Wednesday, March 19, 2014
game preview: Coastal Carolina
Date/Time: Friday, March 21; 9:25
Record against the Chanticleers: 2-0
Last meeting: UVA 89, CCU 74; 12/22/03, Charlottesville
Last game: UVA 72, Duke 63 (3/16); CCU 76, Winthrop 61 (3/9)
UVA: 61.0 (#345)
CCU: 67.1 (#132)
UVA: 114.1 (#22)
CCU: 97.6 (#292)
UVA: 89.5 (#3)
CCU: 102.1 (#113)
UVA: .9423 (#4)
CCU: .3729 (#222)
PG: London Perrantes (5.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.8 apg)
SG: Malcolm Brogdon (12.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.6 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (11.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.3 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (7.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.2 apg)
C: Mike Tobey (6.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.3 apg)
PG: Josh Cameron (14.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.5 apg)
SG: Warren Gillis (14.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.2 apg)
SG: Elijah Wilson (16.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.9 apg)
PF: Badou Diagne (7.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 0.8 apg)
C: El Hadji Ndieguene (4.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 0.6 apg)
Quick programming note: I'm going to a hockey game tomorrow and don't expect to have time to write the preview, so it flies out the door tonight. No post Thursday; Friday may see a Hopkins preview. For obvious reasons, this is not guaranteed.
So, then: a Chanticleer. Daphuq? Chanticleer is the name of a cock-of-the-walk rooster out of a medieval fable, who triumphs over the fox who wants to eat him but first learns a lesson about humility. Very Aesop, but with a Middle Ages origin. Coastal Carolina is an independent school in its own right, but began life as a satellite school of the University of South Carolina, similar to the George Mason story. Hence, a rooster nickname, to honor these roots.
As for the basketball team itself, they are here as the representative of the Big South Conference, KenPom's 27th strongest out of 32 conferences. They might be especially notable for a collection of candidates for the tournament's all-name team, including Colton Ray-St Cyr, El Hadji Ndieguene, and Uros Ljeskovic. This will be their first NCAA tourney game since 1993. (They lost in the first round to the Michigan Fab Five team that would later become infamous for calling a nonexistent timeout.)
They're coached by Cliff Ellis, a guy with a long coaching history who once got Auburn an SEC championship and then had them ranked #1 overall in the preseason. Ellis also coached at Clemson many moons ago, and has done enough weird things in his life (ostrich farming?) that if you didn't see them in his official website bio, you'd think someone was screwing around with Wikipedia.
The stakes now do not change: survive and advance. Memphis and Georgetown play at 6:55 - the previous game - so, should we be ever so fortunate enough not to be the first 1 seed to lose their first tourney game, we'll already know our opponent for Sunday.
-- UVA on offense
The Chanticleers are the Big South champions because of defense. They're the only team in their conference not to royally suck at it. They rank at least 60 spots higher in KenPom's D-rating than any of their conference rivals and over 125 spots higher than all but one of them. In fact, at 113th in the country they outrank three ACC squads, albeit three teams whom UVA beat handily. Clemson completely smoked Coastal in their nonconference meeting in November, but Coastal's defense held them in some other games against big-conference teams, namely close losses to Ole Miss and NIT 1-seed Minnesota.
Cliff Ellis once wrote a book called "Zone Press Variations for Winning Basketball," and UVA will probably see some of this at times. Fortunately, all those old concerns about press-breaking have melted away, and UVA has had very little trouble with the press all season. Coastal can also be expected to go to the zone in the halfcourt sometimes.
Like most any mid-major, Coastal will give up a pretty significant amount of size to UVA. El Hadji Ndieguene, at 6'10", 240, can legitimately be called a center, but 6'8" Uros Ljeskovic and 6'7" Tristian Curtis get only back-of-the-rotation minutes. Badou Diagne has some length and shot-blocking skills, but UVA will have a size advantage most of the game if not all of it.
Diagne will likely be the biggest challenge on defense, as he's a top rebounder and does a pretty good job of defending without fouling, for a big man. And Warren Gillis gets a few steals now and again. All this said, though, a sizable athleticism gap is going to present itself, and there ought to be at least a few possessions where the basket appears the size of a hula hoop.
-- UVA on defense
This is where the matchup gets unfair. Coastal is the second-worst KenPom team in the 68-team field, after Texas Southern, which just got bounced by 13-17 Cal Poly. Offense is why. Ranked 292nd in the country by KenPom, they're easily the worst offensive team in the tournament by almost 60 spots. Even in just Big South play, they were 9th of 12 in their conference.
In a nutshell, Coastal is a team that is sloppy with the ball and not great shooting from outside; they generate second-chance points with good offensive rebounding, but depend heavily on the creation skills of their guards. Only 40% of their baskets are assisted, which is one of the lowest numbers in the country.
Shooting is dominated by point guard Josh Cameron and shooting guards Elijah Wilson and Warren Gillis. Cameron is a decent outside shooter but undersized and not good inside, and his A/T ratio is underwater at about 0.9/1 - highly undesirable in a point guard. Gillis and Wilson are quite a bit more efficient; Gillis has a very solid midrange game, while Wilson can get to the rim but overshoots from deep and isn't especially good at it. Gillis is also an 85% free-throw shooter, and Wilson takes very good care of the ball.
Outside of that trio, the only player with an O-rating over 100 is Badou Diagne, an occasional three-point shooter who also makes over three-quarters of his shots at the rim. Anyone else with the ball in their hands - not a big threat. After watching the work Akil Mitchell did on Duke's Jabari Parker, Diagne shouldn't be much of a concern either.
We've seen what happens, though, when UVA plays a team that doesn't take good care of the ball. Florida State has good, ACC-level athletes and UVA beat them by double digits three times. Diagne is the only thing resembling a scoring threat down low, and Mitchell can neutralize him, allowing UVA to focus on Coastal's guards. Don't be surprised if the Chanticleers fail to touch 40 points. This isn't a team that can score even on its usual Big South opposition.
If a 16 seed is ever going to beat a 1 seed, it won't be when a really poor offensive team, who doesn't take care of the ball and whose 3-point shooting is mediocre on a good day, takes on a defensive juggernaut. UVA should cruise in this opening-round game, the margin of victory kept down mainly from taking the foot off the gas pedal in the later stages.
Final score: UVA 68, CCU 41