They may play in the Big South, but 27 wins last season and a strong NCAA Tournament showing against Gonzaga indicate that the Eagles can play with anybody.
"They're a major league basketball team," states Marquette head coach Tom Crean. "They're not just a great team. They're a great program."
Returning all five starters from last year's team, Winthrop expects to further their accomplishments from last season, and looks at the game tonight as a major opportunity to make a name for themselves on the national stage.
"We're excited to be here, excited to be at the Bradley Center," says Winthrop coach Gregg Marshall. "To have the opportunity to play a Big East team is the type of game we're always looking for."
Torrell Martin, the preseason Big South Player of year, leads the balanced Eagles attack. The 6'5, 195 pound guard averaged 13 points and 4.5 rebounds last season, and his ability to both drive and shoot from the perimeter presents a tough defensive match-up.
James Shuler, a 6'6, 229 pound forward, who Marshall describes as a dynamic player, joins Martin on preseason All Big South first team. Scoring 12 points, and adding 6 assists and 5 rebounds in Winthrop's 73-50 win over IUPUI highlights the big man's versatility.
The man who runs the show for Winthrop is 5'10 point guard Chris Gaynor. Scoring 12 points and 7 assists in victory over IUPUI, Gaynor's play really impressed Coach Crean and he knows the key to stopping Winthrop is keeping Gaynor in check.
Big men Phillip Williams and Craig Bradshaw round out Winthrop's strong starting five. They are both versatile, having the ability to bang in the post, along with stepping out and making the three.
"Winthrop has five guys who make the three, and five guys who can make plays," adds Coach Crean.
Along with experienced starting five, Winthrop brings a strong bench, with senior big men Otis Daniels and Billy Houston, and guards Michael Jenkins, a sophomore and freshman DeAndre Adams. Jenkins scored 11 points off bench, and Daniels added 7 points and 3 assists in win over IUPUI.
"They remind me of our team in 2002, after we lost in NCAA Tournament against Tulsa," adds Coach Crean. "They're experienced, exhibit great execution, and coach Marshall keeps them incredibly hungry all the time."
While the clearly have the experience edge, Coach Marshall knows that Winthrop cannot take this game lightly.
"They have a lot of talent, and while they're starting over, they're doing so with great young talent," states Marshall.
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