Monthly Archives: February 2012

UNC Asheville Wins Two Over Homecoming Weekend; Matt Dickey Named Big South Player of the Year

Homecoming weekend at UNC Asheville provided the Bulldogs with two opportunities to get back on track heading into the Big South Conference tournament on Wednesday.  Thursday night, coming off two consecutive losses, the Dogs righted the ship with a 71-61 win over Gardner-Webb and followed that up with a 67-55 victory over Winthrop on Saturday.

Matt Dickey - Big South Conference Player of the Year

To make things even better for the No. 1 seeded Bulldogs, senior guard Matt Dickey was named Big South Player of the Year by the league coaches and members of a media panel throughout the league.

Dickey helped lead the Bulldogs to the Big South Conference regular-season title with a 16-2 BSC record.  The 16 victories tied a league record for most wins.

He finished the regular-season as UNC Asheville’s leading scorer with a 16.9 average. He scored in double figures in 27 of the Bulldogs 30 games this season. He was second on the club in assists (109), steals (44), and three-pointers made (55). Dickey led Asheville in free throws (166) and free throw percentage (.862).  His 16.9 scoring average was fifth in the league with his free throw percentage second best in the conference. He was eighth in the league in both assists (3.63) and steals (1.47).  In conference games, Dickey averaged 17.1 points to rank fifth, and was second in free throw percentage at 86.9 percent.  During the season he recorded his first career double-double in a key road win at Campbell on Jan. 12 with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and tied a school record with seven steals in a home win against the Camels on Jan. 28, in addition to a season-high 31 points.

“I’m really happy for Matt Dickey to receive this honor,” commented Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. “He is very deserving of this award. There are a lot of great players in the Big South Conference and this really speaks highly of the year Matt has had to be named Player of the Year. Matt is a hard worker and has been a wonderful leader for our team.”

Additionally, Dickey was named to the Big South All-Academic team for the third consecutive year.

J.P. Primm was named to the Big South's Second Team All-Conference squad

Dickey’s roommate and fellow senior guard, J.P. Primm was named to the second team Big South All-Conference team. Primm is Asheville’s second leading scorer with a 14.9 average. He leads the team in assists (123), steals (56) and three-pointers made (65). The senior was fourth in the Big South in assists (4.10) and steals (1.87). He’s third in the league in free throw percentage at .828. In Big South Conference games, Primm averaged 16.4 points per game. He was named Big South Player of the Week and Mid-Major Player of the Week on Jan. 30 when he scored 30 points vs. High Point (Jan. 26) and 23 points vs. Campbell (Jan. 28).

The Bulldogs two games over the weekend positioned them very nicely for a run through the Big South Tournament which begins tonight with two games to decide which of the bottom four teams in the league get to play in the quarterfinals, which will be hosted by Asheville.

In Thursday’s win over Gardner-Webb, Jaron Lane had the first double-double of hit career, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.  Dickey added 16 points and Jeremy Atkinson finished with 13.  Asheville had to fight all night to put the Runnin’ Bulldogs away.

“We found a way to win and that was good to see,” stated Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. “Gardner-Webb plays good defense and doesn’t make anything easy for you. It’s always a tough game with them whenever we play.

“What was good about tonight is that it was a lot like a tournament game,” added Biedenbach. “We played pretty good defense and did a nice job on the boards. Those are the kind of things you have to do to win tournament games.”

UNC Asheville - 2011 Big South Regular-Season Champions

On Saturday, Asheville’s five seniors (Dickey, Primm, Chris Stephenson, Quinard Jackson and Jeremy Harn) were honored in pre-game ceremonies.

In another game featuring outstanding defense by the Bulldogs, Asheville (21-9, 16-2 BSC) came away with a satisfying 67-55 win over the rival Eagles.

The Big South Conference regular season champions also picked up their 21st win of the season, matching the most wins by a Bulldog program in the regular season in the schools Division I era.

In this contest, Primm was the leading scorer with 17 points, Dickey scored 12  and had four assists and Atkinson also had 12 points and added five assists.

Asheville is 12-2 at Kimmel Arena and went 8-1 in league games in their new venue.  They are 22-2 against BSC opponents since the end of last season.  Asheville will next play in the 6 p.m. game against either the 8 seed (High Point) or the 9 seed (Gardner-Webb).  Asheville will host the quarterfinals and semifinals at Kimmel Arena, and, should the home team advance to the final game, it also would be played in the friendly confines of the new arena.

