CCU Center plays through pain to achieve NCAA dream

El-Hadji Ndieguene is all smiles prior to CCU showdown against Virginia.

El-Hadji Ndieguene has been all smiles ever since he set foot in Raleigh with the Coastal Carolina basketball team. Underneath the joy of reaching the NCAA tournament has been intense physical pain. Ndieguene has battled headaches and back problems throughout his two seasons at CCU. He is scheduled for back surgery on Monday morning at 6:00 am, but says he'll gladly delay the procedure if Coastal can pull off two monumental upsets this weekend.

"There were moments that you think about quitting basketball, but when God has plans for you just kind of escape them," Ndieguene said. "You just have to deal with it and move on. I'm glad I have the strength to keep going."The 6-foot-10 center from Senegal is especially excited to face top seeded Virginia. Ndieguene has spent six years living with the family of Cavaliers walk on Rob Vozenilek. Tom Vozenilek and Betty Baugh Harrison missed their son's game against Syracuse to be at Coastal Carolina's senior night for El-Hadji.

He's averaged four points and seven rebounds a game averaging 24 minutes of action. His back pain has limited him from seeing the court more, but he'll play through the pain one more time when he faces the top seeded Cavaliers.

"He's a warrior on the court," teammate Warren Gillis said. "In practice, he's just going hard all the time. He's very valuable to the team to show the effort and fight - fighting through the adversity."

Sports Director Rich Chrampanis gives his take from Raleigh leading up to tonight's scheduled 9:25 pm tipoff

I've seen this team play every minute since January and the task is a tall one. Will Coastal have an effort like they did against Minnesota (competitive) or against Clemson (overmatched). Cliff Ellis says it will take a perfect storm and the ability to play in controlled chaos for history to happen. Here are the things that Coastal has to do to have a chance against the Cavaliers.

#1: Make Seven Three Pointers

The three pointer is the great equalizer. It's vital that CCU hits their shots from beyond the arc. One of Coastal's best games of the year was at Gardner-Webb and the Chants were 7-12 from three point land. They'll need something like that tonight against Virginia.

#2: Stay out of Foul Trouble

Coastal's big man depth is hurting with El-Hadji Ndieguene not at 100 percent and the same for Uros Ljeskovic (ankle). The Chants can't pick up early fouls and mess up their rotation.

#3: Rebounding

Virginia is #1 in the nation in defense. Coastal Carolina is 21st in all of college basketball in rebounding. The Chants need to do their work on the glass

#4: Stick Around

Coach Ellis manages the game in four minute increments. The Chants can't afford to fall behind and be in catch up mode.

We'll have extended post-game reaction on and we'll have the Cliff Ellis Show season finale (unless there's a magical Sweet 16 run) this Sunday at noon on WPDE