To Be the Best, Big South Fave Radford Feels It At Least Needs To Play the Best

Mike ArrowsmithCorrespondent IAugust 22, 2009

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 19:  Artsiom Parakhouski #45 of the Radford Highlanders shoots against Tyler Hansbrough #50 and Deon Thompson #21 the North Carolina Tar Heels during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 19, 2009 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

It almost seemed like something out of a dream for the Radford Highlanders basketball team (21-11). 

Just five months ago, the Radford student body was storming the court of the Dedmon Center after being crowned Big South Champions by virtue of defeating the VMI Cadets 108-94 in the final game of the tournament. 

The Highlanders earned an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in school history where they would face ACC powerhouse North Carolina Tarheels (34-4) in the first round. 

Unfortunately for Radford, the Tarheels dashed any hope the Highlanders had for an upset with a 101-58 drubbing. 

North Carolina was clearly the better team in almost every aspect of the game in size, depth, and talent. They went on to beat the likes of LSU, Gonzaga, Oklahoma, Villanova, and Michigan State en route to becoming the 2009 NCAA Tournament Champions.

Radford lacked any depth past their starting five and had no answer for North Carolina's  All-American forward, Tyler Hansbrough. They also lacked the experience of playing the top tier NCAA basketball teams that North Carolina saw on a regular basis. 

A majority of Radford's wins came in the lowly Big South where they went a conference best 13-3. However, this season's schedule brings hope for Radford to improve on last year's success.

The Highlanders will be well battle tested on the road as they will play three games against national powerhouses Duke, Louisville, and Kansas. They will also play host to George Mason, who was voted by several publications as the No. 1 non-BCS recruiting class for the 2009-2010 season.

The Highlanders will also host an ESPN Bracket Buster late in the season. A potential upset in any of these games could bolster Radford's seeding and at large hopes for the 2010 NCAA Tournament. 

If nothing else, the experience that Radford will gain from playing teams of this caliber will help them to win the Big South Tournament and earn an automatic tournament bid. 

Radford looks to be the clear favorite to win the Big South in 2010. They will return four of five starters. Amoung them, is senior center and Big South Player of the Year, Artsiom Parakhouski. 

After transferring in from an Idaho community college, the 6'11 Belorussian has become a monster inside the paint. Last year, Parakowski averaged 16.2 points per game. He proved to be the deciding factor in the Big South Championship game where he scored 26 points and added 18 rebounds. 

Parkowski followed that effort with another 10 point and 10 rebound double double in their NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina.

The Highlander community is also very excited about the signing of junior point guard Jeremy Robinson. Robinson is a 5'10, 170-pound guard that who is coming off of his second season at Tallahassee Community College where he started 31 contests. 

In 2007, Robinson led Northwestern High to the Baltimore City Championship. He was rated as the 38th best prospect in the class of 2007 by Mid-Atlantic Hoops, and was also named to the Baltimore City All-Star team.

Radford will tip off the 2009-2010 against Navy at the Dedmon Center at 7 pm on November 13.