Radford University is a school in southwest Virginia, boasting an enrollment of 9,122, located 18 miles from the Virginia Tech campus, and according to TBL, they have one of the highest STD rates in the country. This is only their second tournament appearance ever (1998) and how fortunate they are to draw number 1 seed North Carolina in Greensboro where the Tarheels have never lost in the tournament. It is a short bus trip of about 57 miles for UNC and a slightly longer 135 miles trek for the Highlanders. The arena will no doubt be an explosion of baby blue on Thursdaty at 2:50pm EST for Radford's chance at what would be the biggest upset in the history of the tournament.
There was a great article in USA Today over the weekend about Radford. It talked about head coach Brad Greenberg, brother of Virginia Tech coach Seth. The two will never intentionally face off together according to their mom. The big star for Radford is their 6'11" center from Belarus Artsiom Parakhouski who is a junior college transfer from that cradle of basketball, Southern Idaho. Parakhouski has only been in the U.S. for 2 and half years and his English in progress can be seen in some of his quotes in the article, like this gem:
"I watched like crazy all the games," he says. "I would say, 'Once, I am going to be on this TV. And I am going to play against some special team.' And now, dreams are true."
Indeed Art, dreams are true but that special team is North Carolina. Parakhouski has been training hard since Radford earned their bid over a week ago, here is some of the footage.
I actually did research on all the 16 and 15 seeds in the tournament because I thought at first Radford was getting a raw deal having to play Carolina after winning their conference outright and winning the conference tournament but their 131 RPI and 215 SOS does not lie. Their best out of conference game was a 2 point loss to Virginia, whose coach just "resigned". But they were an impressive 15-3 in conference and Parakhouski was the conference player of the year and tournament MVP. If Radford is going to have a snowball's chance they will need their frontcourt to play huge. The Highlanders have decent size for a small school; besides the the big center, there is 6'8" senior Joey Lynch-Flohr and off the bench 6'8" Eric Hall. They also have Pittsburgh native point guard Amir Johnson who is a little tank with a 1.59 A/TO ratio this year. Swingman Kenny Thomas has great athleticism as well on the wing.
Adding in the advice Seth will share with his older brother, the senior leadership, and the size for rebounding, Radford could give Carolina a fight. Ty Lawson's status will be a big factor of course because it affects the pace of the game but Radford faced VMI, the nation's highest scoring team three times so they should be used to transition. They need to channel their inner Western Carolina, Fairfield, Albany, ETSU, Murray State, and Princeton.
All this being said, we all have Carolina winning this game by double-digits and sadly making one of the first exits from this year's tournament, but like XM always says...
Season of wonder at Radford: Coach, center spark NCAA run [USAToday.com]