Chanticleers face tall task in second-round clash with Badgers

Mar 20, 2015 - 2:41 PM Omaha, NE ( - The Wisconsin Badgers begin their pursuit of their first national championship since World War II, as they clash with the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at the CenturyLink Center on Friday night.

Wisconsin, the top seed in the West Region, has been a regular participant in this event over the years, this being the 21st NCAA Tournament for the Badgers who have a record of 29-19 overall, but their one and only crown came way back in 1941. En route to the tourney for the 17th year in a row, the Badgers were nearly untouchable during the 2014-15 campaign, losing a total of three times, one of those coming against another top seed in the tournament, Duke.

The team blew through the Big Ten Conference schedule, winning all but two of 18 opportunities, as it tied the school mark for best record in Big Ten play. In addition to winning their 18th regular-season conference title, the Badgers also ran the table against the rest of the Big Ten in the conference tournament, defeating the likes of Michigan, Purdue and Michigan State, the latter coming in overtime last Sunday.

As for the 16th-seeded Chanticleers, they are representing the Big South Conference, winning the league tournament for the second time in as many seasons. Coastal was 24-9 overall this season, their biggest non-conference win being a 58-54 stunner versus Auburn on the road in early December. The team was 12-6 versus the rest of the Big South and picked up the conference tournament title after taking down UNC Asheville, Gardner-Webb and Winthrop.

Coastal is into the tourney for the fourth time overall, making it back-to- back appearances after watching from afar for the previous two decades. Unfortunately, the Chants are still waiting for that big break and their first NCAA Tournament win. Last year, they were also the last seed in the East Region and lost to Virginia in the opener, 70-59.

Not surprisingly, the Badgers lead the all-time series between the programs by a 2-0 count, delivering a crushing 92-54 win in the most recent meeting almost a decade ago. Wisconsin has never lost to a member of the Big South Conference (6-0).

The winner here will be back in action on Sunday against either Oklahoma State or Oregon in the third round.

Coastal Carolina, which boasts only a pair of seniors and the rest of the roster juniors and sophomore, is led by head coach Cliff Ellis who is the only one in NCAA Division I history to have at least 150 victories at four different institutions (Coastal, Auburn, Clemson and South Alabama). Ellis has his team generating 71.7 ppg on the season, although some of the higher- scoring efforts came against inferior competition such as Columbia International, Warren Wilson and Trinity Baptist in the first few weeks of the campaign.

Over the long haul, Warren Gillis finds himself at the top of the scoring list with 13.1 ppg, although he is just one of four players hitting for double figures, which means the Chants of plenty of scoring options to rely on. Gillis also led the program with 47 steals and was tied with Shivaughn Wiggins (10.2 ppg) for the lead in assists with 107. Josh Cameron pitched in with another 12.9 ppg as he and Elijah English (11.1 ppg) combined to account for 123 of the team's 221 triples over 33 outings.

Unless you've been living under a rock all season long, the main reason for Wisconsin's success has been the play of Frank Kaminsky. Leading the team to a single-season school record for victories already Kaminsky, a candidate for national player of the year honors, was the consensus Big Ten Player of the Year and the MOP of the Big Ten Tournament as well. Aiming to become just the second consensus All-American for the Badgers since 1942, Kaminsky has averaged 18.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg and 2.7 apg, all while shooting 55.3 percent from the field overall and showing an ability to extend his range out beyond the 3- point line where he is 39.5 percent accurate as well.

But more than just Kaminsky, Wisconsin also features Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes in the starting lineup, both of whom are averaging double-digit scoring. Dekker, a quick slasher who can also hit the occasional triple, has posted 13.0 ppg and 5.5 rpg, while Hayes contributes another 12.4 ppg and 6.4 rpg as the trio handles most of the action for a program that is putting up 71.9 ppg but is also one of the more driven defensive groups in the country with just 56.1 ppg allowed.

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