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What the Sears ESPN BracketBusters Taught Us

We all know some mid-majors (and they hate that term) are going to make noise in the NCAA Tournament.  It has been happening for years now…remember Butler from the last two tournaments?  Northern Iowa beating Kansas?  Right now, after watching a lot of basketball over the weekend, I am very impressed with a couple of teams…in a big way.

1. No. 24 Wichita State may very well be THE mid-major team of the year. No surprise there.  I picked them to beat Davidson (no slouches themselves…the Wildcats beat Kansas in Kansas City earlier this month) on Saturday.  They won, going away.  The Shockers shot nearly 64 percent and they are scoring 1.22 points per possession (this is the newest stat researchers love) over the past four games.  Coach Gregg Marshall’s team won the NIT last year…he has the pedigree to get this team not only to the Big Dance…but they could go deep into the tournament.

Murray State star Isaiah Canaan is a real leader for the Racers

2.  No. 16 Murray State is as good as advertised.  I picked the Racers to beat No. 21 Saint Mary’s and was rewarded with a surprisingly easy win.  Saint Mary’s star guard, Matthew Dellavedova was listed as “doubtful”…which really means it’s “doubtful” whether he would NOT play.  The home team overwhelmed their West Coast visitors in a raucous arena and even Dickie V was there to fuel the fans’ noise.  Impressed?  You bet…Racers star Isaiah Canaan had 23 points on just 13 shots and had four assists.  Murray State shot 58 percent from the field.  And this against a GOOD opponent.  Yes, the OVC is weak…and the committee says you can play your way out of a bad seed, but you can’t play your way out of missing the NCAA tournament.  Murray will be there…and will get a good seed.

3.  Creighton was coming off a three-game Missouri Valley Conference losing streak and they had to play a GOOD Long Beach State team.  The 81-79 win by the Bluejays is what the BracketBuster series is all about.  A potential bubble team playing well and getting a win that the committee will look upon favorably…at least Creighton hopes so.  Doing the Dougie is the thing for Creighton, and star forward Doug McDermott responded with 36 points and 11 rebounds.  LBSU could be in a bit of trouble because of this loss.  They are a good team with a questionable at-large profile.  They beat Pitt on the road earlier this year and has a neutral-site win over shorthanded Xavier…but that’s it.  This would have been a real good win for them…as good as it was for Creighton.

4.  Let’s look at a tale of two teams in the MAC.  The league’s best team, Akron, lost to Oral Roberts, 67-61.  ORU is surprisingly good…an RPI in the top 50 and have played tough at Gonzaga and West Virginia earlier in the season.  Their bad loss: UT-San Antonio in the first round of the Preseason NIT Tip-Off.  ORU could win 27 games this year, lose in the conference championship game and go to the NIT.

The other MAC team I want to look at is Ohio.  They ran UNC Asheville off the court Saturday night in what had to be one of the Bulldogs’ worst efforts of the season.  They were out-of-sorts from the opening tip.  Missing one key senior starter (Chris Stephenson) seemed to put them off kilter.  The nation’s fourth-highest scoring team did nothing in the first half…scoring just 18 points on 21 percent shooting.  Ohio is in fourth place in the MAC East, and they came out and dominated the Big South Conference’s regular season champions.  Ohio’s lock-down defense and outstanding 73 percent shooting led them to a huge win before a loud crowd in Athens.

5. The Drexel Dragons held up the Colonial Athletic Association’s outstanding reputation by beating (okay, demolishing) Cleveland State, 69-49.  Their poor play earlier this year has turned around.  This is a defensive team, and they held  CSU to 28 percent.  However, their recent offensive turn-around is what is getting everyone’s attention.  the Dragons have scored at least 1.10 points per possession in seven out of their last ten games.  They will battle CAA co-leader George Mason for the title…but remember this.  Four CAA Bracketbuster teams, Drexel, Mason, VCU and ODU won their games.  What a weekend for that league!

The BracketBusters may be a made-for-ESPN event, but even I was surprised at some of the quality of play in this year’s games.  If anything, it shows the NCAA Tournament is really going to be fun.  Yes, you can probably pencil in Kentucky, Syracuse, Duke and Mizzou or Kansas for a top seed…but watch out for the mid-majors.  They will make noise again…and I will be picking some of them, that’s for sure.

Asheville Falls to Ohio in Bracketbusters, 81-62

They never had a chance. The UNC Asheville Bulldogs travelled seven hours on a bus to Athens, OH, where they took a real beating Saturday evening, losing to the host Bobcats 81-62.  This game, part of the Sears ESPN Bracketbuster series, was about as ugly as they come.

