Here we go again. After beating Winthrop, 81-70 on Sunday afternoon, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers will be going back to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Big South Conference tournament title for the second consecutive year.
From start to finish, Coastal Carolina dictated the tempo and comfortably got past the Eagles behind 47.3 shooting from the floor while limiting Winthrop to 37.9 shooting in the process. The Chanticleers got 22 points and six assists from senior leader Warren Gillis and also got double-digit scoring production from Badou Diagne (11 points), Josh Cameron (13 points), and Elijah Wilson who scored a huge 19 points off the bench.
Coastal Carolina ends the regular season 24-9 overall after finishing 12-6 in the Big South Conference. They wound up tied for third in the conference standings and just one game behind the regular-season co-champs High Point and Charleston Southern. The Chanticleers have an RPI of 146 and are likely looking at a 15 or 16 seed. Joe Lunardi of ESPN has the Chanticleers playing in the first round among 16 seeds in his latest bracketology.
The experience gained from last year’s run definitely helped the Chanticleers out a lot in the end and that experience could play a factor come next week. It doesn’t hurt that the Chanticleers are led by a grizzled vet of the coaching ranks in Cliff Ellis, who has now coached four teams to the Big Dance (South Alabama, Auburn and Clemson) in his career. In fact, Ellis guided his Chanticleers to an upset win against one of his former schools, beating Auburn on the road earlier in the year. They also hung around in losses to Ole Miss (71-68) and UCLA (84-71) this season.
The Chanticleers are clearly led by their senior backcourt of Gillis and Cameron. As they go, so does Coastal Carolina.
Cameron leads the Chanticleers in scoring with 12.9 points per game. Gillis is right behind him with 12.8 points per game, while also chipping in 3.0 rebounds per game, 3.1 assists per game and shooting a sizzling .861 percent from the free-throw line. Wilson, a 6’4” sophomore guard, adds 10.8 points per game while Shivaughn Wiggins, a 5-11 sophomore guard, contributes 10.3 points per game and leads the team with 3.3 assists per game.
With four guards doing the heavy lifting for the Chanticleers, Badou Diagne is the muscle of the team. The 6’7” junior forward from Senegal leads the team in rebounding (7.5 rebounds per game) and adds 9.5 points per game. Tristian Curtis, a 6’7” junior forward from the Bahamas, is a key component of the squad too. While he is not much of a scorer (4.7 points per game), he brings energy to the court and can rebound the ball effectively. He had a whopping 14 boards in the game against Winthrop after averaging 5.9 rebounds on the season.
Considering the Chanticleers hung around for a long while with Virginia in last season’s tournament and have the requisite senior backcourt leadership, Coastal Carolina should not be easily dismissed. They have a makeup of a team that could slay a giant.