As a Syracuse native/hardened Orange fan and UNC Asheville alumnus (Class of 2011) I have seemingly been put in quite a precarious position by the NCAA Selection committee. Let me be clear right now, its 4:00 Georgetown still sucks, and I will always bleed Orange. Go Cuse!
I've attended quite a few UNCA games this year including the early season match-up with Chapel Hill and thought I could provide some insight into the UNC Asheville Bulldogs.
The only thing holding this UNCA team back from being a legitimate threat this March is lack of size. When 6'10" starting junior center DJ Cunningham went down this summer with a knee injury, any real size the Bulldogs had was gone. Consequently UNCA doesn't have any starters over 6'5". Any size coming off the bench is so young and inexperienced it would benefit Syracuse more if they were on the floor. What UNCA lacks in size it makes up for in experienced guard play. Senior guards Matt Dickey (who hops when he shoots free throws at a ridiculously high percentage) and J.P. Primm (who is built like Dion and looks just like Chris Brown) dominate the ball and are 2 of the best players in school and conference history. But lets get to UNC Asheville's starting five.
Matt Dickey: Sr. 6'1"- Matt Dickey is a very good, very quick combo guard. Matt was Big South Conference Player of the Year and will dominate the ball with his back court partner JP Primm. These two have been playing together for four years, they are roommates, <insert general announcer bingo comment>, yada yada yada. Key is, they know each other well on the court and know how to set each other up. Matt is more of a shooter but can get to the bucket. He's got range and SU must find him on the perimeter.
JP Primm: Sr. 6'1"- JP is a shorter version of Dion. He's strong, quick, and can get to the bucket and knock down shots from the perimeter. JP is very good at getting into the lane and Syracuse must prevent him from getting in there and kicking out to Dickey for 3. In my opinion Matt in the better shooter and JP the better slasher, but both can get hot from the field and have range. If Dion, MCW and Brandon can use their size to D up Matt and JP, UNCA's offense will struggle. Side note: JP was the Big South Tournament MVP.
Chris Stephenson: Sr. 6'3"- Chris is a very undersized small forward/guard combo. My issue all year with him is he shoots way too much and doesn't realize when its not his night. If Chris is hitting his shot he can have a good game, but if he struggles offensively, other parts of his game start to go too. Look for KrisJo to have a cool 15pts/7rebs in the first round. Of UNCAs 3 forwards Chris is the scorer.
Jeremy Atkinson: Jr. 6'4"- Jeremy is arguably my favorite Bulldog. He's Asheville's CJ Fair, the kid has a knack for getting to the ball and is UNCA's best rebounder...by far. Syracuse must box out Jeremy Atkinson or he will kill us on the offensive and defensive glass. Jeremy will probably have a double-double Thursday but he will be working harder than he has all season for it. Of UNCAs 3 forwards Jeremy is the best rebounder.
Quinard Jackson: Sr. 6'5"- Q would have been the first big man off the bench for the Bulldogs this season and a valuable roll player, but an offseason knee injury to DJ Cunningham forced Q into the starting line-up. Q is very undersized at 6'5" but uses his wide frame well to create space and get positioning down low. I dont think all the space creating and positioning in the world will help Q against Fab though. If Mr. Jackson struggles look for UNCA to use a smaller 2 guard/3 forward or and even smaller 3 guard/2 forward line-up.
That brings us to the bench, Asheville has 3 players that will get significant minutes off the bench.
Jaron Lane: Jr. 6'4"- Jaron will likely be the first player off the bench, he's a very long, crafty forward that will come in to spell Quinard Jackson. Jaron is very slight of frame and would have a tough time muscling up even against Baye Keita. He's a capable shooter and rebounder.
Trent Meyer: So. 6'2"- Trent really turned it on the the Big South Tournament. He's a good shooter and will be the first guard off the bench. Trent doesn't take a high volume of shots for UNCA but I heard he dropped 52 in a men's rec league game this year (not sure if thats legal).
Keith Hornsby: Fr. 6'4"- Keith Hornsby is the son of artist Bruce Hornsby, is a Oak Hill product, shared a backcourt with Duke's Quinn Cook last year, has an ugly hitch in his shot, and is the future of UNCA basketball (BINGO!). Keith will get limited minutes, if UNCA wants any chance Primm and Dickey will need to be on the floor.
Any other players off the bench will be brought in for size purposes but will quickly be taken out after getting man handled by Fab Melo, Rakeem Christmas, CJ Fair, and Baye Keita.
Eddie Biedenbach, Coach- Eddie is a Pittsburgh native so he will be in front of a home crowd but its still not a road game for Syracuse. UNCA can score a lot of points so look for Eddie to keep the game up-tempo, but I'm not so sure the Bulldogs have the depth to keep up with the Orange.
1. Me! I'm from Syracuse, moved to North Carolina and graduated from UNC Asheville.
2. UNC Asheville's current manager director in charge of basketball operations, Matt Reynolds, is a Syracuse alum and was a manager for SU during the 2010 season.
3. I was probably the only one that noticed this but Scoop Jardine was wearing a "UNC Asheville Basketball" t-shirt during post game interviews of the NC State game. Supposedly given to him by this former manager.
Interesting Asheville Tidbits