College of Charleston Makes March Madness

The CofC Cougars have made the tournament, and here is all the information you need for their outlook in the tournament.


The College of Charleston men’s basketball team has made major strides this season. Coming off of a fantastic 31-3 record, the Cougars beat out the University of North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks to take the top spot in the Colonial Athletic Association. The 5-point win by the Cougars punched the College of Charleston’s ticket to the NCAA March Madness Tournament. Charleston had the number 12 seed in the South, and played 5-seed San Diego State University Aztecs in Orlando, Florida on March 16 at 3:10. 

Everyone doubted us all year and we kept proving them wrong”

— Ryan Larson

The Team:

The College of Charleston Cougars’ success this season can be attributed largely to the deep roster of talent. Dalton Bolon, a graduate student originally from Ohio, is the team’s standout leader, averaging 12.3 points per game. His bright blonde hair and beard draw every crowd’s attention, and his aggressive, unrelenting energy strikes fear into his opponents. The last thing any team wants is a Dalton Bolon and-1, typically giving the Cougars the hype required to take total control of the game. Reyne Smith and Ryan Larson are a pair of lethal guards, giving Charleston a “Three Musketeers”-like trio, together with Bolon, that keeps opponents on their toes. The two both average just under 11 points per game, with Larson also tallying 4.1 assists per game. Larson’s handles and ball movement are a major asset for the Cougars. Jaylon Scott, a bigger guard/forward standing at 6’5”, averages 5.3 rebounds per game, second only to Charleston’s star bigman, Ante Brzovic. Hailing from Croatia, Brzovic is a force in the paint, consistently putting on clinics against opposing defenders, both larger and smaller than him. His ball-handling is better than one might expect given his 6’10” frame, one of many positive aspects of his game that allow him to average 11.6 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game. Along with these stars, the Cougars have several other talented players, such as Raekwon Horton, Pat Robinson III, Ben Burnham, and Babacar Faye. 


The Coach:

While still a massive contributor to the Cougars’ recent success, the roster of talented players cannot do it alone. Fortunately, Charleston is led by Coach Pat Kelsey, a previous college-basketball player, who provides an energy to his team, both in games and practices, that cannot be matched by any other college basketball program.

Kelsey began his college career as a freshman guard at the University of Wyoming. After a year, he transferred to Xavier, where he finished his playing career. Six years later Pat Kelsey’s college coaching career kicked off when he became an assistant at Wake Forest University. After six years with the Demon Deacons, Kelsey returned to Xavier as an assistant until 2012. From 2012 to 2021, Pat Kelsey was the head coach at Winthrop University, taking the Eagles to the NCAA Tournament three times. On March 25, 2021, Kelsey announced his new position as the head coach for the College of Charleston. After a decent 17-15 record during his first season, Kelsey nearly doubled the team’s wins this season, leading the Cougars to the March Madness Tournament. On February 28, 2023, the College of Charleston’s Board of Trustees approved a new contract for Kelsey, who is now set to be paid $1.1 million per year through the 2027-2028 season. Coming off the team’s recent greatness, this contract marks the beginning of a new era of success for the Cougars. 

San Diego State University Info:

With the number 5 seed in the South, the San Diego State Aztecs was a formidable opponent for our College of Charleston Cougars. Having made it to the March Madness Tournament for the third year in a row under head coach Brian Dutcher, the Aztecs looked to make it out of the first round for the first time in their three year stretch. San Diego State’s best aspects are their relentless defense and reliable roster depth, characteristics that allow them to consistently wear down opponents. They have a solid chance to succeed in the tournament if they can continue and build upon their positive aspects, specifically their great rankings of 27th in the country in defensive efficiency and 34th in rebounding. However, the Aztecs have been less productive on the offensive side of the ball, ranking 105th in the country in offensive efficiency. San Diego State will more than likely not be able to keep up in a high scoring shootout-type game, so they will have to rely heavily on their defensive prowess to keep a win, and an advancement in the tournament, within reach. The Aztecs’ biggest threats are Matt Bradley (12.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.1 apg), Darrion Trammell (9.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.3 apg), and Lamont Butler (8.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.2 apg). 

CofC Tournament Outlook:

The Cougars are a very well-rounded team, with similar scoring and defensive abilities, ranking top 20 in the country in both offensive and defensive efficiency. As highlighted before, the team spreads the scoring across several solid players, which will allow them to take advantage of good matchups. Ranking 10th in Division I college basketball in three pointers made per game, the Cougars’ scoring ability could allow them to gain an uncatchable lead over the Aztecs if they get in the zone. Additionally, the Cougars are a solid rebounding team, and disciplined in avoiding foul trouble. For the Aztecs to secure a victory, they will have to keep control of the Cougars’ pace, controlling the boards and keeping them from shooting three pointers. For Charleston, resisting SDSU’s aggressive defense is the main obstacle to overcome in order to advance to the second round. Fortunately, the Cougars’ wide-ranging roster of potential scorers make that a serious possibility. As a somewhat minor fan of the Cougars, having attended three games this season, I believe that Coach Kelsey and the team will be able to overcome the slightly favored SDSU Aztecs. As they move forward in the tournament, their next matchup will be either 4-seed Virginia or 13-seed Furman. The Cougars will have a difficult road to reaching the Championship game, being on the same side of the bracket as powerhouses such as Alabama and Purdue. With this being the sixth March Madness appearance in program history, and only the second since 1999, the Cougars will look to perform some upsets coming off of a ten game winning streak.


What Happened:

Unfortunately, College of Charleston was bested by San Diego State, losing 63-57 after being unable to overcome the Aztecs’ stifling defense. The Aztecs have taken this first victory and ran with it, additionally beating Furman after their upset victory over UVA. SDSU is set to play the 1 seed Alabama on Friday, March 24.