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Mike Lopresti | NCAA.com | March 3, 2022

180 minutes of crazy: The Big South's madcap Day 1 finishes set the bar high

2022 NCAA tournament men's bracket predictions on the first day of March

The critics agree. Chills! Thrills! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry! The best show in town! Run, don’t walk to see . . .

The Big South tournament!

Or maybe you didn’t notice what happened in the first round Wednesday in Charlotte. Four games, four boffo endings.

  • North Carolina A&T 78, Radford 71, OT.
  • Charleston Southern 79, UNC Asheville 78, at the buzzer.
  • High Point 84, Hampton 77, OT.
  • Campbell 75, Presbyterian 72, 2 OT. Tied and won at the buzzer.

Good thing the league tournament has Thursday off. It can use the breather.

BIG SOUTH TOURNAMENT BRACKET: HERE

“Seems like there were six different ways for us to lose it, but we figured out a way to win,” said Campbell coach Kevin McGeehan. He was talking about his Fighting Camels — still in the top-10 in nicknames by the way -- but he could have been speaking for any of the day’s four survivors.

To revisit what might be the wildest day any league tournament sees this month.

First, North Carolina A&T managed to blow a 16-point lead against Radford. The Aggies scored only 19 points in the second half – and then 18 in overtime. They had to forget that second half dry spell in a hurry, and did, opening overtime with an 11-0 run.

“I think in the game of basketball, you have to have a short-term memory,” said Marcus Watson, who led North Carolina A&T with 18 points.

Next, Charleston Southern became the first 12th-seed to ever win a Big South game by stunning No. 5 seed UNC Asheville on Taje’ Kelly’s putback at the buzzer.

 

ON THE BRINK: 10 NCAA tournament bubble teams, ranked by Andy Katz

Who could have seen this coming? Charleston Southern went 5-24 this regular season, and 1-15 in league play. That included losses of 19 and 23 points to UNC Asheville. And the Buccaneers, down as many as 13, trailed in this game for 39 minutes and 10 seconds.

But not at the end.

Hitting nearly 53 percent of their field-goal attempts helped.

“It’s amazing how good any team can be when the shots are going in,” coach Barclay Radebaugh said. “These were the same shots we’ve been taking all season. They went in for us today.”

Next, High Point and Hampton in an overtime foulapalooza.

Four Hampton players fouled out. The two teams combined to shoot 79 free throws. Hampton’s Russell Dean took 25 of them himself, hitting 18, which is how a guy with only five field goals can score 28 points. High Point made its task harder by missing 17 its free throws. But Zach Austin had a big day with 24 points, 16 rebounds and no turnovers in 40 minutes.

And clearly the Pirates are getting the hang of this close game business. This was their sixth overtime game of the season. They lost the first four.

Finally, there were Campbell and Presbyterian, and the game that was hard to end.

Campbell had a 13-point lead in the second half. Lost that.

Not to worry: Why losing streaks shouldn't matter when filling out your bracket

Presbyterian had a five-point lead with under two minutes to go in the first overtime. Lost that. The Blue Hose missed three of four free throws in the last 25 seconds. That left the door open for Campbell, and Jordan Whitfield tied it with a baseline floater at the buzzer.

Reserve Milus Stajcic finally ended it with a 3 from the top of the key at the buzzer of the second overtime. He was even fouled and added a free throw for a 4-point play. Not many of those in the final second. Know how many 3-pointers Stajcic had made all season until that moment? Four.

At last, the day and drama were over. Four games, four total overtimes, 24 lead changes, 180 minutes, three buzzer-beaters to either save or win a game. Yeah, it’s March.

P.S. The Campbell and Presbyterian women played Thursday in the Big South quarterfinals. Campbell won 59-56. In overtime.

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