Saturday roundup – CSU, Presby, and Kimmelgate III

Where to begin?

Asheville lost a heartbreaker on Thursday night to Charleston Southern, snapping a 7 game win streak and dropping their conference record to 8-1. Asheville is still in 1st place in the conference, but both Campbell (7-2) and Coastal are lurking at 1 and 1.5 games behind apiece.

What happened on Thursday?  Asheville didn’t play to win, plain and simple. Granted, there was an amazing run to come from behind 14 points and put the Bulldogs in a position to win.  There was also a very questionable blocking call on Matt Dickey with time winding down that put CSU at the line to ice the game.  However, you can never blame close losses on officiating.  Asheville played like an NCAA team for less than half of Thursday’s game, something they can’t do if they want to dance again in March.

Today’s game at Presbyterian offers an opportunity to rebound (punny! hah) against a 2-6 team that, apart from a shocking upset against Cincinnati, has not put together a quality win against a good team this year.  Nonetheless, Asheville has to play smart, efficient basketball on both sides of the court regardless of who the team is.  Often, teams that play to their opponent’s level have a worse problem affecting them (see Tar Heels, North Carolina).  Asheville doesn’t have this problem right now, but the guys can’t let Thursday’s loss get them down.  Every team loses, and if you’re undefeated in conference you’re going to have that much bigger a target on your back.

In off-the-court news, Friday was a take-out-the-trash newsdump of information related to Kimmelgate.  The Citizen-Times ran three articles on the scenario.  The first, a profile of Matt Dickey’s father, conveyed the sentiment many alums, students, faculty, and fans feel: that the entire Kimmelgate saga has hurt the UNC Asheville basketball program.  Regardless of culpability, the fallout from UNC Asheville’s decision to host the SoCon women’s opening round has far outweighed any benefit the tournament might bring the university (distinct from benefits accruing to the City and the community).  It also hurts recruiting.  A recruit looking at UNC Asheville sees this mess and thinks that either:

a) the athletics department doesn’t care about men’s basketball enough to make their conference tournament a priority (a false impression, but one that can be reasonably inferred from the past week); or

b) the athletics department is incompetent and doesn’t know how to manage a story.

The other two news stories that broke on Friday lend credence to the latter theory.  One revealed that ESPN has not been contacted about rescheduling the game and would be open to rescheduling the game.  This is great news and increases the possibility that the Bulldogs, should they earn the right, will be able to play on their homecourt.  The other revealed that the Southern Conference was willing to acommodate the Bulldogs should the situation arise.

Sigh.

I’m very grateful for both ESPN’s and the SoCon’s understanding in this situation.  I especially appreciate the sentiment of the Southern Conference Commissioner, who effectively applied the Golden Rule of “do unto others” by stating that he would not want one of his member institutions put into this position by another conference.  It was a refreshing display of humanity and accommodation in a saga that has been, overall, very immature and childish.

So how does the scenario play out from here?  It’s all up to the BSC.  If the university’s appeal is approved, then the Bulldogs would either play in Justice or move the date of the championship game to Sunday/a different time on Saturday, depending on agreements between the two conferences and ESPN.  Everyone saves a little face and basically gets what they should’ve gotten in the first place.

That, though, is the larger point: this situation should have never happened in the first place.  A prominent UNCA alum emailed me and said something to the effect of: “What should we have told the SoCon – that you can use the arena, but there might be a small chance that the men’s team may have the opportunity to play the championship game the same day as the opening rounds and we need to plan for that?”  Well, yes.    Even if the format was up in the air, we should have made it clear that, if the tournament format stayed the same this year, that the University and the SoCon would have to make arrangements so that UNC Asheville could accommodate both parties.  These negotiations should have wrapped up long before this season started when the format for this season’s tournament was finalized, and it should have been Asheville going to the SoCon and saying, essentially, “we want to honor our agreement, but we want to give our men’s team the opportunity to play on their home court.” The SoCon commissioners are human beings, not heartless monsters, and would probably empathize with the University’s situation (and the negative publicity that would arise should this scenario become public).

