This week, fan bases from seven different schools will visit the Grand Strand to watch their respective programs compete in the 2019 Myrtle Beach Invitational.
Baylor, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State, Ohio, Tulane, Utah and Villanova are all participating in this tournament’s second edition.
Coastal Carolina fills out the eight-team field and head coach Cliff Ellis couldn’t be more excited to participate in this early season tournament.
"You get a chance to get play some Power Five teams and that’s a great opportunity for our guys early in the season,” Ellis said. “It’s those kinds of games that excites your players and we are looking forward to it.”
Coastal Carolina is no stranger to hosting big tournaments. Since the HTC Center opened in 2012, the home arena for the Chanticleers has hosted the Big South Conference Tournament from 2013-2015, the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament in 2017, the Puerto Rico Tip-Off that same year and last year’s Myrtle Beach Invitational.
“Having these major tournaments in our area is a testimony about all of the great offerings we have,” Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said. “Coastal Carolina University has invested in first class sports complexes such as the HTC Center, Brooks Stadium, etc. The fact that ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, views the Myrtle Beach area as a partner is a major feather in our cap.”
Since ESPN has continuously viewed the Myrtle Beach-Conway area as an attractive site for hosting tournaments in the past five years, Coastal Carolina Athletics Director Matt Hogue said his staff is fully prepared for the Myrtle Beach Invitational.
“The good thing is that we have done this before so it feels more routine,” Hogue said. “Our staff does a tremendous job and they work towards knowing what ESPN Events wants. A lot of what we do mirrors how we manage our own games.”
The Myrtle Beach Invitational came to the doorstep of Coastal Carolina University and the City of Myrtle Beach when the 2017 Puerto Rico Tip-Off was relocated due to the destruction Hurricane Maria left behind. After the success of the tournament and the many positive reviews that came from fans and programs that participated, ESPN Events decided to continue the tournament.
The decision to continue the tournament on CCU’s campus strengthens the partnership between both the City of Myrtle Beach and Coastal Carolina.
“The City and CCU have a great relationship and I believe that we will continue to explore more ways to be partner together,” Bethune said. “It truly is a win-win for all involved, especially our community. Bringing CCU into the downtown area greatly helps the city with our revitalization efforts and it helps CCU with exposure to our millions of visitors.”
Last year, fans got to witness a legendary coach in Bob Huggins of West Virginia on the HTC Center floor. This year, Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats, who have won two of the last four NCAA titles, will take center stage at the HTC Center.
“That’s really the whole composite draw for events like this,” Hogue said. “It really is the essence of the Myrtle Beach Chamber and other municipalities try and do. One of the thing that all of our area tries to galvanize around is that sports tourism is a big deal. It brings economic impact to our region and, when feasible, we are all going to try and work together to bring it here. The Myrtle Beach Invitational is a perfect example of that.”
While November is not peak tourism season in the Myrtle Beach area, Bethune said there still will be plenty of things to do across the area.
“Fans will find that the Grand Strand area has so much to offer,” the mayor said. “We have world class dining at every price point imaginable, amazing entertainment venues, great shopping, numerous parks and recreation offerings and, of course, miles and miles of pristine beach.”
The way the bracket is set up could possibly point towards a Villanova-Coastal Carolina matchup for the title of 2019 Myrtle Beach Invitational Champions. Hogue talked about what winning a tournament like this would mean not just for the program but for the area of Myrtle Beach.
“Winning a tournament like this would open a lot of eyes around the country to see what type of season our program would have,” Hogue said. “I hope that through the success of our programs in many other sports, our basketball team beating a Power Five program wouldn’t be a Haley’s Comet moment. It is something we expect to go do on a fairly regular basis. I hope a tournament like this with the field that we have gets our fans excited and that they’ll come out to more games and bring others with them.”
Villanova opens the 2019 Myrtle Beach Invitational with a matchup versus Middle Tennessee State at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday. Mississippi State and Tulane follow the Villanova game at 2 p.m. The evening matchups feature Ohio and No. 15 Baylor at 5 p.m. and the nightcap being Coastal Carolina taking on Utah.
All Myrtle Beach Invitational games will be viewed on either ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPNNews.
Tickets for all Myrtle Beach Invitational games are on sale now. Visit goccusports.com for ticket information or call the Coastal Carolina ticket office at 843-347-8499.