- Brendan Donoghue
Chanticleers head into conference play
At 7 p.m. ET, the Coastal Carolina University men’s basketball team will begin playing in the Sun Belt Conference in Alabama as the 6-6 Chanticleers tip off against 7-5 Troy University.
As Coastal begins the Sun Belt portion of their schedule, it is necessary to see what the Chants have done well through their first 12 games, as well as what needs to be worked on by Coach Ellis’ group if they want to do some serious damage in the conference.
Hands down, the biggest story for the Chanticleers this season has been the phenomenal season turned in by senior forward Zac Cuthberson. Cuthberson has started each game that Coastal has played, averaging 31.5 minutes a game while racking up 20.1 points per game, 9.1 rebounds per game, and 3.3 assists per game and leads the team in each of those categories.
Cuthberson is also shooting an absurd 52% from the field, as well as a solid 33% from three-point range and 71% from the free-throw line.
Even more impressive, Cuthberson comes from New Bern, North Carolina – which was decimated by Hurricane Florence this past fall. The toll it must have taken to see his hometown devastated must have been incredibly difficult on the young man. If basketball has served as some sort of outlet for him then that is wonderful and just makes his success all the more admirable. Should Zac Cuthberson be able to keep this up, he will no doubt be the motor behind a successful Sun Belt run for the Chanticleers.
Another bright spot on the season has been the team’s defense. While the Chanticleers score an average of 76.6 points per game, they hold opponents to merely 68.9 points per game. This makes them one of only four of 12 teams in the Sun Belt to hold opponents to at or under 69 points per game. A major factor in the success of the Chanticleers on the defensive side of the ball has been their success on the boards. As a team, Coastal holds a +4.8 rebounding advantage over their opponents as they rack up 36.3 rebounds per game while holding their opponents to only 31.5.
Nearly all of Coastals’ success has come at home this season. When playing at the HTC Center, the Chanticleers are a perfect 4-0. They have made it incredibly difficult for opponents to come into Conway and defeat them on their home court.
However, there are still some areas that could be improved.
For as dominant as Coastal has been at the HTC Center, they have been equally disappointing away from it. In the six games on their opponents’ court, the Chanticleers have gone 1-5. Additionally, they have split the two games played on a neutral site. In total, Coach Ellis and co. have played eight games away from home and gone 2-6. If Coastal Carolina has any aspirations for competitive Sun Belt play and beyond, they are going to need to figure out a way to pick up more wins on the road. There is no way around it.
What is the number one rule in any team sport? Hang on to the ball. Well, Coastal Carolina has had some significant woes when it comes to following that rule. As a team, the Chanticleers have turned the ball over 170 times this season…eleven more times than their opponents. While this might not seem like a large margin, coupled with only 66 steals on the season, the Chanticleers are giving the ball away far more than they are taking it away from their opponents. Any time you have more turnovers and less steals than your opponents, it is a recipe for disaster. Take for instance, the Chanticleers loss at Wofford.
Against Wofford, Coastal turned the ball over 12 times. These 12 turnovers turned into 12 Wofford points on the ether end of the court. To put this in perspective, Coastal only lost by 11. Take care of the ball more, and you have a much better chance to tie or take the lead late in the game. Do not turn the ball over at all, and you win. Teams that are successful hold minimize turnovers, and at 6-6 entering conference play, Coastal Carolina can do some serious damage…they just cannot give their opponents extra opportunities.
As conference play kicks off on Wednesday, the Chanticleers look forward to a competitive schedule. While a 6-6 record may not bread an overflow of confidence for fans of CCU, Coastal has certainly played well all season on both sides of the ball. If the Chants can figure out a way to minimize turnovers and win some games on the road, then this Cuthberson-led team can make some serious waves.