This is the second in a series of articles along the lines of our Below the Radar features, which will prime you for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Leading up to selection Sunday, we’ll be letting you know about some of the teams that are starting to earn automatic berths to the Big Dance. Next up: the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.
Emerging from one of the tightest conference races in the nation, Coastal Carolina defeated Winthrop 81-70 in the Big South championship game to return to the NCAA tournament for the second time in as many years. Winthrop battled valiantly against the Chanticleers and were tied at half, but the second half was a different story, with Coastal Carolina jumping out to a nine point lead at the first media timeout. From then on it was smooth sailing for the Chanticleers and they locked up their bid. So as Coach Cliff Ellis and his squad begin to prep for the tournament let’s take a deeper look into who they are and how they got here.
Cliff Ellis has been coaching at the Division I level since 1975, when he got his start at the University of South Alabama and is the all time winningest coach in program history. After his tenure at USA he moved on to Clemson, where he made his first impact on a national stage with a Sweet Sixteen run as well as becoming another school’s winningest coach. Ellis then moved on to Auburn, where he again won over 100 games. He is the only coach to win over a hundred games at three schools. Ellis made another pair of Sweet Sixteens with the Tigers and holds the record for most wins in the state of Alabama. He made it four straight one hundred win schools when he went on to his current stop at Coastal Carolina.
Coastal Carolina is an extremely balanced team with their top five scorers all within three and a half points of one another. Led by a pair of senior guards in Warren Gillis and Josh Cameron, the Chanticleers excel at attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line (22 attempts per game). The majority of their points come in the second half with 38.6, ranking in the top 30 in the NCAA. With such an experienced coach it should come as no surprise that Coastal Carolina takes care of the ball, turning it over only 11.5 times per game.
Coach Ellis’ squad is solid but not spectacular on the defensive side of the ball. Opposing teams have had some success from behind the arc, shooting over 33 percent. When the opponent misses, however, the Chanticleers don’t give their opponents many second looks and rank 27th in the nation in defensive rebounding.
Joe Lunardi currently has Coastal Carolina as the 16-seed in the South, playing local favorite Duke. The Chanticleers are almost certainly not going to make a big splash on the first weekend of the tournament, but with a majority of their rotation players returning next year they could be a team to look out for in terms of an upset chance in 2016.