Big South Tournament 2014: The Big South's NCAA berth is up for grabs

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Not much separates the top eight teams in the Big South.

The top three teams in the Big South, according to KenPom.com's team rankings, are all grouped together. UNC Asheville (No. 223), VMI (226) and Winthrop (228) are all right there in a group, and they're a bit above the next batch of teams. The next grouping is about 20 slots lower and is even more dense with Big South goodness. All within eight spots in the rankings are the next five teams in the league: Gardner-Webb (No. 244), Charleston Southern (246), Coastal Carolina (248), High Point (249) and Radford (251).

To complete the math: The top eight teams in the league are all within 25 teams in the 351-team Division I standings.

Seven of those top eight finished between 12-4 and 10-6 in conference play (Charleston Southern was 6-10, because something had to give, and not every team can play 2-14 Presbyterian every week), so the Big South Tournament is about as open as one can get.

High Point and Coastal Carolina won their divisions, and VMI and UNC Asheville also earned first-round byes by finishing second in their divisions. After the first round, if the better teams win out — that's always a big if at any level of postseason play — that logjam described above will play itself out in full.

Liberty won last year's tournament as the No. 5 seed from the North Division after a 6-10 regular season conference record, but lost in the Opening Round game — the play-in game, it was formerly and is still more popularly known — to North Carolina A&T, the team that eventual national champion Louisville easily vanquished in the round of 64.

This year's tournament is in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

First round: Wednesday, March 5 (Big South Network)

Game 1: No. 4 (South Division) Winthrop Eagles vs. No. 5 (North) Liberty Flames, 12 p.m. ET

Game 2: No. 3 (North) Radford Highlanders vs. No. 6 (South) Presbyterian Blue Hose, 2 p.m. ET

Game 3: No. 4 (North) Campbell Fighting Camels vs. No. 5 (South) Charleston Southern Buccaneers, 6 p.m. ET

Game 4: No. 3 (South) Gardner-Webb Bulldogs vs. No. 6 (North) Longwood Lancers, 8 p.m. ET

Quarterfinals: Friday, March 7 (ESPN3)

Game 5: Game 1 winner vs No. 1 (North) High Point Panthers, 12 p.m. ET

Game 6: Game 2 winner vs. No. 2 (South) UNC Asheville Bulldogs, 2 p.m. ET

Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. No. 1 (South) Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, 6 p.m. ET

Game 8: Game 4 winner vs. No. 2 (North) VMI Keydets, 8 p.m. ET

Semifinals: Saturday, March 8 (ESPN3)

Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 12 p.m. ET

Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 2 p.m. ET

Final: Sunday, March 9 (ESPN2)

Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 12 p.m. ET

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