by Patrick Snow
The regular season seems to get a little overlooked in many of the smaller or “1-bid” leagues in our Swampland footprint, but there are some great races happening as these teams position themselves for the postseason run. We’ll try each week to look at some of the intriguing teams and storylines that the ‘non-BCS’ conferences provide.
* Two teams in the Colonial Athletic Association have made huge impressions in the Big Dance over the last couple of seasons. George Mason had the unbelievable Final 4 run in 2006, and VCU beat Duke last year before being clipped in overtime by Pittsburgh in the second round. These two squads are atop the CAA this season, and it looks to be a great race. Mason took down VCU 63-51 Tuesday night to pull within a game of the Rams in the conference standings. The CAA has received multiple bids to the Dance in years past, but this season looks like it will depend on winning the conference tournament.
* When John Pelphrey left South Alabama for the Arkansas job, you had to wonder how the Jaguars would respond. Well, they are currently 17-3, have won 13 in a row, and are undefeated in the Sun Belt conference. Their main competition in the league will come from Western Kentucky, who stands at 16-5 with only one conference loss. Keep an eye out for the Hilltoppers 6’5”guard Courtney Lee. He averages over 21 points a game and definitely has NBA potential.
* Winthrop has been the king of the Big South over the last few seasons, but they have a huge challenge on their hands this year from UNC-Asheville. The Bulldogs are off to an undefeated start in the league, and have a pair of high scoring guards in Bryan Smithson and K.J. Garland. However, the biggest thing you’ll notice if you see Asheville play is their center, Kenny George. At 7’7”, 360 pounds, George is the biggest player in all of college basketball.