Get to Know Winthrop. Winthrop University is a public school in Rock Hill, SC, across the state line from Charlotte. It's considered to be the best academic university in the state of South Carolina and one of the best public universities in the southeastern United States. Winthrop gets its name from former Massachusetts senator and congressman Robert C. Winthrop, who was the university's first major donor in the 1880s.
Winthrop hails from the mighty Big South Conference, which has been a one-bid basketball conference for its entire existence. The Eagles have dominated the recent history of the conference, making eight of the last 10 NCAA tournaments despite only one previous appearance in school history. They owe their unprecedented level of basketball success in the last decade to Gregg Marshall, who was the head coach for seven of those tourney bids. Marshall said a few years ago that he was too happy at Winthrop to leave for another job. Until, of course, he left Winthrop for another job as head coach at Wichita State. The team is now coached by longtime assistant Randy Peele. Aside form basketball, Winthrop athletics is known for its world-class Frisbee golf course. Winthrop's logo is actually one of your grandmother's toenail clippings. It's a well studied exact replica, right down to the yellow-red fungus.
Why Winthrop will bust your bracket
1. Michael Jenkins. The Kinston, NC senior leads the team with 14.3 points per game. He may be an undersized 2 guard, but he can create space for his shots, he's very effective at using screens, and can blow up for 30+ points in a game if you let him.
2. Perimeter defense. The Eagles guards play aggressively on defense, leading the Big South with 8.3 steals per game. If their opponent's point is liable to turn the ball over, or just has a bad day, Winthrop could send his team packing.
3. Depth. Considering that Winthrop is a small university in a one-bid conference, their bench is surprisingly good. The Eagles have nine players who clock at least 10 minutes per game, and the team gets about 18 points per game off the bench.
4. Experience. While this team lost some if its best players from last year (most notably Australian forward Craig Bradshaw), Winthrop return four seniors and six upperclassmen. Seniors compose the entirety of Winthrop's aforementioned backcourt.
5. For DeAndre Adams. Adams, a 5-8 point guard who played in all of Winthrop's games last season, died from complications of a car accident in May of 2007. Both the team and Winthrop fans have dedicated this season to his memory.
Why Winthrop will lose in the first round
1. Free throw shooting. The Eagles are one of the worst free throw shooting teams in college basketball, shooting only 59.5% from the line this season. Any chance of victory the Eagles would be in a very close game, and in these circumstances missed free throws could betray them.
2. Inconsistency. Even when Winthrop plays well, players like Jenkins don't always deliver consistently great performances. In five of the Eagles' seven losses, for example, Jenkins had been held to less than ten points. Winthrop has no chance of winning if players like Jenkins, Taj McCullough, and Chris Gaynor suddenly go cold.
3. No more surprises. By now, any team who draws the Eagles will be keen for the upset, and will have enough game film through the last few years to plan an effective strategy. — Mike White