Anthony Raffa (AP)
Anthony Raffa (AP)
In a wide-open Big South featuring five or six teams capable of riding a well-timed hot streak to the conference tournament title next March, Coastal Carolina has a clear advantage over its peers.
The Chanticleers will host every round of the Big South tournament at their new 3,200-seat on-campus arena each of the next three seasons.
Playing every conference tournament game in their own gym can only help Coastal Carolina as it attempts to finally qualify for the NCAA tournament after years of falling just short. The Chanticleers have finished in the top two in the Big South each of the past three seasons, yet they still haven't ended a 19-year NCAA tournament drought.
The backcourt duo of Anthony Raffa and Kierre Greenwood gives Coastal Carolina hope of celebrating an NCAA bid on its own floor this March, but the Chanticleers will need an unproven frontcourt to contribute. Senior forward Sam McLaurin, a double-double threat last season, transferred to Illinois, leaving his former team thin and inexperienced in the paint.
Coastal Carolina can at least take solace that all of its fellow Big South contenders have similar questions to answer.
Two-time defending conference tournament champ North Carolina Asheville needs its returning guards to collectively make up for the loss of stars Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm. Charleston Southern must complement a guard-heavy offense with better defense and rebounding. Campbell is hoping an interior scorer to emerge. And High Point needs transfer Allan Chaney to remain healthy and regain the form he showed before a heart ailment sidelined him the past two seasons.
In years past, it has been pretty easy to scan Big South rosters during the summer and select a favorite or two. This season any of those teams could emerge.
MAKING A LIST
Best shooter: Mathiang Muo, Charleston Southern
Best playmaker: Kierre Greenwood, Coastal Carolina
Best defender: Anthony Raffa, Coastal Carolina
Coach on the rise: Duggar Baucom, VMI
Coach on the hot seat: None
Three must-see games: 1. Clemson at Coastal Carolina, Dec. 19 (Chanticleers won at Clemson last season); 2. UNC Asheville at Puerto Rico Tournament, Nov. 15-18 (Bulldogs open with Tennessee): 3. Charleston at Charleston Southern, Nov. 28 (City rivalry game pits contenders in Big South, SoCon)
FACTS AND FIGURES
New coaches: Pat Kelsey, Winthrop (Ex-Xavier assistant),
Regular-season winner last season: UNC Asheville
Tourney winner last season: UNC Asheville
League RPI rank in each of past 3 seasons: 2011-12: 27th; 2010-11: 22nd, 2009-10: 27th
Last NCAA tourney win by a league team: 2011, UNC Asheville in First Four game
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