Through the other teams' eyes
Writers from men's basketball's rivals in Raleigh give their takes
By Laurel Nusbaumer – Men’s Basketbaall Reporter – The Chanticleer
This season is the first time in 21 years the Chanticleers have earned an NCAA Tournament bid, as coach Cliff Ellis — who spent 10 years as the coach of both Clemson and Auburn — became just the 10th coach to lead four different Division I programs to the NCAA Tournament. No recent Coastal Carolina team has played with as much chemistry as the 2013-14 Chanticleers, and the team becomes very dangerous when players communicate and make smart passes.
Junior guard Warren Gillis has excelled under pressure this season, sinking seemingly every shot he takes late in close games. Freshman guard Elijah Wilson’s agility and ability to get off quick shots also make him a challenge to guard, while junior guard Josh Cameron will move the ball to an open player almost every time, but also has the ability to sink long 3-pointers.
Collectively, these three players are the Chanticleers’ offensive stars. Coastal Carolina has not lost a single game when four players score in double figures, and sophomore forward Badou Diagne is generally the player who completes this condition each game.
On the defensive end, the Chanticleers boast the best field goal percentage defense in the Big South Conference at 40.0 percent. El Hadji Ndieguene, a senior center measuring 6-foot-10, grabs nearly everything that falls under the backboard, making it difficult for opponents to snag offensive rebounds. In large part due to his efforts, Coastal is among the top-20 rebounding teams in the nation.
However, Ndieguene is currently scheduled to undergo back surgery after the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Virginia. There has been no official word if the surgery will be postponed should the Chanticleers win.
Coastal Carolina lacks a true sixth man, which could present problems against deeper teams. The Chanticleers struggle away from home with a 6-7 record, and have also shown difficulty breaking full court presses and various zone defenses, particularly the box-and-one.
Gillis is the team’s most reliable free throw shooter, averaging 85.2 percent this season. Much like the Cavaliers, however, the rest of the team does not excel at the line.
By Sean Hurd – Contributing Sports Editor – The GW Hatchet
After being picked to finished 10th in the Atlantic 10, George Washington had its best season in seven years, posting the second most wins in program history with 24 and finishing third only behind Saint Louis and Virginia Commonwealth.
Under third-year head coach Mike Lonergan, the Colonials collected marquee wins in non-conference play against the likes of Miami, Creighton, Maryland and Georgia. They then continued their success in conference play, going 11-5 with wins against VCU, Richmond, Saint Joseph’s and Massachusetts, and earning the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007.
Most of GW’s success has come without its second-leading scorer, sophomore guard Kethan Savage. Savage was having a breakout season until being sidelined for the rest of conference play with a broken foot Jan. 18.
Emerging as a star player for GW was 6-foot-5 guard Maurice Creek, a transfer from Indiana who chose to play his final year of eligibility closer to home. The graduate student leads the team in scoring, averaging 14.3 points per game, and is the team’s best three-point threat at 40.6 percent shooting.
The combination of sophomore forward Kevin Larsen and senior forward Isaiah Armwood overpowered frontcourts of opposing teams with their size and length, together responsible for 23.8 points and 15.5 rebounds. Armwood, a senior who transferred from Villanova last year, tallied 10 double-doubles this season.
Sophomore Patricio Garino, an explosive 6-foot-6 forward, has also emerged as an x-factor for the Colonials, scoring in double figures in the last 11 games of the regular season and averaging 12.3 points.
The Colonials have shown multiple times this season they are capable of shutting down top scorers. Against Creighton Dec. 1, the Colonials held Doug McDermott, the nation’s leading scorer at 26.9 points per game, to just seven points in a seven-point victory against the Bluejays.
However, the team has dealt with injuries all season long — including Savage, Garino and sophomore point guard Joe McDonald — while also receiving minimal production out of an inexperienced bench. Early foul trouble to Lonergan’s starters has proven costly in the regular season, but fatigue from the starters after logging heavy minutes may be a key issue in postseason play.
Hunter Field – Sports Editor – The Daily Helmsman
Consistency has escaped Memphis coach Josh Pastner and Tigers all the season. One night, they’re losing to Cincinnati by 15 at FedExForum, and the next night, they’re beating Louisville by six at the KFC Yum! Center.
When the team is firing on all cylinders, it can compete with any opponent. However, when the Tigers are bad, they are terrible — look no further than their 72-53 loss to Connecticut in the conference tournament.
The team’s four senior guards received all of the attention at the beginning of the year, and they’ve played pretty well in stretches. However, truth be told, they’ve been a tremendous letdown. Memphis performs best when its big men are involved and playing at a high level.
Sophomore forward Shaq Goodwin dropped a ton of weight in the offseason and shot out to a red-hot start, but he has dwindled down the stretch.
His frontcourt mate, freshman Austin Nichols, found his rhythm as the season progressed, winning the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year Award. Nichols, a consensus top-30 recruit, has great hands and touch around the basket, and can impact the game when he’s focused.
Like Virginia, Memphis’ guards defend extremely well. However, offense has been a major issue.
Senior guard Joe Jackson leads the Tigers’ offensive attack, averaging 14.3 points per game. However, he shot a dismal 26.9 percent from beyond the arc on the year after entering the season shooting 36.4 percent.
Senior guards Michael Dixon Jr. and Chris Crawford are the sharpshooters for the Tigers. They both shot 38 percent from three, but they’re the only real threats from downtown.
When opponents pack the paint, Memphis struggles on the offensive end. If a game turns into a shooting contest in the half-court, the Tigers will lose nearly every time.
The Tigers want to speed the game up by pressuring their opponents and forcing turnovers to make it an up-and-down game. When the game slows down, Memphis seems to have no half-court sets on offense and becomes extremely stagnant.
All that said, they can be dangerous if they get everyone on the same page at the same time.