NASHVILLE (March 4, 2009) -- With hopes of finally reaching the NCAA Tournament as members of the Atlantic Sun Conference, the ETSU men's basketball team -- which holds a resume that includes seven trips all-time to March Madness -- comes to Nashville in search of redemption.
The Buccaneers will begin their quest Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. (EST) as the team takes on Stetson inside Lipscomb's Allen Arena in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Sun Conference Men's Basketball Championships.
One year ago, the Buccaneers fell 69-65 in the semifinals to rival Belmont. The game ended in controversial fashion, as official Doug Sirmons called a technical foul on ETSU with just seconds remaining, which ultimately gave Belmont the lead and the win.
One year later, a peaking ETSU squad enters Allen Arena with an arsenal of offensive weapons, powered by the "Big Three" of senior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis), senior forward Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) and junior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.). But along with this trio, it is the team's overall defensive efforts, its trapping fullcourt press, and its frenetic transition game that truly has ETSU fans believing this again could be the Bucs' year to make an eighth trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Along with Stetson, the path could also include rivals Belmont, Mercer, Lipscomb, Campbell or Jacksonville. Only time will tell if the Bucs will go dancing again for the first time since 2004.
For more on the Bucs' tournament hopes, click on the game notebook located above, or read the game notes below:
The Bucs All-Time in the A-Sun Tournament
Entering just their fourth Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament, the Buccaneers are 3-3 all-time, having lost in the first round of the event in 2006, advancing to the finals in 2007, and falling in the semifinals in 2008 ... In conference tournaments all-time (including the Southern and Ohio Valley), the Bucs are 33-21, having gone 6-3 in league championship finals.
Last time out in the A-Sun Tournament
NASHVILLE (March 7, 2008) - What may be one of the most controversial foul calls in Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament history highlighted a nightmarish final seven minutes for the ETSU men's basketball team, as the Buccaneers watched a 10-point advantage vanish in the final minutes Friday night of a 69-65 loss to rival Belmont inside the Allen Arena ... Leading 63-53 with 6:22 remaining in the game, Belmont went on an 11-2 run to make it 65-64 with 1:22 left on the clock. From there, the Bucs and Bruins made defensive stops, but with less than 30 seconds left a mad scramble on the floor ultimately ended with senior Kenyona Swader (Smyrna) being fouled by Belmont's Andy Wicke with just 17 seconds left. Following the whistle, official Doug Sirmons called a technical foul on Swader ... The end result was Belmont's Justin Hare hitting a pair of free throws on the technical to give Belmont the lead, and Swader later missed the front end of his one-and-one. ETSU was forced to foul at that point and ultimately took the loss ... The foul call tarnished what was otherwise a great game for Swader, who finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds to post his fourth career double-double. As a team, the Bucs had also managed to stall the Belmont offense, which had thrived against ETSU en route to a 5-1 record over the last six meetings. On this night, the Bruins hit on just 33 percent of their shots and were 9-of-39 from 3-point range (23 percent). But it was still not enough, as the Bucs finished the year 19-13 overall.
ETSU in conference finals
The Buccaneers have played in eight previous tournament finals and hold an impressive 6-3 mark ... The following is a breakdown of those games:
1983 -- vs. Chattanooga, 70-62 (L)
1989 -- vs. Marshall, 96-73 (W)
1990 -- vs. Appalachian State, 96-75 (W)
1991 -- vs. Appalachian State, 101-82 (W)
1992 -- vs. Chattanooga, 74-62 (W)
1993 -- vs. Chattanooga, 86-75 (L)
2003 -- vs. Chattanooga, 97-90 (W)
2004 -- vs. Chattanooga, 78-62 (W)
2007 -- vs. Belmont, 67-94 (L)
Last time out
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 28, 2009) - Senior Courtney Pigram (Memphis) set a new ETSU single-game record for 3-pointers on his way to a game high 38 points and fellow senior Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) pitched in 24 points as the Buccaneers made Senior Day a memorable one with a 103-81 win over Mercer in front of 4,609 fans Saturday afternoon inside Memorial Center ... Pigram hit a record 10 3-pointers in the game - with the record-setting shot coming with 6:49 left in regulation - as he moved to 1,972 points for his career. With the win, ETSU (20-10 overall, 14-6 A-Sun) earned the No. 2 seed in next week's Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament and will open that event in the 9:30 p.m. (EST) game Wednesday night against Stetson inside Lipscomb's Allen Arena ... Senior Day got off to a great start for Pigram and Tiggs, as the duo combined for 41 of the Buccaneers 59 first-half points. Powered by the swarming "black" fullcourt press, the offensive surge was impressive, especially from the 9:11 mark on, when ETSU took a 27-23 game and went on a 32-11 run to close out the half. The Bucs did not allow a Mercer field goal for the final 8:29 of the half ... Pigram finished with remarkable numbers in the half, going 7-of-12 from 3-point range and 9-of-16 from the field for 25 points in the half, while Tiggs tossed in 16. In the half, ETSU shot 58 percent from the field and was 53 percent from 3-point range, while holding Mercer to 39 percent from the floor and forcing 11 turnovers.
