Although some may be reluctant to get interested college basketball in mid-November, there was some noise coming from the Big South Conference this past Friday. The first salvo fired was by the VMI Keydets as they beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena 111-103. The second event was not so much the outcome of a game, as what player had the big night. Seth Curry, the newest Curry to come on the scene in college basketball had 23 points and tied a Liberty University home record with 7 steals in the Flames' victory over Montreat. Despite it being early, there is definitely cause to be excited for hoops in the Big South this year. More on the two games after the break.
Billy Gillispie probably will prefer not to schedule anymore Big South teams in his pre-conference slate after this year. Last year, Gardner-Webb achieved an 84-68 upset of the Wildcats in Rupp Arena. Even though at that time Gardner-Webb (who played a close game at Virginia Tech losing 65-62 Friday) was in the Atlantic Sun, they are now members of the Big South alongside the Keydets. The fact that both teams scored over 100 points is nothing surprising for VMI. Years ago coach Duggar Baucom employed a new fast paced gamestyle due to his lack of size. It is said he created the offense while sitting at a restaurant using the salt and pepper shakers and his napkin. The result has been high scores, a frenetic pace, and an exciting style of play to watch for the fans. The Keydets led the nation in scoring last year, averaging 91.3 ppg. Everyone is asked to shoot and shoot quickly. Even though VMI lost their leading scorer Reggie Williams to graduation last year, they had six players in double digits. Williams had led the entire nation in scoring two years in a row, but Travis Holmes poured in 30 to lead the team.
Beating Kentucky in Rupp certainly does not have the luster it has had in the past, especially with Gardner-Webb's victory last year, but it is still a big win for VMI and the conference over an SEC team. In a conference race that is sure to be wide open, the Keydets have made their opening statement with the win. Yesterday VMI fell just short of edging another big conference opponent as they lost to Virginia 107-97.
My Brother and Me
Last season the nation was introduced to Stephen Curry who is the son of former NBA player Dell Curry. Stephen led the Davidson Wildcats to the Elite 8 the brink of the Final Four by making brilliant scoring performances against the competition. This year Stephen is back and getting well-deserved publicity in anticipation of the Wildcats' season. However, in Lynchburg, Virginia Friday night, younger brother Seth Curry announced his presence with a sensational night. 23 points, a record-tying 7 steals at home, as well as 5 rebounds and 6 assists in the 97-77 over Montreat. The competition was not NCAA tournament caliber and he will certainly will be tested more as the season progresses but it was a fantastic start to Seth's career. As the two brothers were in high school, it was initially believed that Seth was the better player but after Stephen's performance last year it is hard to say that Seth will surpass him. Yet he could equal him if he leads Liberty to an NCAA berth during his time at Liberty and has a good showing. As hard as it is to lead any team to the Elite 8, it seems unlikely Seth will bring his team to the same level but he may prove to be just as impressive an individual player.
The Big South and the Southern Conference are two mid-major conferences that have had significant impacts on the national college basketball scene in the last few years. The Big South's showcase team was Winthrop, who nearly defeated Tennessee three years ago and who beat Notre Dame two years ago in the NCAA tournament. Obviously the Southern Conference's premiere team is Davidson led by Stephen Curry and their quest to repeat a deep run in the NCAA tournament. With Stephen returning this year and Seth making a promising debut at Liberty, along with VMI's early victory over Kentucky, it should be an interesting and highly contested season of college basketball down south.