Everyone loves to see the little guys come up big in the NCAA Tournament, and this year there isn’t going to be much of a bigger longshot or little guy than the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, who ended their 21-year drought of NCAA Tournament appearances by winning the Big South title in a 76-61 victory over the Winthrop Eagles on Sunday.
Coastal Carolina got 22 points from Warren Gillis and 19 from Josh Cameron secure an NCAA tournament bid for the third time in school history, and first time since 1993.
The Big South title wasn’t just a steak-ender for the Chanticleers, it was also the first conference tournament title for coach Cliff Ellis in his 39 years of coaching at four different schools.
Ellis, who had previously led South Alabama, Clemson and Auburn into the NCAAs, hugged his wife and then joined his team in a celebratory jig on the court.
“I can still dance a little bit,” Ellis said with a grin.
Coastal Carolina (21-12) went on a 12-0 first-half run to get control of the game, eventually building a 57-39 lead midway through the second half.
Coastal’s last Big South tournament championship came in 1993, but was vacated because of NCAA violations.