Reversal of roles: CSU the favorite in Big South
For the first time in a very long time, the Charleston Southern men’s basketball team is positioned as the hunted rather than the hunter in the Big South Conference.
Date Opponent Time
Nov. 9 at Charlotte 7 p.m.
Nov. 11 at Arizona 6 p.m.
Nov. 15 Hiwassee 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 20 East Tennessee St. 7: 30 p.m.
Nov. 23 at Alabama TBA
Nov. 28 Coll. of Charleston 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 1 Barber Scotia 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 4 The Citadel 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 18 at East Tennessee St. 7 p.m.
Dec. 20 at Wichita State 8 p.m.
Dec. 29 Virginia Intermont 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 5 at Radford 4 p.m.
Jan. 9 Winthrop 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 12 at Longwood 2 p.m.
Jan. 16 UNC Asheville 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 19 High Point 5:30 p.m.
Jan 23 at Presbyterian 7 p.m.
Jan. 26 at Liberty 7 p.m.
Jan.30 Gardner-Webb 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 6 at Coastal Carolina 7 p.m.
Feb. 9 Campbell 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 13 at Winthrop 7 p.m.
Feb. 16 at UNC Asheville 2 p.m.
Feb. 19 Presbyterian 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 21 VMI TBA
Feb. 23 at ESPN Bracketbuster TBA
Feb. 27 at Gardner-Webb 7 p.m.
Mar. 2 Coastal Carolina TBA
Mar. 5-10 Big South Tournament
The Buccaneers were picked to win the South Division of the revamped Big South this season, the first time the program has been picked first since the league began doing preseason polls in 1985.
CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh has four starters back from a team that won 19 games last season, and never has the excitement surrounding the program been as high.
Radebaugh, who begins his eighth season at the school, said his program is starting to become what he had envisioned when he took the job.
However, the coach says the preseason accolades can’t alter his team’s focus and preparation.
“We’re a good team and we’re not running from that, but the margin within this conference is very slim,” said Radebaugh. “I don’t know how good we can be. I certainly think we can be very competitive, but we have to be a team that strives to get better every day.
“There will be highs and lows along the way, but as long we stay confident and get better, we’ll be OK. We have to remember this is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.”
CSU’s lone loss in terms of personnel, forward Kelvin Martin, was a huge one. Martin led CSU in scoring and rebounding last season and left the program ranked third in Big South history in career rebounds. Radebaugh said Martin was much more than a key player on the floor.
“As much as we will miss Kelvin the player, we will miss Kelvin the leader even more,” said Radebaugh. “He was our emotional leader, on and off the floor. Replacing his rebounds and the things he could do on the floor, we can do that. We’re going to need someone to replace him as our leader and keep this team focused.”
Guard Jeremy Sexton and forward Mathiang Muo are the team’s only seniors this season and will be called upon as the leaders. Both are more than capable as players as well. Sexton averaged 8.8 points per game last season while Muo averaged 9.8 points per game while hitting a team-high 62 3-pointers on 44 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
CSU’s strength will be in the backcourt, where along with Sexton, the Bucs have the deepest backcourt in the league. Sophomore guards Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper were sensational in their initial campaign. Nimley averaged 13.5 points and Harper scored 12.5 points per game last season. The pair combined to hit 117 3-point shots.
Junior Sheldon Strickland, a starter as a freshman, came off the bench last season and provided a spark as an immediate scoring threat. Freshman Malcolm Bernard (6-5) is a versatile wing who should play early.
Junior Matt Kennedy, a West Ashley High graduate, had a great offseason and should contribute as well, according to Radebaugh.
Sophomore Paul Gombwer (6-6) is the player most expected to replace Martin as the inside presence.
Gombwer played in all 31 games last season, averaging five points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Sophomore Cedrick Bowen (6-5) started 22 games as a freshman and should see increased time.
Junior transfers Joe Williams (6-5) and Allie Fullah (6-8), will provide immediate help inside.
“We have to be relentless on the boards and we have to rebound as a team,” said Radebaugh. “We hope that Paul can become a consistent force inside. Cedrick and Allie are physically strong and have the potential to be very good rebounders. Rebounding is about passion and energy, and that’s what Kelvin brought to every single game.”
Radebaugh says winning a conference championship and advancing to the school’s first NCAA tournament since 1997 is the primary goal this season. The coach feels this year’s team has the intangible qualities necessary to make a run at the title.
“We stress to our players to live like a champion every day, as a student, as a person and as a basketball player,” Radebaugh said. “So far, this team has come to work every day. We’ve had one bad practice during the preseason. This team has a great attitude and they’re very competitive. Right now they are willing to play as a team without caring who gets the credit. If we can maintain that attitude, we have a chance to be a good basketball team.”
CSU’s non-conference schedule includes games at Charlotte, Arizona, Wichita State and Alabama. The Bucs also will host both crosstown rivals – The Citadel and College of Charleston – in the CSU field house for the first time in nearly two decades.
“It’s an exciting time for our program and certainly getting those two games in our building will generate a lot of excitement in the community,” said Radebaugh.