Sun Belt teams set to battle it out in New Orleans


With the regular season behind them, Coastal Carolina’s Men’s Basketball team is preparing to compete in the Sun Belt Conference Championship. Coastal Carolina will enter as the 6th seed in the Sun Belt and play the University of Louisiana-Monroe after ULM defeated Appalachian State in the first round.

The Chanticleers will be led by senior forward Zac Cuthbertson, who finished the season averaging 18.5 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game as he was named to the Second Team All-Sun Belt at the end of the season. Freshman guard Devante Jones will also play a large role as he was just named the Sun Belt Freshman of the year thanks to his 14.2 points per game and 47 percent shooting percentage on the season.

Let us now go through some strengths and weaknesses for CCU as they head into the playoffs, as well as some potential X-Factors.

Keep It Up!

Basketball is fairly simple when it comes down to it; score more points than your opponents. If you cannot put the ball in the basket more times than the opposing team, you will not wind up a successful basketball team. This is one of Coastal’s strengths, they certainly score the basketball. CCU averages 77.1 points per game with a scoring differential of 4.3 points per game. Is there room for improvement? Of course. But if CCU can score 4 more points than their opponents every game in these playoffs, they will have serious success.

Another one of Coastal’s strengths heading into the Sun Belt Championship is their rebounding. CCU grabs 36.7 rebounds per game, 4.0 rebounds more than their opponents.

If you can score the basketball, and make sure that you grab any rebound, you will win more basketball games than you lose…I know, groundbreaking stuff. Fundamentals are key, and Coastal executes their fundamentals well.

Need to Fix

While Coastal Carolina has their strengths, they – like any other team – have their weaknesses. One major weakness for CCU is their inability to win games on the road. It is a simple fact, The Chanticleers are a different team in the HTC Center than when they are on the road. At .500 in the win percentage column, Coastal finished at 15-15. A mere four of those loses came at home, while one came at a neutral site, a whopping 10 loses came on the road. With no Sun Belt Championship game to be played at the HTC Center, and all to be played at neutral sites, the Chants need to find some way to pick up a win away from Conway, or their Sun Belt Championship dreams will end as quickly as they started.

Closing out games will also be a major factor to watch for as Coastal attempts to break the pattern of letting teams get back into games in the second half. Far too many times, Coastal has had large leads and then – in the blink of an eye – it is a five point game, or even worse, they find themselves trailing. Closing out games has been a thorn in the side of The Chanticleers all season, senior Ajay sanders admitted as much to me in an interview earlier this year. Playoffs are a time when no team gives an inch, if Coastal wants to succeed, they are going to need to put the metaphorical nail in the coffin more than they have been.

X-Factors

Tyrell-Gumbs Frater: The sharp-shooting guard has been a massive scoring weapon off the bench. While only starting three games this season, Gumbs-Frater has played in all 30 games this season, shooting 45 percent from three-point range and scoring 9.5 points per game. If he can keep up his success, he will be an offensive catalyst for the Chants in big spots that other teams simply do not have.

Ebrima Dibba: Dibba has played in 22 games this season and started all but two. He has been an offensive playmaker each time he steps on the court, racking up 104 assists this season to compliment his 8.1 points per game. If he can continue to provide a spark with his passing ability, the CCU offense will operate like a well-oiled machine.

Amidou Bamba: The big man for Coastal Carolina has started 23 of the 30 games he has played this season. He leads the team in blocks with 21 and has averaged 6.1 points per game on 52 percent shooting. Consistency is key in basketball, and if Bamba can be a reliable scorer in the paint as well as a defensive monster, he will add much needed depth to Coastal’s game plan.

Playoffs are the time of year that every athlete and sports fan dreams of. They are filled with every cliché imaginable, but what it comes down to is this, the season of each team hangs in the balance during every game. If you do not like competition, then this is not the place for you. Whatever happens, it promises to be entertaining.

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