CCU faces long odds, dark history in Big South tourney

The Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team enters the Big South Conference Tournament hoping the third time is the charm.

Unfortunately for the second-seeded Chanticleers (19-10), so does Wednesday’s second-round opponent VMI, which defeated Radford in the first round on Monday.

Coastal, which has fallen short of the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in the Big South finals the past two years, first has to get past the Keydets before getting another shot at the big prize.

But VMI, which has lost two games to the Chants this season, is also hoping the third time is different. They say it’s hard to beat the same team three times in the same season, and we will see exactly how hard when the two teams tip off for the third time at noon Wednesday in Asheville, N.C.

Coastal defeated VMI 81-64 last Saturday, and the Chants scored an 87-78 victory over the Keydets back in their Big South opener on Dec. 1. Now they have to get make it a trifecta to keep their Big Dance hopes alive.

For a No. 2 seed, Coastal seems to be getting little respect from the Big South. Seniors Chris Gradnigo and Anthony Raffa were named to All-Big South second team with no first-team selections, and Coastal went the entire season without having a conference player of the week.

Raffa and Gradnigo are averaging 16.1 points per game in Big South play and junior Kierre Greenwood adds 12.6 points. Senior Sam McLaurin scores 9.2 points and 7.5 rebounds, but the Chants aren’t given much of a chance by the experts.

Perhaps that’s because the Chants were swept by No. 3 seed Campbell, which will likely face Coastal in the semifinals, and lost at regular season champion UNC Asheville, which will hold home court as long as it keeps winning.

Coastal’s best scenario would involve an upset loss by UNCA before the finals, which would move the tournament finals to Kimbel Arena for one last game in the cracker-box gym before it closes.

Then Coastal’s third-time’s-a-charm situation would be two fold, needing a first win and three tries over the Camels to finally get over the finals hump.

Unlikely, but that’s why they call it March Madness. If Coastal wants to reach its first NCAA Tournament in 19 years, the Chants are going to have to overcome the odds, the past and public opinion to make it to the Big Dance.

Sounds like a true Cinderella story.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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