Indeed, the Pirates (17-16) will host Wright State (20-14) in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) Tuesday following their second-round exit in last week's Conference USA Tournament.
Although the CIT is not as prestigious as the NCAA or even the NIT tournaments, it provides ECU's two seniors, Akeem Richmond and Petar Torlak, an opportunity to prolong their season in the friendly confines of Minges Coliseum.
"It's a blessing because, against Charlotte, I thought it was my last home game and I was pretty torn about that," said Richmond, who has netted a C-USA record 153 3-pointers this year. "So to be able to come back and play again, it's amazing."
Wright State finished third in the Horizon League standings with a 10-6 mark in league play. And even though the Raiders won't wow anybody offensively, – AJ Pacher is their lone player that averages double-figures (11.0) – they are one of the best defensive teams in the conference; allowing just 62.3 points per game.
Eleven different Raiders have recorded at least 10 steals this season, while five have eclipsed 20, led by senior Jerran Young's 50 takeaways. Also, Wright State possesses a great deal of experience. Its four leading scorers are all seniors and it has 10 upperclassman on the roster altogether.
ECU coach Jeff Lebo described the Raiders' five seniors as "grown men," adding, "We'll have our work cut out for us here, especially with their size and the man strength they have at all positions."
Lebo said shooting guard Paris Roberts-Campbell was still not 100 percent with his nagging hamstring injury. According to the fourth-year coach, Roberts-Campbell "re-tweaked" the hamstring and has been trying to overcome it along with an illness. Despite his injury, the 6-foot-3 junior averaged 17 points in last week's C-USA Tournament games.
ECU won its first five postseason tournament games in school history – four of which were held at Minges Coliseum – in last year's CIT Tournament, culminating with Richmond's last-second 3-ball to defeat Weber State in the championship game.
The Pirates participation in this year's tourney marks their third postseason appearance in four years, following a 14-year drought in which ECU did not finish with a winning record. And considering the large amount of adversity Lebo and his team have faced this season, playing in the postseason is quite an accomplishment.
"It's huge for us. We talk about the history of our program; postseason wasn't really in the mix for a long period of time," said Lebo. "I'm really proud of this group to find a way to be here. If you told me we would be playing in the postseason at the beginning of the season, I would have looked at you pretty funny."
"It's probably as rewarding of a season as I've had as a coach."
Tip-off time is set for 7 p.m. Minges Coliseum Tuesday night. You can follow InsideECUSports.com or our Twitter page (@InsideECUSports) for in-game updates.