NCAA tournament team previews: Eastern Washington Eagles
As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 26-8 (14-4 Big Sky)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 104.9 (163rd)/111.1 (291st)
Seed: South No. 13
Impact player: Tyler Harvey, sophomore, guard. 22.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 121.0 offensive rating
The Case For: In the time it took you to read this sentence, the Eagles have already scored again. Eastern Washington must have missed all the college hoops pundits criticizing a lack of points, because EWU flat-out gets buckets. The Eagles average 80.8 per game, ranked No. 3 in the nation, directed by Harvey, the country’s leading scorer.
A 6’4”, 185-pound walk-on from Torrance, Calif., Harvey is one of the best stories of the NCAA tournament. He had one offer, from a Division III school, coming out of Bishop Montgomery High School, and redshirted his freshman year at EWU. Now he’s a superstar. He scored 42 in the Big Sky tournament quarterfinals during the Eagles’ run to an automatic bid, their first trip to the dance since 2004. Harvey’s not the only one who puts points on the board though; five other Eagles average eight or more, including forward Bogdan Bliznyuk (8.6 points, four rebounds) who comes off the bench. The Eagles love the three, shooting 10 a game at a 40.3% clip. If they get hot, it could be trouble for their NCAA tournament opponent. Just ask the Indiana Hoosiers, who lost to EWU 88-86 at home on Nov. 24.
The Case Against: Yes, the Eagles beat Indiana and played SMU tough on the road (a 77-68 loss on Nov. 22) but they struggled against average competition in conference, which doesn’t lend much confidence to an upset bid. They dropped three of five in mid-February, including a loss to middling Portland State (15-14 overall record). They’ve been outrebounded in six of their eight losses, and will struggle on the glass against a bigger, more physical opponent.
For as good as they are on offense, they’re rough defensively, allowing teams to score 73.6 points per game (that ranks them No. 324 in scoring defense). EWU is more concerned about out-scoring opponents than slowing them down. And don’t forget that old saying, “you live by the three, you die by the three.” If the Eagles get cold from outside, who helps them in the paint? EWU has only three players 6’8” or taller and just one of them, junior forward Venky Jois, plays significant minutes.
SI prediction: Beat Georgetown in the Round of 64, lose to Utah in the Round of 32