Tiny Dancers: Coastal Carolina earns first NCAA bid in 21 years

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

C (USATSI)
CCU coach Cliff Ellis has the distinction of coaching four programs to the NCAAs. (USATSI)

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One of the coolest monikers in college hoops -- the Chanticleers -- will be making a return to the NCAA Tournament.

But it's been a while.

Coastal Carolina hasn't danced since 1993, and this is just the third tourney appearance in school history. Cliff Ellis' team beat Winthrop Sunday afternoon in the Big South finals, 76-61.

For Ellis, he achieves the rare feat of taking four programs to the NCAA tournament. Ellis, who teared up in the postgame interview, coached South Alabama farom 1975-84; Clemson from 1984-94; and Auburn 1994-04.

Ellis' team is the best on defense in the Big South conference and has a terrific deploy of guards in Josh Cameron, Elijah Wilson and Warren Gillis. It's all about guard play and constantly switching up defensive looks. Because this team is very hampered on offense. It averages 43.4 percent from the field and scores just 96.7 points per 100 possessions.

But they'll guard you, no doubt about it.

Player to know: Elijah Wilson. The freshman shooting guard has a nice career ahead of him. Leading the team in scoring (16.2) and minutes, Wilson has become the go-to among the three-headed attack that also includes Cameron and Gillis, the point guard.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 21-12 overall, 11-5 in the Big South
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 1993 (lost as 16 seed)
  • Jerry Palm predicts: 16 seed
  • RPI: 217
  • KenPom ranking: 242
  • Sagarin ranking: 239
  • Best wins: vs. St. Francis (NY), at VMI
  • Worst losses: vs. Central Connecticut State (twice), vs. Longwood, at Presbyterian
  • Notable stat: 39.8. That's how many rebounds per game Coastal brings in, which is 11th in the nation. When you've got a group that's mid-major in many areas, but not on the glass, it's a very positive sign.
  • Closing quip: This team will be a total longshot to do anything notable. But when you get back to the NCAAs after 21 years away, it's a great story. And Coastal Carolina and Ellis are going to get their due. The team's won an average of 22 games over the past five seasons. The best team in the Big South? No. But home-court advantage in the league tournament certainly, finally, paid off.
 
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