Coastal Carolina is going dancing.
For the first time in 21 years, the Chanticleer men’s basketball team is heading to the NCAA Tournament to participate in March Madness.
Coastal punched its ticket to the Big Dance by defeating longtime nemesis and in-state rival Winthrop by a 76-61 score in the finals of the Big South Conference Tournament Sunday in The HTC Center.
Beating Winthrop is about as satisfying as it gets for longtime CCU fans, who were forced to watch the Eagles earn numerous trips to the Big Dance over the past two decades.
For the record, Winthrop won tournament championships in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010. That’s nine trips to the NCAA Tournament since the Chants last advanced with a 78-65 victory over the Eagles in the North Charleston Coliseum way back in 1993.
Tony Dunkin earned Tournament MVP honors in 1993, as the Chants won the tournament title for the third time in four years. Dunkin also earned MVP laurels in 1991 after Coastal clobbered Augusta 89-54 in the tournament finals in the Anderson Civic Center.
Coastal came tantalizingly close to winning the tournament in both 2010 and 2011, but lost to Winthrop and UNC-Asheville in the finals in CCU’s cozy Kimbel Arena.
Coastal’s itinerary and opening-round opponent won’t be known until Sunday when the NCAA selection show is televised nationally. The Chanticleers will host an NCAA Tournament Selection Show viewing party Sunday from 5 p.m.-7 p.m.
Although Coastal is making just its fourth trip to the Big Dance, Chanticleer boss Cliff Ellis is no stranger to the big stage. He has made eight previous trips to the tournament, and is one of only 10 coaches in NCAA Division 1 history to lead four schools to the Big Dance.
Congratulations to the Chants, and congratulations Coach Ellis. Go get ‘em.