning road record.

Women’s Basketball

Field goal percentage is trending upward and they’re winning the rebound game. Unfortunately, turnovers remain high, much higher than assists on the season. And assist-to-baskets is less than 50%.

After a tough start to the season, UNCA has won 5 of the last 7, with both losses coming at home against High Point (currently on top of the conference standings) and Furman.

The Bulldogs are second in the conference at 3-1.

As I had hoped, this team seems to be coming together.

 

Hope to see everyone tonight at Kimmel against Charleston Southern.

GO BULLDOGS!!!

That First Week Tho’

Men’s Basketball

One up, one down, and one incredibly tough loss. The Bulldogs faced a tough season opener against Rhode Island before returning home to face a DII squad from just up the mountains in Lees-McRae.

The story of the Rhode Island game can be summed up in a single word: turnovers. The Bulldogs committed 27 turnovers, only 13 were forced by Rhode Island. As a result, the Rams attempted 19 more shots than UNC-Asheville and scored 28 points off turnovers.

While UNCA did struggle shooting in the first half, the most painful shooting was at the free throw (FT) line: 18-32 (56%).

The truth is that Rhode Island is the better team. They dominated the game, never surrendering the lead, and points in the paint (52) and their bench provided ample support (35 points). Yet not everything was bad for the Bulldogs. They scored 18 baskets on 11 assists and were almost even in the rebounding game. With shots not falling and an abundance of turnovers, UNCA lost 84-60.

The trends from the first game carried into the Lees-McRae game, but hardly at those levels. For example, Asheville committed 17 turnovers, but the Bobcats only had 9 steals, meaning equal parts forced and unforced errors. Team FT% went up, but only to 63%.

UNCA’s shooting improved, though they struggled from long range. Raekwon Miller, who struggled against Rhode Island in every way, shot 5-6, including 3-3 from 3, and 4-5 from the line. The Bulldogs also accounted for 15 of the Bobcats’ 18 turnovers.

Similar to the first game, UNC-Asheville is the better team. They destroyed in the paint, rebounding and points, took advantage of turnovers, and never surrendered the lead.

While I wasn’t able to catch the first game on the A10 stream, I took my usual seat for the Lees-McRae game. I was surprised at the talent of L.J. Thorpe, who did not play against Rhode Island, but he can be a little loose. His alley-oop to Jonathan Baehre was incredible, but in the 6 minutes he played, he managed 2 assists and 2 turnovers. Jalen Seegars also had a great game, scoring 10 points in 19 minutes, including 2-3 from 3 and 4-5 from the line.

On the other hand, Thomas looked off on Monday night. And, just as a note of a slight disappointment for myself, Jonathan Baehre looked a bit slow on his feet. UNCA’s domination really couldn’t be felt until the last 7 minutes of the first half; before then, the game felt closer than it was.

Finally, Vandy. Oh, Vandy. While the Bulldogs hung tough, clutch FT shooting at the end of the game by Vanderbilt kept UNCA from winning. Asheville outrebounded, shot close, and forced turnovers, but also committed unforced turnovers. The good news, as far as team growth, UNC-Asheville shot almost 87% from the stripe, a marked improvement.

A poor shooting night by Teague, but an excellent showcase for Wnuk, 2-3 from 3 and 7-11 from the floor. Also, Baehre showed his range with 1-1 from 3 and 2-2 for the game.

Finishing just short, 79-76 Commodores, UNCA played a good game and, if you believe in moral victories, they should be proud of this one.

Women’s Basketball

The women faced no cupcakes to start the season, but unfortunately were treated like ones when they played NC State. So I’ll skip over that one and focus on the very winnable, but ultimately lost, games against Western Carolina and UNC Charlotte.

Against WCU, the bulldogs played well except one area: shooting, 29% in the first half, 34% in the second half, and 17% from 3 for the game. Having lost key 3-point shooters from last year’s team, it’s difficult to see this one struggle. That said, the only quarter with a substantial point difference was the second. Asheville played hard and had the game within reach before Western closed out for the win.

Coming into Kimmel, I felt like the UNC-Charlotte would be a game of equals. I was not disappointed. However, simliar to the Western game, one bad quarter, this time the third, kept the Bulldogs from grabbing a win. While the game finished 51-47 Charlotte, UNCA had chances closing out the game to take the lead. Shooting again doomed the team: 34% for the game, 45.5% from the line, and 12.5% from 3 (this was really Wall, the only Bulldog to score from long range, who shot only 28.6% herself).

Outside of shooting, Bree Fitzgerald fouled out. After she left the game, a signifcant difference could be seen. The backups, Jordan-Brown, Esdah, and Fisher, couldn’t generate the defensive presence that Fitzergald held over the opponent. The 49ers outrebounded the Bulldogs by 8.

