The calendar turns to March -- let the madness begin.
Unfortunately for Coastal Carolina University basketball, the chaos started a couple of weeks ago. By now, most fans who follow area sports have heard about the suspension of star CCU guard Desmond Holloway. CCU is sitting the player out concurrent with an NCAA investigation that he allegedly accepted improper benefits -- according to a New York Times report.
The suspension came days after the team's starting point guard, Kierre Greenwood, tore his ACL and on the heels of Gardner-Webb ending the Chanticleers' longest winning streak in the country.
It's the law of gravity - what goes up, must come down.
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If CCU was Duke, North Carolina, Connecticut or Texas -- this would be THE story of the college basketball season. A clearly dominant team falling apart, having just about everything go wrong that could go wrong down the stretch.
In a sense, CCU did shoot itself in the foot. I somewhat buy the argument that you reap what you sow. Coach Cliff Ellis invested in players with troubled pasts and/or guys who came through the junior college system. Those kids are considered high risk because there was likely a reason they did not go Division I straight out of high school. But like Ellis, I believe in second chances. I still don't think the players in question are so called "bad people," in fact, I like the guys. Good people sometimes make bad choices.
Fortunately for Coastal Carolina -- none of the distractions, injuries or streaks before now really matter. The Big South Conference is on the lower end of college basketball's hierarchy, meaning the winner of the five-day conference tournament will get the league's only bid to the Big Dance.
Who's left for the Chanticleers? If you're an active CCU fan on Facebook, the team is trying to rally around a new team name-- "the great eight" -- in reference to the eight players still available to play. It should be called the "super six," because veteran coach Ellis gives only considerable minutes to his five starters and one guy off the bench.
The new team mantra is the best thing that could ever happen to CCU. Instead of being the hunted (the majority of the season), the Chanticleers are turning the tables. The team seems to be rallying around adversity. The us-against-the-world mentality is coming out. And with the Big South Conference shunning the Chanticleers by putting only one player on the All-Conference teams, it only creates more locker room fodder.
If CCU can win its second round game against VMI tonight, the Chants will play Saturday in front of a national audience on ESPN2. Ellis will be trying to lead the university to its first NCAA Tournament berth since the 1992-1993 season. Lost in all of the madness is the fact the Big South title still goes through Conway. Every other conference school has only had one opportunity to play in our favorite high school gym masquerading itself as a Division-I arena. That advantage alone -- plus the easiest path to the conference championship-- should not be forgotten.
But if Coastal Carolina can't shake out of the funk it has been in the last 20-plus days--it's likely to be the what-could-have been season.
Or as I would believe -- the most disappointing season in school history.