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened now the University and both conferences have this mess to juggle along with the regular troubles associated with planning conference tournaments.  It’s a regrettable affair and while it looks like this will be resolved amicably it doesn’t change the fact that the University administration and the Big South badly bungled this entire situation.  It calls for a reevaluation on the part of the University about how it manages unfavorable news and how it prioritizes athletic events.  In both cases, the buck stops with Janet Cone, and she should formally apologize to the men’s basketball team and the University community for putting us through this process in the first place.

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Saturday roundup: High Point Preview, #occupykimmel, and Photoshop Contest!

I just got done watching what must have been the ugliest UNC game since Carolina lost to Georgia Tech last year.  Roy Williams is going to be making the Tar Heels run from the Dean Dome to Kenan Stadium tomorrow, no doubt about it.  Hopefully the Bulldogs will have better luck tonight against High Point than the Tar Heels did against FSU.

  • High Point isn’t Campbell, but a road game is a road game and the Bulldogs will have to play well in order to win in what must be one of the smallest gyms in the NCAA.
  • Nick Barbour is going to test Matt Dickey and JP Primm this evening.  Barbour’s averaging 18 points per game, shooting 42% from the field for the season.  Still, HPU has mostly a two-man show with Barbour and 6-8 junior forward Corey Law, the only two players averaging double figures in points this year.  Asheville has 5 players (Dickey, Primm, Stephenson, Lane, Atkinson) averaging 10 points or more, so Asheville should use this balance to their advantage like they did against Campbell in the second half.
  • High Point, like Campbell, has a distinct size advantage against the Bulldogs, with Corey Law (8 rebounds/game) and 6-8 Branimir Mikulic down low.  On Thursday the Bulldogs did well when the play of Jeremy Atkinson and Jaron Lane forced the Camels to pay attention to the Bulldogs’ inside game, leaving more room on the perimeter for Matt and JP to fire away.
  • Bottom line: Asheville should win this game if they play well.  HPU isn’t in the top tier of the Big South this year, but this game will provide a challenge nonetheless and an opportunity to prepare for Coastal on Tuesday.  On that note…

The holiday weekend will put a bit of a lull in Kimmel-gate, but expect things to be back in full swing by Tuesday night, when Asheville hosts Coastal Carolina at 7 pm.  A group of alumni and students have organized a “white-out” of Kimmel Arena to show their support of the men’s team and their displeasure with the actions of Janet Cone and Chancellor Ponder.  I will not make it up from Chapel Hill but I encourage all readers to attend the game and wear white, the color of Asheville’s home jerseys as they play on what is supposed to be their home court.  And on that note…

We’re going to have a little contest!  Some of you may be familiar with this UNC tumblr entitled “Black Falcon Based God,” a Photoshop blog featuring UNC players with moderately funny to hilarious images.  (Asheville has cameos here, here, and here).  In that vein, I’m offering two free center-court tickets to Tuesday’s game to whoever sends in the funniest Asheville basketball-themed Photoshop caption. Entries are due on Monday at noon, with the winner being announced that evening at 5 p.m.  Email your entries to uncafanblog@gmail.com.  Go Bulldogs!

Preview – Asheville at Gardner Webb

When: 12/1/11, 5:30 PM

Where: Boiling Springs, NC

Media: WWNC 570/IheartRadio, online stream

Now the real test begins.

Eddie Biedenbach’s teams have a great record with Big South openers, going 14-1 in his tenure at Asheville while winning the last six openers in a row.  Obviously, however, opening your conference schedule with yet another game on the road (Asheville’s last three games have been ‘away’) is not an ideal situation and the Bulldogs will need to come out strong.

