CONWAY — Coastal Carolina University supporters didn’t have to love basketball to get swept up in the celebration Wednesday as the Chanticleer basketball team embarked on their road trip to the Big Dance.
“I’m not very knowledgeable about basketball, but I know this is a big deal,” said CCU senior Chelsey Kohler, as she waited for the team to come out of the HTC Center. “All my guy friends are excited about it, and I like to root for the underdog.”
The Chants won the Big South Conference championship and enter the NCAA tournament as a No. 16 seed. They will play No. 1 seed Virginia at 9:25 p.m. Friday at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. About 150 fans – mainly CCU students, faculty and staff – joined cheerleaders and the university’s pep band to give a rousing sendoff to the team, which boarded a bus emblazoned with mascot Chauncey and the university’s name.
Kohler and junior Brooklyn Zimmerman, also a sometime basketball fan, said the Chants success has had students excited about attending the games, and they both will be watching their team Friday night.
“This is my first year here, and it’s exciting,” said Zimmerman, who transferred from Maryland’s Frederick Community College. “[Frederick] had a team – I think they were the Cougars, but it wasn’t anything like this.”
Fans have been snapping up tickets to the Raleigh game since the team’s selection announcement was made Sunday night, said Michael Jacobs, CCU assistant athletic director for ticket sales and revenue.
“We’ve had great demand,” Jacobs said. “All through Monday, all we did was take requests.”
CCU’s allotment was 350 tickets in the arena’s lower level and 200 additional tickets in the upper level, Jacobs said. The lower-level tickets were gone Tuesday, having gone to season ticketholders, the Chanticleer Athletic Foundation and players’ guests, and fewer than 100 tickets were still available. There were some tickets still available Wednesday, Jacobs said, and the cutoff for purchase is 11 a.m. Thursday.
Business has been up a bit at the Chanticleer Store in the HTC Center, with some locals coming by to pick up CCU merchandise, said manager Jim Rebeschke. He said a good number of Big South championship T-shirts have been sold, and he is ordering shirts for the NCAA tournament as well.
“Working with the NCAA, it’s kind of difficult to know what they’re going to look like, but we’re looking for something with the bracket Coastal’s in and something around March Madness rather than the Big South,” he said.
Rebeschke said people on campus are excited about the big game, a sentiment echoed by pep band member Ashley Purcell.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Purcell said. “It just makes me so proud.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.