Ohio led from start to finish in this one, and the way the Bulldogs (19-9) played was a bit concerning for coach Eddie Biedenbach.  “We didn’t play very well tonight.  We didn’t play hard enough against a team like Ohio and expect to beat them.  Our guys broke down offensively in the first half and struggled the whole night defensively.”

Senior starting forward Chris Stephenson missed the game due to an upper body injury.  “We missed Chris tonight, but still should have played a lot better,” added Biedenbach.  “We just didn’t play hard enough on any end of the floor.”

Jeremy Atkinson had 16 points for the Bulldogs Saturday night

Junior Jaron Lane got the start in his stead.  Matt Dickey and Jeremy Atkinson led Asheville with 16 points each, and Dickey moved into sole possession of third place on Asheville’s career scoring list with 1,710 points.

Ohio was led by Walter Offutt’s career-high 19 points.  The Bobcats (21-6) shot .739 (17-of-23) from the field in the second half, a shocking statistic.  “We should never let anyone shoot 73 percent from the field in a half,” said Biedenbach.  “We played a little better on offense in the second half, but you’re not going to make any runs when you allow Someone to shoot like that.”

Ohio grabbed a commanding 34-18 lead a the half, holding the Bulldogs to just 21 percent shooting.  The 18 points was the lowest total for the Bulldogs this in a half this season.  For the game, Asheville shot a season-low .295 from the field (13-of-44) and committed 24 turnovers.  Ohio’s bench out-scored Asheville’s by a 16-1 margin.  Asheville came into the game ranking 4th in the nation in scoring (82.3 ppg) and 11th in the nation in field goal percentage (49%).

Asheville finishes the regular season with two home games at Kimmel Arena, hosting Gardner-Webb Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. and plays arch-rival Winthrop Saturday afternoon on Homecoming.  The Big South Tournament begins on March 29 for Asheville, the number one seed.

Bracketbusters…and Regular Season Game Thoughts Today

Thoughts on a couple of games today…

In the BRACKETBUSTERS, there are several nice match-ups, so let’s start with the best one.

St. Mary’s at Murray State (6 p.m. ESPN)   Too bad the Gaels have dropped two of their last three games and too bad Murray State is not undefeated any longer.  When the game was announced, both teams were playing just so well…For St. Mary’s, their best player, guard Matthew Dellavedova is doubtful.  The Racers feature good perimeter defenders who could take the three-point shot away from St. Mary’s.  Murray State is a senior-dominated team that does not lose its poise.  I think Murray State wins easily due to the lack of Dellavedova and the fact that the game is being played at home.  Nationally-televised game in front of a packed, fired-up crowd…MURRAY STATE -2 is the PICK.

Wichita State at Davidson (Noon, ESPN)   Right now, Wichita State looks like they are the best mid-major team out there.  They are coming off a 21-point win at then-No. 17 Creighton.  they are building for a March run in the tournament.  This is coach Gregg Marshall’s return to the Carolinas.  He was the head man at Winthrop when the Eagles were dominating the Big South Conference.  He knows what it takes to get to the NCAA Tournament, and a win at Davidson today will certainly help their seeding.  Even though Davidson is formidable at home, WICHITA STATE -3 is the PICK.

Nevada at Iona (4:00 p.m. ESPN)   Going out on a limb here…Iona is a good team but every time I pick them, they lose.  It’s that simple.  I think the Gaels are a better team than Nevada, who had to travel across the country to play in New Rochelle, NY, and that could take something out of them.  Unless they want to make a real statement.  Neither conference will get two teams in the Big Dance, so this really is important for both teams.  I just have a hunch…so I am picking against the second Gaels’ team in the Bracketbusters (See St. Mary’s above)…NEVADA +7.5 is the PICK.

In REGULAR SEASON ACTION, a huge rivalry game and others should make it a good weekend.

Ohio State at Michigan   If OSU wants to make a statement in the Big 10 and to the Selection Committee, it starts today.  If they beat Michigan, they take down a team that is undefeated at home.  The Buckeyes feature the best point guard in the nation, Aaron Craft, and some guy named Jared Sullinger.  I think there is a lot on the table here, and it will be a CLOSE GAME.  Defending home court at Ann Arbor is what the Wolverines will do.  They may not win this one, but I think they keep it close.  That’s why I think MICHIGAN +5.5 is the PICK.

Missouri at Texas A&M   Mizzou is ranked third in the country.  This is basically the same team as last year.  The difference is coach Frank Haith, who has come in and completely changed the way the Tigers play.  Last year they couldn’t win on the road.  They were undisciplined.  This year, they are playing with confidence and I expect them to cover and win in Aggieland.  MIZZOU -7 is the PICK.

