The NCAA Tournament often creates a hodge-podge of matchups and gives a national platform for schools that sometimes fly under the national radar. Virginia's first opponent (in the Second Round because ???) is the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. STL previewed the matchup earlier in the week, but we always do the deep dive here to bring you insider knowledge. Ryan Young, who covers Coastal sports for the Myrtle Beach Sun News, took the time to answer our questions. (We didn't ask what a Chanticleer is, because a Virginia man knows his Chaucer.)
STL: The Chants seem to rely most heavily on the backcourt trio of Josh Cameron, Warren Gillis, and Elijah Wilson. How do each of those players fit into Coach Ellis's system? Are they generalists or do they have narrowly defined playing roles?
RY: Josh Cameron is the point guard in name, but he's naturally a shooting guard and plays more like one most of the time. He was expected to be the PG this year, but he outplayed South Carolina transfer Eric Smith and replaced him in the starting lineup after seven games. Warren Gillis is the glue of the team and the unquestioned leader. He is the only player who has been in the program for more than two seasons, and he's a go-to option in clutch moments as well as the team's top defender. Elijah Wilson is a versatile scorer with a great move to the basket and a decent shot. Those three have definitely carried the team most of the season.
STL: Badou Diagne and El Hadji Ndieguene make for an all-name frontcourt, and I would guess a horrific hodgepodge of announcer pronunciation. What's been the most egregious you've heard so far this year? Do any of the bench players get the same butchering of their names? (I would guess Uros Ljeskvoic would be in the running for some pretty bad ones.)
RY: Haha, yeah, it's a challenging roster for any out-of-town announcer. I can't think of any specific mispronunciations that stand out because I usually tuned out during the intros. I actually just use phonetical pronunciations in my head so I can remember how to spell those names.
STL: Diagne's defensive rebounding percentage ranks in the top 100 nationally (23.7 makes him 58th among D1 players, according to KenPom). What makes him such a presence on the glass?
RY: Badou has usually been the best athlete on the floor most times this season -- against Big South teams, at least. Everybody had been waiting for him to take a leap and after battling some lost confidence early in the season, he started putting it all together over the second half of the schedule. He could be one of the best players in the league next year if he continues to grow. He also a capable outside shooter, giving him impressive versatility.
STL: Who off the bench should we keep an eye out for? Will Michael Enanga play the role of defensive stopper?
RY: Enanga brings a little bit of everything to the table and is trusted in key moments, and freshman guard Colton Ray-St Cyr is a promising shooter who has been inconsistent this season but continues to get opportunities.
STL: Coastal lost twice to lowly South Carolina State. It struggled to a 7-7 out of conference record against a non-conference schedule barely in the top 300. In its only game against an ACC opponent, it lost by 19 to Clemson. But Coastal does come into the Big Dance on a five game winning streak. What has made the difference when Coastal has played well? What do they need to do to have a chance?
RY: The beginning of the season isn't really reflective of the team that will be on the court Friday night. They had lost their two leading scorers from last year and were a mess early on until Cameron seized the point guard job and Diagne later emerged as the much-needed fourth scoring option. Since then, they've gone 14-4 with a few close losses. I think this team would handle SC State with ease at this point, so the team to focus on is the one from the last two months. To compete against Virginia, they're going to need all three of their guards to be on and to not get taken advantage of inside. It'll be a challenge for sure, and it could well be a lopsided game, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was the opposite.