Hopefully one of the lessons learned in the Bahamas was the need to come out strong in the first half.  As was noted here and several other places on the interwebs, Asheville beat Connecticut for 37 out of 40 minutes last week.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs lost a lot of players last year including Luke Davis, who transferred to that other state school down I-40.  However, they’ve benefited from several outstanding freshmen, including Max Landis, as well as from returning stars like Stefon Johnson and Jason Dawson.  Johnson in particular should pose a challenge to the Frontcourtbycommittee to contain, as he’s 6-10 and 25o pounds (40 pounds heavier than last year).  Hopefully Roberts gets some minutes in and develops more as the Bulldogs will need a big man come tournament time.

Boiling Springs is a small backwoods North Carolina town with nothing to do except (1) study, (2) hang out at gas stations, and (3) watch Runnin’ Bulldogs basketball.  Expect the gym to be loud tonight. Nonetheless, the better team should come in tonight and get a W that should set the tone for conference play.

Asheville 78, Gardner Webb 70.

Asheville v. Mars Hill College

When: Wednesday, Nov. 16th, 7 p.m.
Where: Kimmel Arena, Asheville, N.C.
TV: None
Radio: None
Online: Big South Online

After a few days rest, Asheville looks to get back into the swing of things against . . . Mars Hill College?

Well, the announcer at Sunday’s game said that Mars Hill is an “area rival.”  Um, OK.  Obviously Asheville would like to (and should) beat Mars Hill College, but to call us area rivals is like calling N.C. Central and UNC area rivals.  Not really on the level.  Western Carolina?  Sure.  App State?  We never play them for reasons passing understanding, but sure.

Anyway, enough griping and on to the game.  This should be a much more friendly matchup for the Bulldogs than Sunday’s game.  Mars Hill’s website looks like it’s a bit behind but their players are much smaller than Tyler Zeller and John Henson, which will allow Quinard Jackson and Jon Nwanunu to move in the paint and afford Jaleel Roberts and Chudier Pal some more experience in the post.  As long as they come prepared for this game, the guards should have no trouble besting Mars Hill with their speed and shooting ability.  Eddie may also elect to sit Big South player of the week Jaron Lane in order to rest his knee, which Lane injured on Sunday vs. Carolina.

On the human-interest side of things, this game serves as a homecoming for former Bulldogs assistant Thomas Nash, who served from 2001 to 2008.  Nash was always fun to watch on the sideline, a very active and vocal assistant (my dad always pointed this out whenever he came to a game).  It’ll be a nice meeting as the prodigal son comes home and UNC Asheville comes away with their first regular season win of the year.

UNC Asheville 89, Mars Hill 67

Preview: Asheville vs. N.C. State

Where: RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.
When: Friday, Nov. 11th, 7 p.m.
TV: none (Big South/ACC Streaming online)
Radio: WWNC 570/iHeartRadio, N.C. State Radio Network

And so it begins.

Asheville ran roughshod over Lees McRae on Monday night, but while N.C. State isn’t the program of glory days past (something Eddie Biedenbach knows about), it’s about as far away from Monday night’s game as you can get.

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2011-2012 Season Preview, Part 1: Great Expectations

UPDATE: I completely forgot that UNCA was ranked #1 in the Big South preseason poll, with Matt Dickey being named the preseason player of the year.  Still, it’s only the preseason, and the real tests will come next month.

To say that Eddie Biedenbach and the UNC Asheville Bulldogs are riding a hot streak right now is a bit of an understatement.  The team won 7 of their last 8 games, including a sweep of the Big South Tournament and a victory in the “First Four” round of the NCAA tournament.  It was an amazing bookend to a season that started out with a win against Auburn and a relatively close loss to UNC (albeit a UNC with Larry Drew II as point guard).  Matt Dickey became a video highlight reel unto himself with last-second shots against Coastal Carolina and Arkansas-Little Rock, while “Jumpin’ John” Williams, now the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots, earned a spot at the NCAA dunk contest that in turn led to a spot with the legendary Harlem Globetrotters.  So yeah, a good season.

What’s Next?

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