It's here. It's time. The first day of March will officially kick off the greatest tournament in all of sports.
March Madness is here, and it starts with the little guys. The Big South Conference tournament will be underway, as each team strives to be the new Cinderella.
What is the beauty of a tournament like this? It's simple.
A team like Gardner-Webb (11-20, 6-12 Big South) has every opportunity that Duke and Kansas have at a national title! Likely? No, not even a little bit, but it's the chance that matters.
The Big South Conference tournament will be held March 1-5 at the high seeds' home courts.
The field will consist of eight teams from the 10-team conference. We already know Radford (5-24, 2-16) will not be dancing this year since they did not qualify for their conference tournament. Presbyterian (13-18, 7-11) had a rather impressive season in their first year in the Big South, but they are also ineligible for conference tournament play until next season.
Who Will win the Big South Tournament?
No. 1 Seed: Coastal Carolina (26-4, 16-2 Big South)
Coastal Carolina comes into the tournament as the No. 1 seed.
The Chanticleers have posted an impressive record this season, including a school-record 26 wins. Coastal Carolina is led in scoring by Desmond Holloway, who is averaging 18.5 points per contest. The Chanticleers are a team that can put up points in a hurry, but also have a solid defense.
It is also worth mentioning Coastal Carolina has a NIT bid locked up for winning their conference regular season.
No. 2 Seed: Liberty (19-12, 13-5 Big South)
Liberty comes into the Big South tournament seeded second, despite four consecutive losses.
The Flames have been a bit inconsistent this year in their play, but have proven they can run with Coastal Carolina, even though the Flames lost both regular season matchups against the Chanticleers by a combined nine points. Liberty is led in scoring by Evan Gordon at 14.5 points per game.
The Flames have not been to the big dance since 2004.
No. 3 Seed: UNC Asheville (16-13, 11-7 Big South)
UNC Asheville earned the three seed in this year's Big South tournament.
A true threat to win the tournament, Asheville has a conference win over Coastal Carolina. The Bulldogs have also played two tight games against Liberty, where they dropped both contests by a combined six points.
Asheville made their last tournament appearance in 2003, losing to No. 1 seed Texas 82-61.
No. 4 Seed: VMI (17-12, 10-8 Big South)
Virginia Military Institute reached 10 conference wins this season to earn the fourth seed.
VMI can put up points in a flash, ranking first in the nation in points per game at 88.5. Their unique style of basketball has put them in many high-scoring affairs. VMI will need to play their best basketball of the year if they want a chance in this tournament, and they have been blown out twice by Coastal Carolina this year.
VMI is 3-3 in the NCAA tournament and is looking for their first appearance since 1977.
No. 5 Seed: Winthrop (13-16, 9-9 Big South)
Winthrop checks in as the No. 5 five seed in their conference tournament.
Winthrop has been no stranger to postseason play the last few years, as they have made it to the dance five of the last six years from the Big South. Robbie Dreher leads the Eagles in scoring and has been an important piece to the puzzle.
It may also be important to remember the Eagles knocked off Wake Forest earlier this season, proving they do not back down from anyone.
No. 6 Seed: Charleston Southern (16-15, 9-9 Big South)
Charleston Southern is looking for their first trip the dance since 1997. The Bucs come into the tournament as the six seed and are playing some of their best basketball of the season.
CSU has won three of their last four and took Coastal Carolina down to the wire this past weekend. Kelvin Martin is the go-to guy for Charleston Southern, averaging 12.2 points per game and 8.9 rebounds. This, in addition to Jemarco Warren's sharp shooting, could be dangerous for other Big South opponents.
No. 7 Seed: High Point (11-18, 7-11 Big South)
The High Point Panthers have been struggling down the stretch. They have lost five of their last six regular season games and come into the tournament looking for answers.
High Point also had an eight-game losing streak earlier this season. While the outlook is bleak, the Panthers have a chance, and as mentioned earlier, that is all that matters!
No. 8 Seed: Gardner-Webb (11-20, 6-12 Big South)
The Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs snatched the eighth and final seed in the Big South tournament.
Gardner-Webb is fortunate Presbyterian was not eligible, or they would also be sitting on the sidelines watching. The Bulldogs have also been playing their best basketball as of late, including a win over Coastal Carolina. They are looking for their first NCAA tournament appearance.
Let the games begin. Here is how I see the Big South Conference tournament playing out:
Coastal Carolina 69 Gardner Webb 62
Liberty 80 High Point 57
Charleston Southern 66 Asheville 63
Winthrop 85 VMI 81.
Winthrop 70 Coastal Carolina 69
Liberty 73 Charleston Southern 67
Big South Championship:
Liberty 66 Winthrop 63
BIG SOUTH CHAMPION: Liberty Flames (22-12, 15 Seed in NCAA tournament)
Please feel free to pick your conference tournament champion for each tournament as I publish them in the next few days, and post it in the comments section. I will be keeping a log of people's picks and will do an article about the person who correctly picks the most conference champions.