CLEMSON - It never gets old for well-traveled coach Cliff Ellis, even at age 68.
"It's all elation," Ellis said after leading Coastal Carolina to the Big South Conference tournament championship last Sunday. "Every time it happens, I think of every other player who's ever played for me."
When the Chanticleers held off in-state foe Winthrop 76-61 for the title, Ellis joined exclusive company: just the 10th college basketball coach to take four different schools to the Division I NCAA tournament.
He's danced with South Alabama (1979, 1980), Clemson (1990), Auburn (1999) and now Coastal, perhaps most impressive that Ellis keeps crashing March Madness a decade apart.
"Hopefully, my experience will come through and that we can match up, go out and show what we are made of," Ellis said.
Coastal (21-12) won't be alone from the state of South Carolina on the dance floor when the NCAA tournament bracket is unveiled this evening.
A night after the Chanticleers punched their first NCAA ticket in 21 years, Wofford (20-12) went up the road to Asheville, N.C., and knocked off Western Carolina 56-53 to capture the Southern Conference's bid to the Big Dance.
This is the Terriers' third SoCon title in five years.
"It's the ultimate," Terriers junior forward Lee Skinner said after the game. "Having that brotherhood around you, and then with the fans and the school behind us, it's incredible."
None of the state's 12 D-I programs had made the NCAA tournament each of the previous two years.
This will be just the third year in NCAA history multiple teams from the state of South Carolina qualify, and neither are the Clemson Tigers or South Carolina Gamecocks. Winthrop and College of Charleston went in 1999, and Winthrop was joined by South Carolina State in 2000.
Clemson (20-12) appears bound for the NIT, after Friday night's airtight 63-62 loss to Duke in the ACC quarterfinals. It would be the Tigers' first postseason appearance since a second-round NCAA exit in 2011, coach Brad Brownell's first year.
A Clemson official has confirmed the school submitted a bid to host an NIT game or games. That bracket will be unveiled shortly after the NCAA bracket is out.
South Carolina (14-20) is done for the spring, though the Gamecocks finished strong with four wins in its final six games, including a home upset of No. 17 Kentucky and a pair of SEC tournament victories over Auburn and Arkansas.
Clemson is 9-11 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. The state's other 11 squads are a combined 7-39, including the Gamecocks' 4-9 mark (including two consolation bracket wins.)
Both Coastal and Wofford are 0-2 in previous NCAA tournament games. The Chanticleers lost to Indiana 79-69 in the 1991 tournament, and 84-53 in 1993 to eventual NCAA runner-up Michigan, when Chris Webber infamously called a timeout the Wolverines didn't have in the title game against North Carolina.
The Terriers lost 53-49 to Wisconsin in 2010 and 74-66 to BYU in 2011.
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi is projecting Coastal and Wofford each as No. 16 seeds; Wofford would play top overall seed Florida, while Coastal Carolina would face Texas Southern in an opening-rounder for the right to face Villanova.
Jerry Palm's bracket, for CBS Sports, has Coastal playing Mount St. Mary's with the winner taking on undefeated Wichita State, and Wofford grabbing a No. 15 seed against No. 2 Michigan. USA Today projects both schools to receive No. 16 seeds.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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