College Basketball

Big South Conference Basketball Preview

Winthrop guard Keon Johnson (5) made the Big South’s all-freshman team last season and is the Eagles’ leading returning scorer (11.5 per game).
Winthrop guard Keon Johnson (5) made the Big South’s all-freshman team last season and is the Eagles’ leading returning scorer (11.5 per game). SPECIAL TO THE HERALD

Favorite

High Point: Panthers return three starters from team that has won or shared conference’s regular-season title the past three seasons.

Contenders

Coastal Carolina: Two-time and defending conference tournament champions, Chanticleers look to make last season in Big South a successful one.

Winthrop: Eagles return three starters, three key reserves from that finished 19-13 and advanced to Big South tournament championship game last season.

Radford: Highlanders return three starters, two key reserves from squad that posted back-to-back 20-win seasons for first time since 1997-1999.

Five to watch

F John Brown, High Point: Three-time preseason player of year pick is also three-time first-team all-conference, could become league’s first four-time selection.

G Elijah Wilson, Coastal Carolina: Last season’s Big South tournament MVP is Chanticleers’ leading returning scorer after averaging 11.3 points.

F DeSean Murray, Presbyterian: Northside Christian graduate was Big South’s freshman of the year last season. He was third in rebounding (8.1 per game) in league games.

F Tyrell Nelson, Gardner-Webb: Led Big South in field goal percentage (60.9 percent) last season, and was Bulldogs’ leading returning scorer (13.9 per game) and rebounder (6.5).

G Keon Johnson, Winthrop: Made conference’s all-freshman team last season and is Eagles’ leading returning scorer (11.5 per game). He was fourth in league in free-throw percentage (83.0 percent)

Worth mentioning

▪ Coastal Carolina is departing for the Sun Belt Conference after the 2015-2016 athletic season. As a result, the school won’t host the conference tournament, which has been held there since 2013.

▪ Five teams made it to postseason play last season: Coastal Carolina, which earned the conference’s automatic NCAA tournament bid; Charleston Southern in the NIT; High Point in the CIT; and Radford and Gardner-Webb in the CBI.

▪ Four teams – Coastal Carolina (24-10), High Point (23-10), Radford (22-12) and Gardner-Webb (20-15) – finished with 20 wins last season, the second time in league history that’s happened.

NEXT: CIAA

Bill Kiser

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