The winner of this clash will become the South Region's 16th-seed and take on top-seeded Duke in the first round.
Winthrop, which is 19-13 overall, won its ninth Big South Conference championship in the past 12 years with an 11-point victory over Coastal Carolina in the league's title game. The Eagles are winners of 14 of their last 18 outings and are making their fifth trip to the "Big Dance" in the last six years. They have made eight NCAA Tournament appearances in all, and their only victory came during the 2007 event over Notre Dame.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff is 17-15 this season, and after finishing second in the SWAC standings during the regular season, the team managed to capture the conference tournament championship to earn the first NCAA Tournament berth in program history. The last four outings have resulted in victory for the Golden Lions, who have clearly peaked at the perfect time.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between Winthrop and Arkansas-Pine Bluff on the hardwood.
Mantoris Robinson was named the Big South Conference Defensive Player of the Year for the second time, as the Winthrop standout is a tremendous on-the-ball defender. Not only has he recorded 56 steals this season, but Robinson has rejected 25 shots to go along with 8.2 rpg and 6.2 rpg. Reggie Middleton is the only double-digit scorers on the roster for the Eagles, as he brings 10.3 ppg to the court to complement totals of 94 assists and 53 steals. Matt Morgan checks in with 9.6 ppg on 50.2 percent shooting from the floor. Winthrop is generating 62.4 ppg on just 38.3 percent field goal efficiency, production that won't scare the Golden Lions or any other team in this tournament. Defensively, however, the Eagles are solid, holding foes to 61.4 ppg on 39.7 percent shooting.
Like Winthrop, Arkansas-Pine Bluff lacks the type of player capable of dominating a game at the offensive end of the court. The leading scorer for the Golden Lions is Terrance Calvin with his modest output of 10.4 ppg. Calvin is shooting only 36.3 percent from the floor, but he also brings 127 assists and 44 steals to the mix. Savalance Townsend is the only other double-digit scorer in the fold, as he provides 10.2 ppg. Through 32 games, UAPB is both netting and allowing the same exact amount of points (64.7 ppg). The squad is tremendous on the boards, outrebounding foes by 7.6 rpg. On a down note, the Golden Lions have committed 543 turnovers, an extremely high total.
Expect a low-scoring affair in this opening-round battle, and give a narrow edge to the Eagles. The celebration won't last long, however, as they will get hammered by Duke.
GAME NOTES: All eyes will be on the Winthrop Eagles and the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions this evening, as they square off in Dayton in the lone opening-round contest of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
FACTS & STATS: Site: University of Dayton Arena (13,266) -- Dayton, Ohio. Television: ESPN. NCAA Tournament Record: Winthrop 1-8, UAPB 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
Winthrop 65, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 60