Tiny Dancers: Coastal Carolina wins wild Big South Tournament

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Cliff Ellis has led Coastal Carolina back to the <a href=NCAA Tournament. (USATSI)” height=”400″ width=”640″ />
Cliff Ellis has led Coastal Carolina back to the Big Dance. (USATSI)

The Big South was a wild conference all season, with five teams finishing within a game of the conference lead. Unsurprisingly, the conference tournament was equally as crazy, as both of the top two seeds — Charleston Southern and High Point — crashed out into the quarterfinals.

Those two falling early simply left the door much more wide open for third-seeded Coastal Carolina, as the tournament was played on the Chanticleers home floor, the HTC Center. Warren Gillis led the way in the 81-70 championship game win against Winthrop with 22 points, and Elijah Wilson gave the Chanticleers some major production off the bench with 19 points.

This will be the second season in a row that Cliff Ellis’ team will go dancing. Ellis, the former coach at both Auburn and Clemson, has done a great job with this program, leading it to four 20-win seasons in six years along with a couple of league titles and now two NCAA appearances. Now comes the Big Dance, where Coastal will try to improve upon last season’s result.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 24-9 overall, 12-6 in the Big South
  • Most recent tournament appearance: Just last season, where the Chanticleers were a 16-seed that gave No. 1 seed Virginia one heck of a scare in the Round of 64. Coastal led into the second half, but eventually Virginia pulled away for an 11-point win.
  • Jerry Palm predicts: 16 seed
  • RPI: 137
  • KenPom ranking: 149
  • Sagarin ranking: 149
  • Best wins: at Auburn, season sweep over High Point
  • Worst losses: at Presbyterian, at UNC-Asheville
  • Notable stat: 101.9. With an adjusted defensive efficiency of 101.9, the Chanticleers were the top defensive team in the Big South this season per KenPom. They don’t force turnovers, but they play solid positional defense, contest shots, and control the defensive glass.
  • Closing quip: Coastal will probably be one of the better teams in the No. 15/16 seed range, and they’ll go into the NCAAs hot having won nine of their past 11. Also, last season’s NCAA Tournament experience should mean that they won’t go into the Dance star-struck against one of the big boys. They absolutely could keep a game close for a while in the opening round. If some upsets happen and they can climb into that 14-seed range, the Chanticleers could even become a semi-trendy upset pick under coach Ellis.

>> Want more college hoops? Top 25 (and one) | Bracketology

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