Coach Keith Dambrot's team will face a stiff test opening the season on the road. - Eric P. Mull-US PRESSWIRE
The Zips and Chanticleers tip-off their seasons at 7:30 tomorrow night. This will be the first basketball game in Coastal Carolina's new arena, the HTC Center.
In preparation of tomorrow's game against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, I tracked down Matt who is a CCU season ticket holder and also a constant on The Mid-Majority. You can follow him on Twitter @MBHH, and if you're ever in Myrtle Beach needing to find a local watering hole, let him know. Let's get into the questions:
Brandon: This game constitutes the opening of the new HTC Center on the CC campus. What are your thoughts on the new arena? From the pictures I saw it looks pretty sweet.
Matt: People are really excited about having the new HTC Center especially since there had been talk for years about getting a new one. The old Kimbel Arena only held 1,000 people making it the 3rd smallest in D-1, it was literally smaller than most high school gymnasiums. I am a big fan of the new arena as it is nice to actually have a place that has real concessions, more than one bathroom, a video board, and a merchandise store attached. That may sound silly to some, but having all these new amenities will really enhance the gameday experience for CCU basketball.
Brandon: How big of a loss is Sam McLaurin, who transferred to Illinois in the offseason? Who will have to step up in his place? It seems CC has a bit of a size problem without him.
Matt: Losing Sam is a very big loss, he probably would have been one of the best frontcourt players in the Big South. His presence would have probably put the Chants among the favorites to win the Big South as well. With Jon Pack and Chris Gradnigo graduating that leaves the front line an unknown. There are a few freshman in Badou Diagne, Uros Ljeskovic, and Tristian Curtis and holdover Bisi Addey who will try to help fill that void, but it looks like JC transfer El Hadji Ndieguene will be the first to get a look in the post against the Zips. He's said to be much more advanced defensively than offense which is what Sam was like earlier in his career. This will probably be problematic against Marshall and the Zips frontcourt, but the Big South is a more guard oriented league, so CCU may go with a lot of 3 and 4 guard sets.
Brandon: The Chants were picked second in the Big South Southern Division. Do you think they will finish there?
Matt: In all actuality, the entire Big South will be a toss up this year as it seems very even across the board so second or third is about right with this squad with all of the newcomers and unknowns. Charleston Southern was picked first because they only lost one senior (albeit their best player) and have a lot fewer questions to be answered and while UNC-Asheville lost a ton, they are still the defending champs. Coastal will be right in the thick of it with its strong backcourt duo of Anthony Raffa and Kierre Greenwood. It all depends on how this team progresses throughout the season. I expect a much stronger team come February after they have time to gel than the one you'll see on Friday.
Brandon: CC's AD Hunter Yuracek came from Akron a couple years ago. What are the perceptions of Yuracek within the fanbase/community? I know we were sad to see him go but glad he got such a good opportunity.
Matt: Generally Hunter Yuracheck has gotten a very positive response from the fanbase. There has been a lot of development going on around campus with an expansion of the football and baseball stadiums and now a new basketball arena to go along with helping bring the Big South Tournament to Conway for the next three years. Since the first day he's stepped on campus he has focused on getting the students and fanbase more involved with CCU athletics. He has taken some criticism over his handling of the football coaching situation, but in all he has been really advancing the image of Coastal athletics.
Brandon: You don't necessarily have to make a prediction, but what do you think the outcome will be tomorrow? I think it'll be close, but I believe Akron has too much size.
Matt: Akron is going to be very difficult to beat especially with the big advantage they will have in the post. Our guards are very aggressive and they'll have to get the Zip's bigs in foul trouble, but even then it'll be no picnic dealing with Akron guards. The game will probably be closer than most Akron fans want with the unveiling of the new arena and a packed house, but I think the experience of the Zips will be a big factor.... No official prediction, of course.
Thanks again to Matt for doing this at a short notice. It should be a great way to start the season tomorrow.