Hopefully, being this close to the “W”‘s will help as the women grow through the season.

Around the Big South

A couple things of note for the conference.

First, the Big South will be adding teams next year in USC Upstate, a staple of the Asheville schedule for some time, and Hampton University, an HBCU located near Newport News, VA.

Second, two notes on our men’s basketball competition. Gardner-Webb put up a good fight before losing to Miami, 77-45. Liberty beat Wake Forest 79-66, driving one Deac fan to the brink.

 

Hope to see everyone at Kimmel on the 22nd when the Men face Monmouth.

GO BULLDOGS!

 

New in Blue: Jalen Seegars

One of the great joys in college basketball is rejoicing when a recruit chooses your school over your rivals. Unfortunately, this gets much less press in the mid-majors like the Big South. However, Jalen Seegars did just that. With offers from High Point and Winthrop, even non-rivals Monmouth and Vermont, Seegars chose the blue and gray of UNCA.

Other schools, like UConn and Wake Forest, gave serious interest, but as the season played out, the offers were mid-majors.

As a 6’4″, 220lbs guard, Jalen Seegars offers great finishing, consistently high scoring, and, based on some reviews, great defense. The term “spark” seems to describes his potential. Also, the term, “hops”…

To put this in perspective, UNCA landed a recruit who intrigued Power 5 schools, but didn’t receive offers. To me, that suggests unrealized potential, potential Coach McDevitt and the staff can hopefully unlock.

To see more highlights of Jalen Seegars, check this.

New in Blue: Leonard Thorpe

A smooth combo guard from Florida, Leonard, L.J., Thorpe comes to UNC-Asheville with lots of potential.

UNCA lists him at 6’4″, 225, which suggests the strength and size to body up when necessary. In an PrepHoops interview in March of 2016, Thorpe suggests he’s known as a shooter. HoopSeen ranked him 33rd in the state of Florida around the same time. And his mix of statistical reports shows solidly double-digit points with greater than five rebounds and five assists, including four triple-doubles in his senior season.

Like many other recruits, I couldn’t find full game footage, but in the highlight reel below (Thorpe’s the one with the hair), he shows some nice finish at the rim and a smooth behind the back pass.

One of the more interesting notes from the video: right hand dominance. The video only provides a small sample, but you can see him finish from the left side twice with the right hand. However, his handles don’t seem to be affected as his dribble penetration occurs with the left hand in a couple of instances. And speaking of handles…

Did you see that? Crossover, between the legs, behind the back, and finishes at the rim.

L.J. Thorpe shows vision in passing and handling. More importantly, in that last video, you can see his smooth, single-motion jump shot, similar to many big time NBA shooters.

Again, as with all highlight videos, the one thing I cannot see is defense. However, I’m sure we will all be able to assess that soon enough.

Regardless, if I rated L.J. Thorpe in a word, you guessed it: smooth.

Schedule Your Schedules (17-18)

Men’s Basketball

Whoever strung together this schedule made it a veritable who’s who of the mid-major basketball world.

The boys start off against Rhode Island. In the late 90’s, URI was a consistent tournament team, most notably in 1998 when they defeated #1 Kansas on the way to the Elite 8.

In late November, Monmouth comes to town. You may remember Monmouth from this.

And just before Christmas, the men’s team heads out to California to visit the Gaels of Saint Mary’s. Saint Mary’s has been the main competition of Gonzaga in the WCC, with three NCAA apperances since 2010.

They’ve also got some great Power-5 matchups with Clemson (ACC) and Vanderbilt (SEC). Finally, the non-conference schedule is filled in with area standbys like Wofford, Furman, and USC Upstate, and a new Big South/SoCon festivity at the Cellular Center against Western, which includes a High Point v. Wofford matchup.

The conference schedule begins with Campbell at home and ends at Gardner-Webb. Senior night is Thursday, February 22nd against Winthrop.

Women’s Basketball

Oddly enough, every non-conference game for the women’s team is in the area. Fresh from their second straight NCAA tournament appearance, you have the chance to see these girls in action for every game.

They start off against Western, followed by #17 NC State, both on the road. Every year NC State has a killer team that is, unfortunately, often overshadowed by its bigger named rivals.

But the Wolfpack aren’t the only big team the Bulldogs face. The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders have made the NCAA Tournament every year since the 2008-09 season, except one, and haven’t missed the postseason since 2003-04. More importantly, MTSU is coming to Asheville.

Like the men’s schedule, the women’s non-conference is littered with area competition, including Mercer, Furman, App St., Davidson, and UNC-Charlotte.

Inverse from the men’s schedule, the conference schedule begins with Campbell away and ends with Gardner-Webb in Asheville.