UNLV at New Mexico   I know, the Lobos lost by 17 points when they played in Vegas.  Payback time tonight.  The Pit is a tough place for any visiting team to come in and steal a win.  UNM, not UNLV nor San Diego State, is in first place in the Mountain West…and this game is huge.  I like UNM -4.5 at home as the PICK.

Enjoy the weekend!

Asheville Falls to Chanticleers on Road

CONWAY, SC –  Anthony Raffa’s 20 points, including a desperation three-pointer late in the game, led Coastal Carolina to a 74-69 win over UNC Asheville Tuesday night at Kimbel Arena.

Raffa started his heroic run on the defensive end when he made a clean steal from Asheville’s top scorer Matt Dickey, who finished with 19 points. Raffa completed the play with a 3-pointer from the left corner that put CCU up 65-56 with 3:21 to play.

“My adrenaline was pumping,” said Raffa, the team’s leading scorer on the year with a 16.6 point average. “He stole the ball from me earlier so I really wanted to get him back.”

He closed out the night by making four free throws in the last 20 seconds.

“He plays all out and he plays with passion,” said CCU head coach Cliff Ellis “It showed tonight.”

The loss snapped Asheville’s (19-8, 14-2 BSC) ten-game road winning streak in league play dating back to last season.

Asheville was led by senior Matt Dickey’s (left) 19 points and Jeremy Atkinson’s 16 points and nine rebounds. Dickey moved into a tie third place on Asheville’s career scoring list (Paul Allen) with 1,693 points.

The second-place Chanticleers (18-8, 11-5 BSC) have been waiting since last season to beat the Bulldogs.  Just last year it was Dickey’s miraculous 3-point shot as time expired that started the downward spiral for the Chants, who were having a terrific season, until that game.  Then, of course, the Dogs defeated the top-seeded Chanticleers in Conway to win the Big South Conference tournament and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“We did a great job battling back in the second half but we shouldn’t have gotten that far behind in the first half,” commented Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. “We did a lot of good things in the second half but Raffa hit some tough shots, including the one late in the game that hurt us.”

Asheville fell behind 15-4 to begin the game, after scoring the first two buckets of the contest.  CCU hit on their first four three-pointers of the game and took a commanding 35-20 halftime lead.

The 20 points was a season-low for Asheville, as the Dogs shot just .250 (8-of-32) from the field in the opening half.

“We didn’t do a good job guarding the three-point line in the first half, and that really killed us, ” stated Biedenbach.

In the grand scheme of things, does this loss hurt?  Yes and no.  Already guaranteed the number one seed in the post-season tournament, Asheville probably needed to win out to MAYBE avoid getting placed in the “First Four” game for the right to be a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  So, yes, it hurts.  But, on the other hand, the Dogs travel to Athens, Ohio for a Saturday night game against Ohio University in the ESPN Brackbetbusters (ESPN3) at 7:00 p.m.  Ohio has a higher RPI than Asheville, so a win there would really help.

The Bulldogs ended up 8-1 on the road in league play this season…a mark I am certain, Coach Biedenbach would have taken back in November.  They have two remaining home games after the non-conference game at Ohio.  They return to Kimmel Arena Thursday night to begin Homecoming Weekend against Gardner-Webb and conclude the regular season on Saturday afternoon with a game against arch-rival Winthrop.

UNC Asheville Wins Big South Conference Title

It’s too early to tell if this is a team of destiny, but I can tell you this is a team that does not quit. Hasn’t all year. And now, with a 14-1 Big South Conference record, the UNC Asheville Bulldogs have accomplished one of their goals – they are the regular-season champs.

Senior Matt Dickey's 22 points led Asheville in the huge win over Radford Saturday evening at Kimmel Arena

Led by senior Matt Dickey’s 22 points, Asheville pulled away from a weak Radford team Saturday evening at Kimmel Arena, scoring an 88-62 win.

The Bulldogs (19-7, 14-1 BSC) earned their fifth BSC regular-season title with the win and first since the 2007-08 season. Asheville will be the top seed in the Big South Conference Tournament and host the quarterfinals and semifinals at Kimmel Arena and would host the championship game if the Bulldogs are still in the title game.

They are also assured of being in a post-season tournament with the regular-season title. Asheville will be in either the NCAA Tournament or the National Invitational Tourney if the Bulldogs don’t win the league tournament title. The Big South Tournament will begin on Feb. 27 with two play-in games at campus sites before the tournament moves to Kimmel Arena for the quarterfinals on Feb. 29.

