2015-16 College Basketball Previews: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

Coastal Carolina has won two straight Big South tournament titles, and with the likes of Michel Enanga (12) and Elijah Wilson (22) back to lead the way, 2015-16 could yield another. (Source: USA Today)
Coastal Carolina has won two straight Big South tournament titles, and with the likes of Michel Enanga (12) and Elijah Wilson (22) back to lead the way, 2015-16 could yield another. (Source: USA Today)

For the past two seasons, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers have been the kings of the Big South Conference, representing the conference in each of the past two NCAA Tournaments. The conference tournament took place on the Chanticleers’ home floor, and they used the home court familiarity to their advantage.

In 2015-16, the Chanticleers will be looking to make it a three-peat in what will be their last season as a member of the Big South Conference. Following the 2015-16 season, Coastal Carolina will be on the move to the Sun Belt, and they’d love to go out on top as three-time defending champions.

This season, the Chanticleers won’t have the glamour and talent that they had last season, and the road to the NCAA Tournament will be a lot tougher. With that being said, the Chanticleers are battle-tested, they know what it takes to win, and will give everything they have to defend their conference tournament titles.

Plus, making it to the NCAA Tournament and losing in the opening round both times has to leave a bit of a sour taste in their mouths. They’ll be back with a vengeance this season, looking to make some more noise as they exit the Big South.

Below, you can find out more about this year’s edition of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.

Who’s Missing

The biggest losses for the Chanticleers can be found right at the top of last season’s stat sheets, as Coastal Carolina will be without their top two scorers from a season ago. Both Warren Gillis and Josh Cameron have graduated from the program, and moved onto bigger and better things.

Over the course of his career, Gillis emerged as one of the better, more underrated, mid-major stars in the country. The native of Philadelphia, PA developed into a leader on the floor, and a legitimate go-to offensive threat for coach Cliff Ellis and the Chanticleers.

Due to hard work, he increased his overall free throw percentage each season with Coastal Carolina, going fro. 76.5% as a freshman to 87.2% as a senior. He also never shot worse than 43.3% from the floor in any of his four seasons, resulting in over 1,300 points scored over his career.

His best statistical season came as a junior, in his breakout campaign. He averaged 14.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.6 steals per game, while shooting 46.6% from the floor, 37.7% from three point range, and 84.9% from the free throw line. Replacing his offensive production, and overall presence in the locker room and on the floor, will be tough for the Chanticleers’ staff to do in just one year.

If losing Gillis wasn’t painful enough, fellow guard Josh Cameron is also gone. Cameron wasn’t a full-time starter like Gillis was, but his impact was felt in each and every game. Cameron started just 7 games last season, but provided some much-needed scoring depth off the bench.

In 21.8 minutes per game a year ago, Cameron averaged an impressive 12.8 points per game, which was good for second-best on the team (Gillis, 13.4 ppg). He was a legitimate three-point threat, shooting 37.2% from long distance on the season. The depth he added to the bench, and the talent he brought to the floor will both be sorely missed.

In two under-the-radar moves that won’t have much of an impact on the 2015-16 season as a whole, but will impact the team’s depth on the bench, two big men transferred out of the program.

Uros Ljeskovic is on the move to Grand Canyon, where he will be eligible immediately, due to graduating from Coastal Carolina. Fellow big man Kyle Buffkin is also on the move, transferring to USC Aiken for his remaining two years of eligibility.

Who’s Returning

Despite losing their top two scorers from a year ago, Cliff Ellis and the coaching staff will be the beneficiaries of having an experienced roster in 2015-16, one that’s also got its fair share of talent.

The star of this year’s team will likely be junior shooting guard Elijah Wilson. He is the top returning scorer for the Chanticleers from a season ago, where he averaged 11.3 points per game to go along with 3.5 rebounds.

Ever since Wilson came to Coastal Carolina back in 2013-14 as a freshman, he has been putting people on notice with his talent. He averaged a team-high 15.8 points per game in his first season, and earned a spot on the Big South All-Freshman Team, plus an honourable mention for the All-Big South team. This past season, he took home the MVP Award from the Big South Tournament after helping Coastal Carolina reach their second-straight NCAA Tournament.

Beside Wilson in the back court, one can find fellow junior Shivaughn Wiggins. The duo of Wilson and Wiggins give the Chanticleers one of the best back court tandems in the conference. Wiggins started every game last year as a sophomore, averaging 10.0 points per contest while playing 31.1 minutes per game.

He has developed into the steady force that the team needs from the point guard position. He recorded a 2.64-1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season, and averaged 3.2 assists per contest overall.

Before last season, Wiggins transferred from Mount St. Mary’s after just one season with the Mountaineers. In his one year in the NEC, he took home the NEC Rookie of the Year award.

In the front court, the Chanticleers won’t be the tallest bunch, but they have a ton of experience and talent to offset their height disadvantage. Seniors Badou Diagne (6’7”), Michel Enanga (6’5”), and Marcus Freeman (6’8”) are ready to do battle against the opposition. Enanga will play more on the wing at the 3-spot, but will not shy away from battling in the paint if need be.

Freshmen Kevin Holmes, Jr (6’9”) and Josh Coleman (6’9”) also bring some size to the bench for the Chanticleers.

Projected Starting Five

Guard: Shivaughn Wiggins (JR)

Guard: Elijah Wilson (JR)

Forward: Michel Enanga (SR)

Forward: Badou Diagne (SR)

Forward: Marcus Freeman (SR)

Schedule Notes

At first glance, the Chanticleers look to have tough non-conference road games, and relatively easy home games. When you dig a little deeper, the Chanticleers have the potential to come away with an impressive record before the daily grind of Big South play takes place.

To open the year, Coastal Carolina will play two games over in Hawaii as a part of the Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic. They open up against a much-improved Nevada team, and then follow that up with a date against host Hawaii.

When the Chanticleers return to the mainland, they have three home dates against non-Division I opponents on their schedule. They take on Grace Bible College, Piedmont International, and North Carolina Wesleyan, all of whom the Chanticleers should be able to handle with relative ease.

For any Coastal Carolina fan, December is going to be a big month. Three dates that should be circled on the calendar of a Chanticleer fan are as follows:

December 2nd: v. Auburn
December 14th: @ Wofford
December 18th: @ Wake Forest

The December 2nd game against Auburn is the rematch of last year’s game that took place on the Tigers’ home floor, one in which the Chanticleers won 58 – 54. Coastal Carolina will be looking for the sweep in the home-and-home series between the two, and will have a great shot to do just that.

December 14th and 18th provide the Chanticleers with two glorious opportunities to score some true road victories as they get ready for conference play. Notching a win over either Wofford or Wake Forest on the road would be a big boost for the Chanticleers. The battle between Wofford and Coastal Carolina will be one of the season’s marquee mid-major contests.

Season Predictions

Several teams in the Big South will contend for the title this season, but it looks like the battle at the top will be between Coastal Carolina and the High Point Panthers. The Chanticleers know what it takes to get to the NCAA Tournament, so that’s a slight edge on their side.

Like last season, look for Coastal Carolina to finish near the top of the regular season standings, coming in as either a 1- or 2-seed in the conference. Behind their home court advantage, they will have a great shot at cutting down the nets once again at Myrtle Madness, and departing the Big South as kings.

– T.B.