Eastern Washington has been begging for national attention this season.
First, the Eagles started a game at 8 am on a Friday in mid-November, ensuring the designation of hosting the country's first college basketball game of the season. Then they went to Bloomington and knocked off Indiana on its home court before spending the rest of their 2014-15 campaign mastering a high-scoring offensive attack and making Cheney home to the nation's leading scorer in junior guard Tyler Harvey.
Sometimes you have to do this when you're the little brother in a county where the other sibling gets all the attention.
This week, though, the Eagles won't have to go begging for attention. That is, if they can knock off fourth-seeded Georgetown Thursday night in Portland in Eastern's second NCAA tournament appearance, the first since 2004's Rodney Stuckey-led team.
The Eagles opened their invitation to the dance with a gutsy win in the Big Sky Conference championship game against Montana on Saturday night, a game in which Eastern was down by 11 points with just six minutes left. But the Eagles, thanks to some stellar plays by Harvey, senior guard Drew Brandon and sophomore sharpshooter Felix Von Hofe, scratched their way back to take the lead for good with about a minute and a half left.
The finish featured the sort of heroics that gave EWU some Cinderella-in-waiting flavor heading into Selection Sunday.
"We were down 11 and looked dead in the water," Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said in a postgame press conference. "It was an improbable comeback, but it just shows the character of this team."
The notion that little Eastern Washington could knock off Georgetown is not an outrageous one. It took just a few hours before sports prognosticators from the likes of Sports Illustrated and ESPN began declaring the Eagles a real and serious threat in the South region. First off, if Eastern's offense (not just Harvey) is shooting threes like it can (eighth-best in the nation), any team would have trouble matching up with them. Also, Eastern has the advantage of playing close to home (hopefully some Eagles faithful follow them out to the Rose City) while Georgetown is about as far from D.C. as they can get in the lower 48, while playing in a game that starts at almost 10 pm Eastern time.
Hey, it could happen, and you should be watching. ♦
13 EASTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
Thursday, March 19 at 6:57 pm (TruTV)
The Moda Center, Portland, Oregon