Big South (22-11, 10-4)
Big Wins: 11/18 vs Georgia Tech (79-73), 12/4 Akron (68-58), 12/29 at Miami (76-70)
Bad Losses: 12/18 at Mount St. Mary’s (59-64), 1/12 at High Point (61-62), 2/6 at Coastal Carolina (49-50),
Last NCAA Appearance: 2007, Second Round loss to Oregon
Coach: Randy Peele (First NCAA appearance)
Chris Gaynor, Senior, Guard, 9.7 ppg, 4.2 apg
Michael Jenkins, Senior, Guard, 14.3 ppg, 2.5 apg, 4.2 rpg
Mantoris Robinson, Sophomore, Guard, 6.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg
Taj McCullough, Senior, Forward, 11.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg
Charles Corbin, Freshman, Forward, 6.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg
Antwon Harris, Senior, Guard, 6.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg
Byron Faison, Freshman, Guard, 3.9 ppg, 1.0 rpg
George Valentine, Freshman, Forward, 2.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg
Andy Buechert, Junior, Center, 3.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg
Why They Can Surprise:
Winthrop wins games with its defense. The team only allows about 58 points per game and the opposition shoots under 40 percent from the floor. The Eagles will not just sit back and force their opponents to take tough shots; they go after the ball and nab almost nine steals per game. That does lead to the occasional open shot for the other team, but it also leads to easy buckets for Winthrop which helps ignite an offense that can occasionally be stagnant. First year coach Randy Peele’s squad is also deceptively tough and physical in the paint and they will not allow anybody to get position under the basket without a fight.
No individual is a great rebounder, but the team is pretty solid on the glass. Playing in the Big South might inflate their numbers a little bit, but this is a group that was even on the boards against Miami and Georgia Tech earlier this season. Forward Taj McCullough has stepped into a starting role and leads the team with 5.7 rebounds per contest. Fellow starting forward Charles Corbin adds 4.2 per game, but it is McCullough who has developed into a solid scoring threat inside and out.
Why They Can Disappoint:
At times the offense can be inconsistent and it will be up to point guard Chris Gaynor to get his team back in the flow. The senior has about a 2.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and that is one of the best in the nation. Gaynor is quick, explosive and very experienced. Yet, this is still a group that can have trouble scoring at times. Usually Winthrop can survive a four minute scoring drought by playing great defense and exploding for some points later, but that might not work when looking for an upset in the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles are also one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the nation. As a whole, they shoot under 60 percent and nobody, not even the walk-on down the bench, shoots over 72 percent.
Who To Watch:
Traditionally Winthrop’s talent has been in the backcourt and that is no different this year. Michael Jenkins is the team’s leading scorer and will score in just about every way feasible. He hits over two three-pointers per game and will use his quickness to get to the bucket. Mantoris Robinson and Antwon Harris have split starts on the other wing. Neither has the scoring prowess or shooting range of Jenkins, but they will get to the basket and help out on the glass.
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