EWU basketball aims to play in a postseason tournament for the fifth straight year

2015 team stands as one of the most memorable in school history


The Easterner Archives

Former EWU guard Tyler Harvey shoots over a Georgetown University defender in the first round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament. In EWU’s second-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament they lost 84-74 to the No. 4 seed Hoyas.

By Taylor Newquist, Sports Editor

Men’s basketball has played in a postseason tournament the past four years, with a total of six appearances in the program’s history.

The last three seasons have been more forgettable with EWU playing in the College Basketball Invitational, the third-string tournament behind the NCAA Tournament and the NIT. But in 2015, EWU made the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history, after beating rival Montana in the Big Sky tournament championship game.

Former EWU head coach Jim Hayford fondly looks back on the day the Eagles were crowned Big Sky champions.

“I can still remember all the confetti coming down and the Montana fans walking out,” Hayford told The Easterner in a phone interview. “You want your players to have an unbelievable experience, and making the Big Dance there’s nothing greater you can give them.”

The 2015 team earned a school-record 26 wins and was led by guard Tyler Harvey, who led the nation in scoring with 23.1 points per game. Forward Venky Jois added 16.4 points per game with 8.7 rebounds.

“They were fearless,” Hayford said of the 2015 team. “On different nights we had five or six guys that were our leading scorer. We found new ways to win games.”

Senior guard Cody Benzel is the last remaining EWU player from the 2015 team. Benzel was a redshirt freshman at the time, only playing in EWU’s opening exhibition against Puget Sound.

Benzel told The Easterner that earning a NCAA Tournament bid was awesome.

“It was a great vibe with the team and on campus,” Benzel said. “When you grow up as a kid you don’t hear about the CBI, you hear about the NCAA Tournament and that’s your goal.”

For Benzel and the rest of the Eagles to get another chance at playing in the NCAA Tournament, they will have to win the Big Sky Conference tournament starting March 13, in Boise, Idaho.

Head coach Shantay Legans, who was an assistant on the 2015 team, said that to win the conference tournament the team will have to get hot at the right time.

“You’re going to see some upsets in this tournament,” Legans said. “You lose one key guy and it changes the whole tournament. You have to play confident basketball and let it fly.”

The Eagles are likely to be without one of their key guys, sophomore guard Jacob Davison. Davison had his cast removed on Monday, but is recovering from a high ankle sprain.

“He’s been getting some light running in,” Legans said. “I’m hoping Jacob can be like a gametime decision.”

EWU is in the No. 5 seed in the BSC with two regular season games remaining. The Eagles are tied with Weber State with a 10-8 conference record, and play the Wildcats on March 9 in the last regular season game of the year.