The Big South Championship saw the Winthrop Eagles finish the job, rightfully earning the league’s automatic bid.
The Big South Championship game looked like it was going to be a good one after one half of play. The Winthrop Eagles held just a six-point advantage over the Campbell Camels at the break. However, the Eagles shot the lights out in the second half, shellacking Campbell to the tune of 80-53 and earning the league’s automatic bid. D.J. Burns was a force inside for Winthrop, scoring 22 points on 11-12 shooting. This is the third ticket punched to the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
1) Winthrop leaves no doubt
As many fans of mid-major leagues know, all records are not created equal. That was certainly the case heading into today’s Big South Championship. The Winthrop Eagles entered the game sitting at 22-1, with their only loss coming by just two at the end of January. However, the odds were high that if Winthrop hadn’t captured the automatic bid today, they would’ve missed out on the Big Dance. That’s the nature of playing in a one-bid league.
Rather than trusting the NCAA selection committee to consider a team that would’ve had two losses in 24 tries, Winthrop left no doubt about whether they would be included in the bracket in one week. Winthrop’s defense was superb, holding Campbell without a field goal for over seven minutes in the first half at one point. Their offense finally hit its stride in the second half, and that was all she wrote for this game. The Winthrop Eagles are your 2021 Big South Champions.
2) Campbell has nothing to hang their heads about
The final score of this game may look rough, but Campbell has nothing to be down about when reflecting on the season as a whole. The Fighting Camels had ripped off nine straight wins before falling in the Big South Championship, including an upset of two-seed Radford in the league semifinals. Furthermore, this was a team that was picked tenth in the league’s preseason poll. Instead, Campbell went out and finished in third place, and ends up as the Big South Tournament runner-up.
The Camels have set the table for their rebuild, perhaps getting a head start on that feat. It remains to be seen what second-leading scorer Jordan Whitfield will decide to do with his free year of eligibility next season. However, the other four top scorers on this team are set to return, including the team’s leading scorer in Cedric Henderson. Coming so close to an NCAA Tournament berth will sting for a bit, but Campbell has a great chance to make another run again next season.
3) Buy stock in Winthrop now
It’s never too early to start thinking about potential Cinderella teams for the NCAA Tournament. If you watched the Big South Championship in its entirety, you would have seen the potential that Winthrop has. The team’s best player, Chandler Vaudrin, had an off game by his standards, and the Eagles still prevailed by 27. The inside-out duo of Vaudrin and Burns will be able to hang with most teams Winthrop could draw in the first round.
Furthermore, Winthrop can run an 11-man rotation as needed. That kind of depth is unheard of at the mid-major level, but the Eagles aren’t your typical mid-major. Maybe running through a league like the Big South won’t convince some, and there aren’t any data points against power conference teams to consider. However, Winthrop is built to wreck a bracket, and will be a trendy upset pick in many pools. Buy stock in this group now, especially if they draw a match-up against a team that doesn’t defend well.