We've given you some brief introductions to Coastal Carolina, but with game day approaching, it's time to go more in-depth on Wisconsin's "second round" opponent. People are aware that Coastal's mascot is a rooster, but Chanticleer is not just any old rooster. So, you know, let's get that straight right now.
And the Chants (24-9, 12-6 Big South) are not just any 16-seed; they threw a scare into a No. 1 seed last year. Coastal Carolina has experience, though its lack of size and the cross-country travel will be obvious challenges against the heavily-favored Badgers (31-3, 16-2 Big Ten).
To get more info on the Chants, I couldn't think of a better resource than Ryan Young, Coastal Carolina beat writer for The Sun News out of Myrtle Beach, which is only a 15-minute drive from the CCU campus.
B5Q: How is this year's Coastal Carolina team different than the one that led top-seeded Virginia, 35-30, at the half in last year's tournament? Generally speaking, Wisconsin and Virginia play very similar styles, so is there any extra confidence to be gained from the perspective of familiarity?
Ryan Young: The main difference in Coastal Carolina last year and this year is that the Chanticleers' Big South championship wasn't a surprise this time. A year ago, the Chants had a rebuilt backcourt and got off to a 7-8 start before starting to put the pieces together over the second half of the season. That said, they were riding an incredible wave of momentum heading into their first NCAA tournament berth in 21 years. This team was tabbed as preseason favorites in the conference, weathered a bit of a funk with four losses in five games in late January and then found its stride down the stretch. I think this team is every bit as capable as it was last year, but this matchup with Wisconsin looks more troubling. The Chants don't have a starter taller than 6-foot-7 and are facing a Badgers team with three standouts ranging from 6-8 to 7-foot star Frank Kaminsky. I think that makes them greater underdogs this time.
B5Q: The Chanticleers played a number of power five conference teams early in the season, beating Auburn and falling to two tourney teams in UCLA and Mississippi. Did they do anything well in those three games -- especially that three-point loss at Ole Miss -- that they can carry over into this contest with Wisconsin?
Ryan: The Chants have always risen to the occasion against power conference teams under coach Cliff Ellis, winning at LSU, Clemson and Auburn in recent years and of course putting a scare into Virginia last year in the tournament. They don't play intimidated, that's for sure. And certainly those games give them confidence. The UCLA game was their second of the season as they were still feeling out their new lineup and rotation. The Auburn win was a big deal for Ellis, given his past tenure there. And the Ole Miss loss was actually a bit disappointing after Coastal Carolina had led by as many as 17 points late in the first half. So yeah, the Chants take plenty of confidence from knowing they can match up with more established programs. But none of those teams is on par with this Wisconsin team.
B5Q: Do you know much about the Badgers beyond Frank Kaminsky? Do you see any areas where Coastal might be able to exploit a Wisconsin weakness or a possible matchup that could give the Badgers a bit of trouble on Friday?
Ryan: What I'm hearing from those that watch Wisconsin on a more regular basis is that the Badgers can be beaten off the dribble by slashing guards. Coastal Carolina senior guard Josh Cameron has said the game plan will be to be very aggressive in pushing the ball and the pace of play. Still, though, I believe the Chants are going to have to shoot very well from the perimeter to be in the game.
B5Q: Badou Diagne has been a terror on the defensive glass for Coastal this season, rebounding about 22 percent of available misses on defense at only 6'7. Who is the biggest (or most-skilled) big man Diagne has faced this season? Do you think he will be able to make an impact against UW's vaunted frontline?
Ryan: The Big South Conference is not deep with overpowering bigs, but Diagne is incredibly athletic. In fact, many expected he would take a bigger leap as a junior given his obvious physical potential. He showed very well against UCLA with 15 points and 11 rebounds. That's probably the best example of what he can do against bigger foes. He also went for nine points and 10 boards against Ole Miss.
B5Q: What kind of a player has senior guard and Racine Park alum Josh Cameron been for the Chants over the last two seasons? How do he and leading scorer Warren Gillis play well together?
Ryan: Cameron was a pleasant surprise last year. He came in as a juco transfer expected to backup at the guard spots and quickly overtook he starting point guard job. His emergence last season was as key as anything in the Chants' run to the NCAA tournament. He was moved to a sixth man role this season with sophomore transfer Shivaughn Wiggins (from Mount St. Mary's) taking over as a more natural point guard. Cameron struggled with accepting diminished playing time and his frustrations came to a head with a one-game suspension for clashing with Cliff Ellis over the matter. But the matter didn't longer and the two have been on the same page since, Cameron got reinserted into the starting lineup on senior day and has remained in that role since. He has the ability to get really hot from the perimeter at any time and can take over games in a quick stretch. He can also get through the lane well, but that might be more challenging against Wisconsin's height. He loves the big stage, though, and is the team's most fiery competitor.
Warren Gillis is the opposite personality and is steady as can be. He's Ellis' most trusted player on the court, the Chants' best on-ball defender and a player who will get more aggressive when he needs to.
B5Q: Being so close to Myrtle Beach in Conway, South Carolina, what kind of following do the Chanticleers have locally? Seems like it would be really easy for them to get ignored or overshadowed in that region. Will many fans want to make the trip to Omaha?
Ryan: Coastal Carolina has developed a loyal fan base, but it's still small in numbers. There isn't a huge alumni base in the area as the school draws heavily from the north and South Carolina and Clemson still command the bulk of interest in the area (although that's more pronounced in football). Also, the school is just building its basketball tradition over these last six years after a 15-year funk so the fan base is still a work in progress. I would not expect a large traveling crowd to Omaha.
Now that you have the Coastal Carolina perspective from Ryan, give him a follow on Twitter @RyanYoungTSN. Remember, Wisconsin will tip off against the Chants following the Oregon-Oklahoma State game at approximately 8:20 p.m. CT on Friday from the impressive CenturyLink Center in Omaha.
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