The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers ended the 2015 season the same way they ended the previous one, with a loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. A sad outcome to some schools, but for a program like CCU, this was a tough team to beat. Playing the likes of Wisconsin and Virginia, two schools that hovered in and around the top five all year round, they proved that they wouldn't be pushed around. The Chanticleers look to continue winning the Big South Conference, and maybe advancing to the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year.
Historic Offseason Trip
The Chanticleers continued to make history this summer becoming the first Division I basketball program to visit and play games in Cuba. Coastal spent eight days in Cuba playing the Cuban National Team to help prepare the squad for 2016 Olympic qualifying. Along with playing games against the national team, the Chants hosted a kids clinic and various community events.
Coastal dropped all three games to the more experienced Cuban National Team. Coastal lost the first game to Cuba 76-68. Badou Diagne led all scorers with 14 points. But Shavaughn Wiggins and Elijah Wilson each contributed 12 points of their own.
The surprise in Cuba was redshirt sophomore and South Carolina transfer Jaylen Shaw. Shaw looked like a promising addition for Cliff Ellis leading the Chants by averaging 16 points per game during the trip. Wiggins, a transfer himself (Mt. St. Mary's), also posted 16 points per outing.
This trip was not about the victories, but rather the experience of traveling as a team and playing together as a unit for the first time together. This trip will serve as a once in a lifetime experience for these young players. The trip also garnered plenty of national attention for the growing Chants program.
Out of Conference Schedule
After a quick look at Coastal's out-of-conference schedule, two games pop off of the page for me. December 14th, the Chanticleers will be traveling to Spartanburg to play the defending SoCon champs, Wofford. The Terriers finished last season 28-7 while losing their last game of the season to Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament. This will be a big early test for Coastal.
On December 2nd, Cliff Ellis gets a visit from his former employer, the Auburn Tigers. This should help the Chanticleers in a big way as they try to pull the upset against Bruce Pearl and his boys from the SEC. Games at College of Charleston and at Wake Forest will round out their final two games for their early season slate.
2015-16 Season Outlook
This will be an important season for Coastal. The Chanticleers went into the 2014-2015 season returning almost all of their key players while adding key contributors like Shivaughn Wiggins. That won't be quite the case this season. CCU has lost veteran players Warren Gillis and Josh Cameron, players who were among the best in the Big South, Gillis served as the teams primary playmaker and scorer, while Cameron was the conference's premier scoring threat off the bench. Even with those big losses the Chants will have plenty of fire power.
Coastal returns veteran forwards Elijah Wilson and Badou Diagne, along with guard Shivaughn Wiggins. Wiggins and Wilson both averaged over 10 points per game last season, while Diagne was a beast on the glass averaging almost eight rebounds per game and 2.3 offensive boards per contest. Coastal will look to these three players as their main sources of offense. If the Chanticleers want to contend for a third straight year, they will need these guys to improve even more than they already have.
CCU as a squad, was the best rebounding team in the conference last season. They out-rebounded their opponents by almost seven boards per contest, while having the best rebounding offense and defense respectively. For more clarification, they only allowed 31.7 rebounds per game while pulling in 38 rebounds themselves. Along with those impressive numbers, they also only allowed 66.3 points per game, which was the lowest in the Big South all of last year. When it came to scoring margin, they were second in the conference, beating their opponents by an average of 5.7 points per game. The HTC Center was also not a very easy place to play, averaging the second most amount of fans per game, something that helped them throughout the season and into the conference tournament.
All of these statistics are nice to have, but with the conference being as competitive as it was last year, it was important for the Chanticleers to remain consistent and patient throughout conference play. Not knowing what is to expect of the conference again this year, the Chanticleers look to be one of the early preseason contenders for the NCAA Tournament bid. It will be interesting to see how the conference plays out this year.
The Chanticleers will finish the season towards the top of the conference, somewhere in the top five, but will fail to make the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year.