Team No. 2 has cashed in their NCAA tournament ticket, and that team is the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky. Following the lead of Harvard, who qualified Friday night after clinching the Ivy League, EKU took down the No. 1 and 2 seeds in back-to-back games to capture the Ohio Valley Conference title.
It was no easy task for the Colonels, who had to get past a 24-8 Belmont team who’d beaten North Carolina, Indiana State and Middle Tennessee State this season. To do so, they took an early 12-point lead that held until late in the second half before Belmont eventually tied the score. That only motivated Eastern Kentucky, who took control immediately after that and pulled away for the win.
It marks the eighth trip to the NCAA tournament for the Colonels, but only their third since 1979. This year, they’ll be looking for their first win. Seven years ago, they lost to North Carolina in the first round, while Kentucky was the culprit in their 2005 appearance.
Thanks to tough losses to Wisconsin, Virginia Commonwealth and N.C. State in their only three marquee games, as well as a low RPI of 113, the Colonels, despite a decent 24-9 record, are probably looking at no better than a No. 13 seed. Belmont was an 11th seed last season, but they had a 26-6 record and a huge win at Stanford on their resume.
Eastern Kentucky’s a decent team, and they beat a proven tournament-tested squad in order to get to the tourney, but their two wins over Belmont is all they have to show the committee, so expect a tough first-round matchup. However, their is some good news, which is that four of their top five scorers are seniors, which is never a bad thing to be able to claim as you head into the postseason. Senior point guard Glenn Cosey, who leads the team in both points (18.7) and assists (4.2), heads up a veteran lineup who may just be able to put the fear of God into a No. 3 or 4 seed. The combination of maturity and strong guard play has led to bigger upsets in the past, and this team has the athletes to pull off something special.
Eastern Kentucky, welcome to March Madness. You’ve earned your way in. Now it’s time to get the rest of the country to remember you were there.