The Bucs play host to Green Bay on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Freedom Hall in the first round of the 26-team tournament.
“I’m excited about every game,” ETSU all-conference guard Bo Hodges said. “This is a chance to go get a championship, bring something home. It’ll be a good experience.
“The coaches always say the most excited team this time of year is going to win. This isn’t where we wanted to be, but the most excited team is going to win so it better be us.”
At this time of year, teams want to be preparing for the NCAA Tournament. The Bucs lost that chance when they fell to Wofford in the Southern Conference tournament semifinals. They had a shot at the NIT, but upsets in conference tournament finals forced some teams to drop out of the NCAA picture. That hurt ETSU’s chances.
“I think it’s good to be playing in postseason play, especially when you have your entire team back next year,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “I thought it was really important for us to play. We waited it out with the NIT, but we didn’t do enough to get in even though we played in one of the best leagues in the country.”
After the first round, the top three seeds earn byes into the quarterfinals. ETSU has the top NET ranking, 72, in the field and is expected to get a bye if it beats Green Bay.
That would put the Bucs in the quarterfinals, and there’s a good chance they would host again, likely the following Wednesday.
There is no bracket in the CIT as matchups are set after each round ends. First-round games won’t be complete until Saturday.
The semifinals are set for April 2 with the finals April 4.
The Bucs will be playing without the services of starting shooting guard Patrick Good, who is getting ready to have surgery for a torn hip labrum that he played with all season.
Despite the injury, suffered before the season started, Good managed to make all-conference and set the school record with 11 3-pointers against Western Carolina.
Tray Boyd III, who made the all-tournament team at the SoCon tournament, will start in Good’s place. Good will be a junior next year.
SCOUTING GREEN BAY
The Phoenix come in 17-16 and are led by 6-foot-6 senior Sandy Cohen III, who averages 17.2 points per game. JayQuan McCloud, a 6-foot-2 junior, scores 13.2 and ShanQuan Hemphill, a 6-foot-6 junior, averages 11.6.
Green Bay has some impressive wins on its resume, beating Belmont and regular-season Horizon League champ Wright State along the way. The team is coached by Linc Darner, a former Purdue player.
“His team’s are always tough,” Forbes said. “I know it’s going to be a tough game.”
Dick Bennett, father of Virginia coach Tony Bennett, was Green Bay’s coach when the school made the move from Division II in the mid-1980s.
Boyd leads ETSU in scoring at 12.1 points per game. Jeromy Rodriguez is next at 11.2 points and 10.9 rebounds.
Good finished his season averaging 10.4 points and leads the team with 87 3-pointers.
Hodges is also scoring figures, at 10.2 points per game, after starting the season slowly because of various leg injuries.
ETSU still leads the country in rebounding margin, averaging 40.0 to its opponents 29.5. That 10.5 margin puts the Bucs in some pretty good company. The next three teams on the list are North Carolina, Kentucky and Michigan State.