Eastern arrives in Indianapolis in time for the school to watch it receive a No. 14 seed and will play No. 3 Jayhawks in rematch of 2007 meeting
There will be a little familiarity in Indianapolis for the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team.
The Eagles are a No. 14 seed and will play third-seeded Kansas on Saturday, March 20, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis, Ind. Venue and the game time have yet to be announced.
“We are really excited for the opportunity to play in the tournament,” said Eastern head coach Shantay Legans. “We are playing one of the best programs in the history of college basketball. We don’t know anything about them initially, but it will be fun digging into them and watching how they look. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Eastern, fresh off of winning the Big Sky Conference Tournament title Saturday (March 13) in Boise, Idaho, arrived in Indianapolis in time to watch the selection show as a team. That was followed by mandatory Covid-19 testing and quarantine, with testing repeated on Monday (March 15). After that time, the team will be allowed to practice and gather again as a team.
Although all games will be played in the Indianapolis area, the Eagles are listed in the West region. The winner of the Kanas-EWU game will play the winner of No. 6 USC versus the play-in game winner between Wichita State and Drake, which will receive the No. 11 seed. Eastern enters the tournament with a 16-7 record, Kansas is 20-8, USC is 22-7, Wichita State is 16-5 and Drake is 25-4.
“Being a No. 14 seed is great,” said Legans. “We tried to get that 12 seed, but that didn’t happen – you have to play a few more games against better opponents. We’re excited for the opportunity – a 14 seed gives you the chance to win. We just have to go out and do everything possible in our power to win a game.”
Eastern has played Kansas once before, an 85-47 Jayhawk victory on Dec. 5, 2007. Kirk Earlywine was EWU’s head coach then, two seasons before Shantay Legans became one of his assistants. Kansas finished 37-3 in the 2007-08 season and went on to win the NCAA Tournament championship. The Eagles are 0-9 versus the Big 12 Conference.
The last venture to Indiana for EWU was a triumphant one. A heart-stopping 88-86 victory at Big Ten Conference member Indiana on Nov. 24, 2014, will go down as one of the greatest victories in school history after the Eagles snapped the nation’s third-longest non-conference home court winning streak at 43 in front of 11,636 Hoosier fans at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. It was the first-ever win for the Eagles in 14 tries against a Big Ten Conference opponent and was the first Big Sky win on a Big Ten home court. Legans was an assistant coach on that squad.
The NCAA announced in early January the entire 2021 men’s basketball championship will be played in Indiana, with the majority of the tournament’s 67 games taking place in Indianapolis. Selection Sunday is scheduled for Sunday, March 14 at 3 p.m. Pacific time on CBS. The Final Four is scheduled for Saturday, April 3 and Monday, April 5, with the championship game at 6 p.m. on CBS.
The NCAA also announced exact preliminary-round dates in January. The “First Four” will take place on Thursday, March 18 and the first round games will take place on Friday, March 19 and Saturday, March 20.
Games will be played on two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium, as well as Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington. Only one game at a time will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium. Teams will practice at the Indiana Convention Center with multiple courts set up inside the venue. All teams will be housed on dedicated hotel floors, with physically-distanced meeting and dining rooms, as well as secure transportation to and from competition venues.
* Eastern’s first NCAA Tournament appearance came under head coach Ray Giacoletti on March 19, 2004, when the Eagles fell to No. 3-ranked and No. 2-seeded Oklahoma State 75-56 in Kansas City, Mo. Eastern returned 14 years later under head coach Jim Hayford, and fell to #22/#4 Georgetown 84-74 in Portland, Ore., on March 19, 2015.
* Eastern is now 16-7 overall after finishing 12-3 in the league, and the Eagles have won 13 of their last 14 games. Eastern had won nine-straight games before falling to Idaho State 68-63 on March 3.
* Eastern finished as the Big Sky runner-up after leading the league from Feb. 6 to March 3, and won 10 of its last 11 Big Sky games to finish 12-3 and tied with Weber State. But Southern Utah finished perfect at home and won their last nine games to snag the league title away, while the Wildcats won their last seven.
* In the final Big Sky Conference standings based on winning percentage, Southern Utah was first (12-2, .857), followed by EWU and Weber State (12-3 .800). They were followed by Idaho State and Montana State (both 8-6 .571), Montana (7-9 .438), Portland State and Northern Colorado (both 6-8 .429), Sacramento State (5-9 .357), Northern Arizona (4-10 .286), and Idaho (1-17 .056).
* The Eagles were playing in their third-straight league championship game, having lost to Montana in 2018 and 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 tournament when the Eagles entered as the No. 1 seed. Eastern now has a 3-6 record in the championship games, with previous tourney titles in 2004 and 2015 to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
* Eastern was making its 18th Big Sky Conference Tournament appearance in 33 years as a member of the league, and now has a record of 20-15 in its 35 games. The Eagles are 7-5 all-time in the quarterfinals, and went on to win tourney titles in 2004 and 2015 to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Eastern is now 9-4 in the semifinals and 3-6 in the championship.
* Eastern finished as the Big Sky runner-up after leading the league from Feb. 6 to March 3, and won 10 of its last 11 games to finish 12-3 and tied with Weber State. Eastern won its 12 league games by an average winning margin of 14.2 points per game, and its lone league losses were by a total of 12 points (5 twice, 2). Overall entering the postseason, Eastern lost to Oregon by 17, but the Eagles lost their other six other games by an average margin of just 3.8 points (5 three times, 3 twice, 2).
* Eastern headed to Boise with a late-season starting lineup that consisted of two juniors and three sophomores. The team’s lone seniors — Jacob Davison and Jack Perry – started Eastern’s final regular season game on March 5 in a 75-62 home win over Idaho State, and had 18 and 11 points, respectively. Through the Montana State game, 10 different Eagles have combined for 84 double-figure scoring performances, and three players have combined for 12 double-doubles.
