#127 Coastal Carolina Men's Basketball Preview

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

Overall Rank: #127
Conference Rank: #1 Big South

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2010-11: 28-6, 16-2
2010-11 postseason: NIT
Coach: Cliff Ellis (80-48 at Coastal Carolina, 692-397 overall)

After two straight 28 win seasons, it looks like Coastal Carolina is once again the favorites to win the Big South. The frontcourt has some bodies to replace, but the backcourt is loaded with talent. And maybe there is too much talent; if such a thing is possible. Danny Nieman, Kierre Greenwood and Anthony Raffa are all quality ball handlers. Nieman and Greenwood got the starting nods last year. Nieman is not the best scorer around, but he plays solid defense and takes care of the ball. Greenwood does an even better job of taking care of the ball and had twice as many assists as turnovers. Those two will pretty much run a dual point guard system again this year. Raffa is hard to leave out of the starting lineup after averaging 11.7 points per game last year and having a superb conference tournament, but he will play about 25 minutes per game whether he starts or not.

Who’s Out:
Desmond Holloway was the dynamic wing for the Chanticleers last year. He averaged 18.5 points and 6.9 rebounds during his last season with CCU and was one of the better outside shooters on the team, which is not saying much, but this is a team that needed all the potential shooters they could find. Replacing him will not be an easy task. Neither will replacing Chad Gray. Gray was second on the team in scoring with 14.6 points per game and he added 6.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. There are not many returning options that can help replace those numbers. The absence of Mike Holmes is not a big deal since he only played in seven games last year.

Who’s In:
Chris Gradnigo, a transfer from Louisiana, will help the frontcourt. The 6-7 forward averaged 14.0 points and 3.9 rebounds for the Ragin’ Cajuns two years ago. With the need up front, Gradnigo will likely play at the four spot. He could be a small forward, but he has a decent outside shot and can stretch out the defense from the four spot. At 218 pounds, Gradnigo should not have much trouble mixing it up in the paint on the defensive end even if he spends some time hanging around the perimeter on the other end of the floor. William Kirksey, a junior college transfer, will have to get right into the mix as well. At 6-8 and 260 pounds, he has the size to eat up a lot of space in the paint. Freshman Tyler Poole could even spend some time at the four spot, but he is better equipped to help replace some of Holloway’s production on the wing. The backcourt will also add junior college transfer Charles Ashford and shooting guard Warren Gillis.

Who to Watch:
Sam McLaurin will have to hold down the frontcourt. After successfully teaming up with Gray last year, McLaurin will now be the main interior scoring threat for the Chanticleers…at least while the newcomers get adjusted. McLaurin is not a bad interior scorer, averaging 7.6 points per game, but most of those buckets were off of offensive rebounds. What McLaurin does for this team is rebound and play stellar defense. If he can score a little more too, the frontcourt will be in good shape. Jon Pack is another option and, at 6-11 and 255 pounds, has the size to be a force in the paint. He only averaged 2.2 points and 2.1 rebounds per game as a junior, so it is hard to picture a major jump in production from him right now, but Pack will be a key role-player off the bench.

Final Projection:
The key for Coastal Carolina might be on the wing. With three little guards on the team having a wing like Holloway who could help out on the glass was a big bonus. Brandon Crawford seems to be the best option to fill that role. He started the last six games of the 2010-2011 campaign and played quite well. Over the last eight games of the year he scored in double digits three times and averaged 5.6 rebounds and also dished out quite a few assists. If he can pick up where he left off, CCU has their replacement for Holloway. Dexter Moore and Willie Kirkland will also vie for minutes on the wing. Moore is not much of a rebounder, which may limit him to the off guard spot and a shooter off the bench, but Kirkland has the size to be a force on the glass.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Kierre Greenwood, Junior, Guard, 7.8 points per game
Danny Nieman, Junior, Guard, 6.2 points per game
Brandon Crawford, Senior, Guard, 4.9 points per game
Chris Gradnigo, Senior, Forward, DNP last season
Sam McLaurin, Junior, Forward, 7.6 points per game

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