Upset-minded Chants ready to face top-seeded Badgers

ccuhoops-22jFor years the Coastal Carolina baseball team has been knocking on the door to go to Omaha. Few would have guessed the resurrgent basketball program would be the first to make the national sports spotlight in Nebraska.

The 16th-seeded Chanticleers will take on top-seeded Wisconsin at 9:20 p.m. Friday in hopes of shocking the college basketball world and shredding brackets across the country. The Big Ten champion Badgers are double-digit favorites to manhandle the Chants and a 16 seed has never defeated a No. 1 in NCAA Tournament history, but those stats don’t deter upset-minded Coastal.

The Chanticleers (24-9) are making their second consecutive and fourth overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Coastal’s first trip to the tournament came in 1991, followed by a trip in 1993. Coastal returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2014 for the first time in 21 years and nearly pulled off feat in last year’s the NCAA East Region.

Facing No. 1 seed and ACC champion Virginia in Raleigh, N.C., the Chanticleers shot 52 percent in the first half, including 5-for-10 on 3-point attempts, and built a 10-point lead at 31-21 with 4:25 left in the half. Coastal still led by five points at halftime, becoming the ninth No. 16 seed to hold a lead at the break, before Virginia opened the second half with a 15-6 run. A pair of 3-pointers by reserve Tristian Curtis and star freshman Elijah Wilson tied the game at 47 with under nine minutes to play. However, the Cavaliers, who shot 65 percent in the second half and made six 3-pointers, pulled away from there, using a 23-7 spurt to eventually escape with a 70-59 win. Badou Diagne led the Chants in the game with 14 points and six rebounds, while Gillis had 13 points and five rebounds.

While Coastal Carolina may be 0-3 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, head coach Cliff Ellis is 8-9 in the tournament with a pair of Sweet 16 appearances (1990 with Clemson and 2003 with Auburn). Ellis, who is making his 10th trip to the NCAA Tournament, has led each institution he has coached at to at least two NCAA Tournament berths.

Coastal Carolina and Wisconsin have met two prior times on the basketball court with the Badgers claiming the victory each time on their home floor. The first meeting occurred on Dec. 7, 1991 with Wisconsin taking a 91-57 victory. The teams met again nearly 14 years later on Nov. 26, 2005 as the Badgers rolled to a 92-54 lopsided win. Ellis has never faced the Wisconsin Badgers in his 1,126-game Division I coaching career.

Wisconsin (31-3) is making its 17th-consecutive trip to the Big Dance. This is the first time Wisconsin has drawn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin owns a 29-19 record all-time in the NCAA tournament, including a 20-13 mark under head coach Bo Ryan, who has led the Badgers to NCAA bids in each of his 14 seasons in Madison.

The winner of the second-round matchup will face the winner of a game between No. 8 seed Oregon and No. 9 seed Oklahoma State in the third round on Sunday.

Photo by Joel Beachum

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