The first ticket will be punched to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday afternoon in the Big South final, where the UNC Asheville Bulldogs will take on the upstart VMI Keydets.
VMI had itself a substandard season for sure. The team only won a single game on the road for the whole year, and it finished the regular season with 10 conference losses. Now, it is just one win away from shocking everyone in the Big South as the No. 7 seed and making it to the NCAA Tournament. There has been a brutal road to make it to the finale, going through some of the best teams in this conference. Stan Okoye and Keith Gabriel are the heart and soul of this team. These two are both averaging over 17 points per game this year, and if the Keydets are going to end up going dancing, these two are going to be the ones that end up having big time games. Ron Burks is a bit of a point forward, and he has the potential to be a bit of a difficult matchup for the Bulldogs. What we have seen over the course of this tournament though, is that anything can happen, so you never know what is going to happen in the madness known as March.
Playing at home has been a huge advantage for the Bulldogs in this tournament, and the end result has been two massive victories over High Point and Charleston Southern. This has clearly been the best team in the Big South all year, and though this is the top seed, the only thing that is guaranteed is a bid to the NIT. A loss in this one, and all of the work that has been done over the course season will essentially be lost. This isn’t a particularly deep team, and it is a team that uses a ton of guards to win games. The hope is to win this one with these guards and then sneak up on a No. 1 seed, because UNC Asheville knows that it is going to be a No. 16 unless there is a heck of a lot of upsets in the other conference tournaments. Matt Dickey, JP Primm, Chris Stephenson, Jaron Lane, and Jeremy Atkinson are all tremendous scorers, and all five are averaging at least 11 points per game. Primm, Stephenson, and Atkinson all scored at least 18 points in the win against Charleston Southern, and theoretically, this should have been the most difficult game left for this team before the dance.
The Final Word: Any time that you are laying 14 points in a game like this, we take notice. VMI was able to stick around in this series over the course of this season, and we see notice reason why it wouldn’t be able to do it again in this one. We aren’t so sure whether or not the Keydets are really going to pull off the biggest shock thus far in March, but we definitely want the points on our side.
VMI Keydets @ UNC Asheville Bulldogs Pick: VMI Keydets +14
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.