CCU beats VMI, earns No. 2 seed in Big South tourney

The Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team closed out the regular season with an 81-64 victory over host VMI on Saturday.

Now the real season begins.

The Chanticleers (19-10 overall, 12-6 Big South) locked up the No. 2 seed in next week’s Big South Conference Tournament in Asheville, N.C. The winner of the tourney gets the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Coastal broke open a tight game midway through the second half thanks to a pair of big 3-pointers by Anthony Raffa and back-to-back baskets by Chris Gradnigo. Danny Nieman’s basket and Gradnigo’s free throws gave Coastal its largest lead until the final score at 76-61 with less than 3 minutes remaining to ice the game.

The Keydets (14-15, 8-10) allowed Raffa to stroke for a game-high 26 points and Gradnig just missed out on a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds. Kierre Greenwood and John Pack tallied 12 points apiece,

Coastal Carolina wrapped up the No. 2 seed and will tip-off the quarterfinals at noon Wednesday against the winner of Monday’s VMI/Radford game.

No. 7 seed VMI (14-15, 8-10 Big South) will host No. 10 seed Radford (6-25, 2-16) at 7:00 pm at Cameron Hall, while No. 8 seed High Point (12-17, 8-10) will entertain No. 9 seed Gardner-Webb (12-19, 6-12) at 7:30 pm at Millis Center.

The winners will advance to the quarterfinal round on Wednesday, which will take place at No. 1 seed UNC Asheville (21-9, 16-2), which has the No. 1 seed after winning the outright regular-season championship on Feb. 11 and tying the Big South single-season record for most Conference wins (16).

The Bulldogs will have home court advantage throughout the tournament, as they are hosting the quarterfinals and semifinals at their new on-campus facility, Kimmel Arena. UNC Asheville will open against the winner of the High Point/Gardner-Webb game at 6:00pm Wednesday.

Campbell (17-14, 11-7) is the No. 3 seed and will face No. 6 seed Winthrop (11-19, 8-10) at 2 pm.  No. 4 seed Charleston Southern (18-11, 11-7) will conclude the quarterfinal round with a match-up against No. 5 seed Liberty (11-17, 9-9) at 8 pm Wednesday.

Campbell and Charleston Southern tied for third-place in the Big South standing with 11-7 records.  With the teams splitting the regular-season series, the tiebreaking process moved to each team’s record against the top of the standings on down.

Both squads did not play regular-season champion UNC Asheville the same amount of times, so the process moved to second-place Coastal Carolina.  The Camels claimed the No. 3 seed due to its sweep of the Chanticleers, compared to the Bucs’ two losses against Coastal.

All two first round games and the four quarterfinal games will be video streamed live on The Big South Network presented by State Farm.  The 2012 Advance Auto Parts Men’s Basketball Championship will continue with the semifinals on Thursday, March 1 at Kimmel Arena, and both games will air live on ESPNU.

The Championship game will be contested at the home site of the highest remaining seed on Saturday, March 3 live on ESPN2 at noon.  The Big South’s Tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

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