Nit: College of Charleston at Cleveland State: Cougars, Vikings are mirror images
CLEVELAND -- When Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters saw video of the College of Charleston basketball team, he said it was like looking at a mirror image of his own squad.
Waters will get a much better look at the Cougars today at 2 p.m. (ESPNU) when the teams meet in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament at Wolstein Center.
Charleston enters with a 25-10 record, including Tuesday's 94-84 win over defending NIT champion Dayton. Cleveland State is 27-8 after a 63-60 first-round NIT win over Vermont.
"We've got a really good player (Norris Cole) just like Charleston (Andrew Goudelock). We play six or seven guys, and our guards are the ones. If they go, we go," Waters said.
College of Charleston assistant coach Fred Dupree concurred with Waters' assessment.
"They've got a stud and we've got a stud with good players surrounding them. The matchups are pretty even all the way around. They've played a tough schedule and have some good wins. It should be a heck of a game," Dupree said.
Charleston head coach Bobby Cremins said he is looking forward to seeing Cole, a 6-2 senior averaging 21.8 points per game.
"Some people have told me he's the best player in the country," Cremins said.
Cole was the Horizon League's player of the year and defensiveplayer of the year. He is the country's 11th-leading scorer and averages 5.9 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game.
Goudelock, a 6-2 senior, was the Southern Conference player of the year and this year broke the school's career scoring record with 2,527 points. Goudelock is the country's fourth leading scorer, averaging 23.8 points, along with 3.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists.
Goudelock said he knew Cole's reputation, especially after Cole went off against Youngstown State, scoring 41 points, grabbing 20 rebounds and passing out nine assists.
"I heard about that when it happened (Feb. 12)," said Goudelock, who had a career-high 39 points and eight rebounds in Charleston's win over Dayton. "I've heard he's a really good player. I don't care about his stats like I'm sure he doesn't care about mine. I'm just ready to play."
Senior point guard Donavan Monroe is looking forward to the challenge of guarding Cole.
"I'm hoping we, as a team, can contain him," Monroe said. "We have to come out and focus on us and try to be road warriors."
Waters and Cremins value the opportunity to participate in the NIT.
"Any time you can play in the postseason and you've got kids coming back the following year, it enhances your program," said Waters, who earned his 100th victory at Cleveland State against Vermont. "It also gives you some accreditation that you did a good job this year, that all the work you put in didn't go to waste. You're gaining something from it."
Said Cremins: "This is a big game. I know we're surrounded by NCAA tournament games (Cleveland is a regional site), but it's a big game. I really hope we play well. If you play well and lose, that's one thing. If you play poorly and lose it's a bummer.
"We accomplished everything except one thing in this program (qualifying for the NCAA tournament) ... and we're grateful we got the NIT."