“Wrapping up the regular season and the top seed so we can play at home is huge for us,” said Dickey. “We’ve stayed consistent and focused for most of the season, and we needed to do that today against a team that we know has struggled this year.”

“We have a lot to be thankful for. A brand-new arena, a good team with great players that play well together, and now we win the regular season,” said Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. “We’re delighted to win the regular-season title. That’s the first step of some other goals we hope to achieve this season,” added Biedenbach. “I thought our guys were really focused from start to finish. We did a great job on the boards, and we’re going to need that as we get into tournament action.”

The Bulldogs have won six in a row this season and 20 of their last 21 games against BSC opponents, a streak that began late last season.

The BSC regular-season championship is Asheville’s fifth in 16 seasons under Biedenbach, its first since 2008 and the team goes on the road Tuesday night, playing at second-place Coastal Carolina (17-8, 10-5). The Chanticleers have lost three straight BSC games.

A win at Coastal would make the Bulldogs the third BSC team to go 9-0 in conference road games in a season. Asheville needs two victories in its last three conference games to tie the record for most league wins in a season (16), set by Coastal last season. Another new goal for the Dogs to aim for.

Following the Coastal game, the Dogs travel to Athens, OH, to play the Ohio Bobcats in a BracketBusters game on Saturday.

The most important goal, however, is winning the Big South Conference tournament. In a one-bid league like the Big South, several regular-season champs have failed to advance to the NCAA tournament because they did not win the league tournament. Coastal, last season, and Asheville, in 2007, come to mind. Let’s hope the home-court advantage that the Bulldogs have earned serves them well this season. In my opinion, it will.

This is a senior-dominated team that is ready to take the next step. Odds are that whatever team wins the Big South Tournament, they will be playing in Dayton in a “First Four” game (as the Bulldogs did last year). But that’s because the league’s overall strength is not good…and the tournament decides which teams play in Dayton for the honor of being a 16 seed. It would be very interesting to see what Asheville would do as a 15 or even a 14 seed…something that might have happened had they hung on and beaten Tennessee and beaten College of Charleston and had not lost at home to Charleston Southern (their only BSC loss).

A victory at Coastal and one in Ohio would certainly help their case, especially if they finish winning-out.

5 Reasons the New York Giants Will Win Super Bowl XLVI

Super Sunday is nearly here.  Indianapolis, an unlikely place to host this event, has been given absolutely tremendous reviews.  Yes, the nice weather helped…but so does a compact downtown and friendly Hoosiers!  So get set for the rematch…the New York Giants vs. the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

But…Here’s Why The Giants Will Win!

1. They are healthy.

After a season of hits, both teams are somewhat beat-up, but the Giants certainly are healthier than the Patriots. New England’s big weapon on offense, Rob Gronkowski, has a high ankle sprain. Oh…he will play. But he should be more effective in the first half. When the teams go into halftime, remember, this is the Super Bowl…and that means a L-O-N-G halftime. As Madonna and friends entertain us, the teams are set for a 31-minute break. If Gronk’s ankle is loose, it could stiffen up in the abnormally long break.

2. They have a better defense.

And that’s what usually wins championships. Look for the G-Men to rush four defensive ends – quick ones at that – to try and get to Pats QB Tom Brady. No, they won’t be as effective as they were four years ago, but I suspect that will be due to New England’s use of quick, short passes into the middle of the defense and their ability to run quick-hitting plays. This will negate the Giants’ quick defense and they may go back to a normal style of play soon after the Patriots begin moving the ball in their hurry-up offense.

3. They are a team of destiny.

Just like four years ago when these two teams met in Super Bowl XLII, the Giants are road warriors…they have already knocked off Atlanta, Green Bay and San Francisco on the road. Just one more win and they will make history…again. I think they are playing as well as any team going into the Big Game as I have seen.

4. Eli Manning has come of age.

Despite the pounding he took in San Francisco, he continually converted third down plays and kept drives alive. San Francisco’s defense is far superior to New England’s, and I believe Eli is playing as well as he ever has. Keep converting third downs (including several third-and-longs) and the defense begins to doubt itself. The Patriots’ defense has become much better in the past few weeks, but still…they are no San Francisco (at least this year’s version).

5. The Giants are 3 point underdogs.

Take the 3 points…it’ll be a close game. I like the fact that both ESPN’s Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic (“Mike and Mike”) choose the Giants…Sports Illustrated’s Peter King choose the Giants…Maybe I should have chosen New England…No…not this time. I am not flipping my pick. I liked the Giants two weeks ago, and I’m sticking with them.

Enjoy the game!