Coastal Carolina’s banner season – a second-straight Big South regular-season title and a 22-game win streak – won’t have a storybook ending.
The Chanticleers lost the conference tournament title game to UNC Asheville, 60-47, the second straight year they’ve fallen short with an NCAA tournament berth on the line. And for the second straight year, they’ll head to the NIT.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise.
Coastal Carolina played its final seven games with just seven scholarship players and a walk-on due to an injury to their point guard (Kierre Greenwood) and the suspension of their leading scorer (Desmond Holloway). Adding to their woes was a N.Y. Times article that reported the NCAA was investigating the program for possible illegal benefits to a recruit.
Also, Asheville notched a road win over Chanticleers in late February. Suffice to say, the Bulldogs had their number (and had coach Eddie Biedenbach quoted in the Times article as saying perhaps Coastal had played “with fire” and got burned).
Now the Bulldogs (19-13) are headed back to the Big Dance for the first time since 2003, setting off a series of celebrations on the Asheville campus.
The players? They’re even happier.
“This feels like a million bucks!” Asheville forward Jaron Lane told the Asheville Citizen-Times. “To be with your teammates and experience something like this is so special.”
At least one team got a storybook ending.
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