Eastern Kentucky finished 2nd in the OVC but because of the new divisions in the conference, did not get a double-bye. The Colonels fell to Murray State in the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. However, unlike the Racers, the Colonels season didn't end in Municipal Auditorium, as they accepted the bid to play in the College Insider Tournament.
For the first round game, EKU (24-9) faces off with Gardner Webb (21-12) at 7:00 ET tomorrow.
With the choice to accept the bid, I believe the Colonels have a good chance of being one of the four teams in D1 college basketball to end their season with a win. If they are to do that, it starts by having to beat a fairly decent team from the Big South in their home gym.
FOR EKU TO WIN:
Mike DiNunno will continue to be have to be the guy people love to hate. The Chicago native is averaging over 15 points per game but is primarily known for his trash talk and attitude on the court. He has the ability to get into his opponents head especially when he starts hitting shots.
The guy the Colonels must stop to advance to the second round is the Runnin' Bulldog's leading scorer, Tashan Newsome. He's scored 15 in the last two games which is about 1 point above his season average.
Eric Stutz and the Colonels will also have to keep Kevin Hartley quiet. The 6'6" 235 pound forward can hurt EKU from inside the paint and from three. Going into the game tomorrow, Hartley is averaging 47% from behind the arc and is good for a couple of triples a game.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING:
It seems to me like the folks in North Carolina are excited.
THE FOUR FACTORS:
Looking at the chart, you can see that EKU has a higher field goal percentage and don't cough up the ball as frequently as GWU. With more shot attempts, with a higher shooting percentage, you can't help but like the Colonels chances in this one.
Eastern Kentucky went 6-7 on the road this season, indicating to all that they struggled outside of Richmond, Kentucky. I find that strange because in the games that I witnessed, it appeared that DiNunno and his teammates fed off the opposing crowd and made the most of their opportunities to quiet a student section.
If you're a Gardner Webb fan you are in for a real treat in watching how DiNunno acts. By that I mean, bring earplugs for your children.
At any rate, I will stand by my statement that EKU has a chance of winning this tournament even if that means they will play all of their games away.
Eastern Kentucky 81, Gardner Webb 74
See the complete first round schedule for the CIT here at Mid-Major Madness.