Coastal Carolina University returns to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season after winning the Big South Championship. The Chanticleers enter the tournament with a 24-9 record, which put them third in the conference. They knocked off Winthrop 81-70 on March 9 to earn the trip to the tournament.
Here’s what you need to know about Coastal Carolina:
1. It’s the First Time the School Has Gone to the Dance in Back-to-Back Years
Coastal Carolina is making its fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament and the Chanticleers are heading to the Big Dance in back-to-back years for the first time in school history.
The Chanticleers have seen a lot of success since Coach Cliff Ellis took over in 2007, including consecutive school-record 28-win seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11. But Coastal Carolina fell in the Big South championship game both of those seasons. Ellis took the Chanticleers back to the title game last season and they earned their first trip to the tournament under his watch, a feat he accomplished again this season.
2. The Chanticleers Lost to Virginia Last Year
Coastal Carolina,a No. 16 seed, caught the nation’s attention last season, leading at the half against Virginia, a No. 1 seed. A 16-seed has never beaten a 1-seed in tournament history. The Chanticleers led the Cavaliers 35-30 at the break, but were overtaken with about 10 minutes left in the game and fell 70-59.
Four of the five starters from last year’s team returned this season.
3. They Have a Balanced & Experienced Lineup
Last year’s experience against Virginia, as well as tough games this season, will help the Chanticleers in what should be a difficult matchup this March. Coastal Carolina will likely find themselves as a high seed once again, and will be facing one of the nation’s top teams.
But the veteran roster has already been tested this year. They upset Auburn, lost by three at Auburn and played UCLA close during the first half.
The team is led by senior guards Warren Gillis (13.1 points per game) and Josh Cameron (12.9 ppg), along with junior Badou Diagne (9.6 ppg, 7.4 rebounds per game) and sophomores Elija Wilson (11.1 ppg) and Shivaughn Wiggins (10.2 ppg). Gillis, Cameron, Diagne and Wilson played significant minutes last season against Virginia, while Wiggins sat out last year after transferring from Mount St. Mary’s.
Here’s the Chanticleer’s full roster:
G Warren Gillis (6-3, 205, Sr., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
G Aaron Law (6-0, 180, Jr., Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
G Josh Cameron (6-1, 175, Sr., Racine, Wisconsin)
G Jaylen SHaw (6-0, 182, SO., Hartsville, South Carolina)
G Shivaughn Wiggins (5-11, 180, So., Charlotte, North Carolina)
F Michel Enanga (6-5, 215, Jr., Cameroon)
F Uros Ljeskovic (6-8, 240, Jr., Montenegro)
F Tristian Curtis (6-7, 220, Jr., Bahamas)
G Elijah Wilson (6-4, 205, So., Wilmington, North Carolina)
F Badou Diagne (6-7, 220, Jr., Senegal)
G Colton Ray-St. Cyr (6-5, 185, So., Williamsburg, Virginia)
G Ron Trapps (6-4, 195, So., Lancaster, South Carolina)
F Marcus Freeman (6-8, 245, Jr., Williamston, North Carolina)
C Kyle Buffkin (6-10, 235, So., Stallings, North Carolina)
4. Coach Cliff Ellis Has Won More Than 600 Games
Ellis, in his eighth season at Coastal Carolina, is one of the winningest active coaches in the NCAA, with more than 600 career victories. Ellis was named National Coach of the Year in 1999 after leading Auburn to a 29-4 record and a trip to the Sweet 16.
He has made nine trips to the NCAA tournament during his career. Elis began his coaching career in 1972 at Cumberland University in Tennessee. After three years there, he became head coach at South Alabama, where he remains the all-time winningest coach with 148 wins, taking the Jaguars to the NCAA Tournament twice. Ellis later coached at Clemson University and then Auburn.
5. The University Is Located in South Carolina
Coastal Carolina is a public university located in Conway, South Carolina with about 10,000 students. The school was founded in 1954 and became an independent university in 1993. Its campus includes part of Waties Island, a barrier island that serves as a natural laboratory.
Notable alumni include PGA golfer Dustin Johnson, NFL players Mike Tolbert, Tyler Thigpen and Jerome Simpson and Chicago Cubs second baseman Tommy La Stella.
The team’s unique mascot, the Chanticleer, is described on the school’s website as, “A proud and fierce rooster. The Chanticleer is derived from the crafty quick-thinking rooster in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, specifically, The Nun’s Priest Tale.”