CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Coastal Carolina University is hosting a new type of event for the Grand Strand.
The Myrtle Beach Invitational has brought college basketball fans from eight different universities to Horry County. Hurricane Maria forced last year’s Puerto Rico Tip-Off to move to Coastal Carolina.
The success of the tournament led to ESPN starting the Myrtle Beach Invitational. Even though CCU isn’t playing this year, the school and other fans are excited.
Tabetha Childress is happy her son Brandon’s Wake Forest Demon Deacons are playing near Myrtle Beach.
“Great shopping,” she said. “I don’t think my husband likes that, but great shopping, great food.”
She’s one of thousands of basketball fans on Coastal Carolina’s campus for the Myrtle Beach Invitational. With national TV and online streaming coverage from ESPN, It’s one of the Grand Strand’s highest-profile sporting events.
While Coastal isn’t playing this year, the Chanticleers will be home for some very tough opponents in the 2019 tournament.
“We’ve got Villanova coming in, last year’s national champion, a lot of schools from the Power Five, SEC, Big 12, etc.,” said CCU athletic director Matt Hogue. “It’ll be a challenge for our program, but those are the kind of games you like to play.”
Here are the eight teams for next year’s Myrtle Beach Invitational:
- Coastal Carolina
- Middle Tennessee State
- Mississippi State
The tournament is another sign of Coastal’s growth in sports since upgrading its football program to the highest level of NCAA Division I by joining the Sun Belt Conference. CCU will host a football bowl game in December 2020 at an expanded Brooks Stadium.
Hogue says sports tourism from these events will also help the Grand Strand’s economy in the offseason.
“It’s a great partnership with the Myrtle Beach (Area) Chamber of Commerce, he said. “It’s a great partnership with ESPN Events and I think you’ll see more and more of these opportunities come our way.”
For fans from as far away as California, the tournament will create great memories like for two former roommates at St. Joseph’s University.
Kevin Furey still lives near Philadelphia, while Jim Steinrutk now lives in North Myrtle Beach.
“We’re all in communication quite a bit. I said, ‘Hop a flight, get down here,'” Steinrutk said.
“I’m still working,” Furey laughed. “He’s not.”
“They should make it an annual (event),” Steinrutk said. “The College of Charleston has one. They’ve had it going for the last several years. Why not here?”
All eight teams will take Saturday off before the final day, including the championship, on Sunday.
CCU’s men’s basketball team played its first game of the Northern Kentucky Basketball Classic on Friday afternoon against Manhattan College.