More Comments from Shantay Legans . . .
On Kansas: “Bill Self was there then and has been at Kansas a long time. I know he’ll do a great job preparing and getting ready for us, I’m pretty sure they’ll be big and physical, just like any other big school like that. They always have had great big guys so it will be interesting to see how we match-up. They were a No. 3 seed so they had a good year.”
On Playing Big Schools: ‘We relish these games, but they are hard to win. It will be a lot of fun this week. I always like having a week of practices and a chance get up and down the court and some experience before we play the games.”
On Beating Indiana in 2014 The Last Time EWU Was in the State: “We won a big game and got to go to Steak and Shake afterwards. We had a lot of guys who hadn’t been there, and it was my first time. We played great that game and it provided some great memories. Again, they call them bluebloods and Indiana is one of them. We are hoping to get the same experience and have the same kind of fun with Kansas.”
On Tournament Amidst a Pandemic: “This is one-of-a-kind and is exciting. Our players are excited and it’s something you’ll never forget. When I sit back and think about this, I’m really proud of what they’ve accomplished and how they’ve handled this. It’s quite amazing to tell you the truth. They’ve handled it with great dignity and character, and they are incredible men who have handled the highs and the lows.”
On Experiencing the Tournament: “It’s an exciting time and the players are having a lot of fun with it. I played in it and remember it as a player. It’s something that is pretty cool. They are taking all the photos and videos they can and are looking forward to it.”
Eagles in National Postseason Tournaments
* Eastern will be making its seventh appearance in a national postseason tournament in school history, but first since 2017-18 when Eastern advanced to its fourth-in-a-row. Eastern advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2004 and 2015, were in the NIT in 2003 and played in three College Basketball Invitational (CBI) tournaments in 2016, 2017 and 2018. In the 2016 CBI, Eastern recorded its first win in a national postseason tournament as a member of Division I with a 79-72 home win over Pepperdine. The Eagles are now 1-5 in postseason national tournaments as a member of NCAA Division I, and 7-10 overall.
* Eastern head coach Shantay Legans has now been a part of NCAA Tournament teams as a player, assistant coach and head coach. He was an assistant under Jim Hayford when EWU advance in 2015, and was a player at California for coach Ben Braun in 2001 and 2002. The Bears lost in the first round in 2001 to Fresno State (82-70), a school he would later transfer to. Cal beat Pennsylvania (82-75) in 2002 before falling in the second round to Pittsburgh (63-50). Legans has been to Portland, Ore. (2015), Pittsburgh (2002) and Memphis (2001) for his three previous experiences.
* Eastern seniors Jack Perry and Jacob Davison were redshirt freshmen on EWU’s last team to advance to a national postseason tournament in 2018. Juniors Tanner Groves and Kim Aiken Jr. redshirted that season. Davison had seven points, four steals and three rebounds in EWU’s loss to Utah Valley in the CBI. Perry scored four points in 26 minutes of action in that contest.
* Eastern also played in the NAIA Championships (then known as NAIB) on five occasions, with a 6-5 record in appearances in 1942, 1943, 1945, 1946 and 1947. Before beating Pepperdine in 2016, Eastern’s previous national tournament victory came on March 12, 1947, when Eastern – then known as the Eastern Washington College of Education Savages – beat Dakota Wesleyan 62-48. One year earlier, Eastern lost to Pepperdine before meeting the Waves again for the second time in school history nearly 70 years to the day later in the CIT.
Here is a list of Eastern’s all-time games in National Postseason Tournaments as a
member of NCAA Division I (1-6) . . .
3/13/18 – College Basketball Invitational – at Utah Valley (Orem, Utah) – L, 65-87
3/15/17 – College Basketball Invitational – at Wyoming (Laramie, Wyo.) – L, 81-91
3/21/16 – College Basketball Invitational – at Nevada (Reno, Nev.) – L, 70-85
3/16/16 – College Basketball Invitational – Pepperdine (Cheney, Wash.) – W, 79-72
3/19/15 – NCAA Tournament – #22 rank/#4 seed Georgetown (Portland, Ore.) – L, 74-84
3/19/04 – NCAA Tournament – #3 rank/#2 seed Oklahoma St. (Kansas City, Mo.) – L, 56-75
3/20/03 – National Invitation Tournament – at Wyoming (Laramie, Wyo.) – L, 71-78
Here is a list of Eastern’s all-time games in the NAIA Tournament, which was then known as the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball Tournament (6-5) . . .
3/13/47 – NAIB Tournament – Marshall (Kansas City, Mo.) – L, 48-56
3/12/47 – NAIB Tournament – Dakota Wesleyan (Kansas City, Mo.) – W, 62-48
3/11/47 – NAIB Tournament – Culver-Stockton (Kansas City, Mo.) – W, 51-48
3/14/46 – NAIB Tournament – Pepperdine (Kansas City, Mo.) – L, 42-46
3/13/46 – NAIB Tournament – Southeastern Oklahoma (Kansas City, Mo.) – W, 45-37
3/12/46 – NAIB Tournament – Louisiana Tech (Kansas City, Mo.) – W, 66-44
3/13/45 – NAIB Tournament – Doane – (Kansas City, Mo.) – L, 51-54
3/11/43 – NAIB Tournament – Southeast Missouri (Kansas City, Mo.) – L, 51-57 (ot)
3/10/43 – NAIB Tournament – St. Cloud State (Kansas City, Mo.) – W, 54-51
3/09/43 – NAIB Tournament – Valparaiso (Kansas City, Mo.) – W, 54-52
3/10/42 – NAIB Tournament – Southeastern State (Kansas City, Mo.) – L, 33-43