The Bucs host 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,” Bucs 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.
The CIT has no bracket be- cause matchups are set after each round ends. The first round 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.
Tray Boyd III, who made the SoCon all-tournament team, will start in Good’s place.
Good, who averaged 10.4 points a game and had a team-best 87 3-pointers, will be a junior next year.
SCOUTING GREEN BAY
The Phoenix (17-16) are led by 6-foot-6 senior Sandy Cohen III, who averages 17.2 points per game. JayQuan McCloud, a 6-2 junior, scores 13.2 and ShanQuan Hemphill, a 6-6 junior, is at 11.6.
Green Bay beat Belmont and regular-season Horizon League champ Wright State during the season. The team is coached by Linc Darner, a former Purdue player.
“His teams are always tough,” Forbes said. “I know it’s going to be a tough game.”
Boyd leads ETSU in scoring at 12.1 points per game. Jeromy Rodriguez is next at 11.2 points and 10.9 rebounds, and Hodges is 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.