Pigram near 2,000 pts.; could join exclusive A-Sun club
With 1,972 points, senior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) could eclipse the 2,000-point mark this week in Nashville ... If he reaches this plateau, Pigram would join an exclusive group in A-Sun play ... Below is a run down of the league's top scorers all-time, as well as some other interesting notes about the feat.
Name School Years` POINTS
Willie Jackson Cent 1980-84 2535
Sam Mitchell Mer 1981-85 1986
Craig Beard Sam 1982-85 1985
* Courtney Pigram ETSU 2005- 1972
Steve Barker Sam 1978-82 1902
* If Pigram passes Beard and/or Mitchell, it would mean a change in the top three scorers in A-Sun history for the first time in 25 years. The last time a season ended with the Top 3 not being Jackson, Mitchell and Beard was after the 1983-84 season. Also, if Pigram reaches 2,000, he would end the longest active drought for any DI conference between 2,000 point scorers.
Both Smith, Tiggs eclipse 1,000 points; Bucs have three 1,000-point scoreres on the same team
With a put back at the 2:08 mark of the first half at Lipscomb on Feb. 16, ETSU senior forward Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career ... Meanwhile, Tiggs' teammate -- junior Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) -- reached that same pinnacle with a free throw at the 2:06 mark of the second half against USC Upstate on Feb. 19 ... Tiggs now stands at 1,097 points for his career, and Smith is at 1,052 ... While it is not rare to have multiple players on the same team that "eventually" become 1,000-point scorers, having multiple players on the same team that have already eclipsed 1,000-points is rare ... And now, the Bucs have Smith, Tiggs and senior guard Courntey Pigram (Memphis) that have reached that milestone ... The only two times in ETSU history that the Bucs have had three or more 1,000 point scorers on the floor at the same time was in 1990-91 and 2003-04 ... In 1990-91, four 1,000-point scorers were on the floor together at the same time, Keith "Mister" Jennings, Calvin Talford, Major Geer and Alvin West were on the floor together ... The other season this occurred was in 2003-04, when Jerald Fields, Zakee Wadood and Tim Smith all reached 1,000 points.
February troubles continue four-year trend for Bucs
Over the last four season since joining the Atlantic Sun Conference, the ETSU men's basketball team has either been tied or held sole possession of first place at some point in the month of February ... However, that's when the story turns bleak ... With the exception of the 2007-08 season, when the Bucs went 6-1 in February and ultimately won the league regular season title, the Bucs are are combined 14-11 in league play during the month of February and have relinquished first-place in three of those four seasons ... In fact, a year ago the Bucs dropped from first place on Feb. 8 to a fourth seed by the end of the season. This season, the Bucs did rebound froma 3-4 February to win their last two games and finish 5-4 for the month, and grab the No. 2 seed in the tournament. Below is a complete breakdown:
Season February Record
Pigram, Tiggs impressive on offensive end in 2008-09
Seniors Courtney Pigram (Memphis) and Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) have enjoyed impressive offensive performances this season, and the two rank among the nation's best when it comes to offensive production ... Tiggs leads the team and the Atlantic Sun Conference, and ranks 19th nationally with a 20.9 points per game average (as of Feb. 26), while Pigram ranks third in the A-Sun with 17.6 points a game (as of Feb. 28) ... Pigram is one of just four active players nationally with more than 1,500 points, 350 assists and 200 steals in their careers.
Player, School......................................................Asts Stls Pts
Courtney Pigram, ETSU 401 227 1972
ETSU the "only" A-Sun team picked among nation's best "Prestige" programs
Since the beginning of the modern era for NCAA Division I-A basketball - marked by the expansion of the NCAA Tournament field to 64 teams in 1984-85 - ETSU men's basketball ranks in the Top 30 percent of the 300 programs that were eligible for the postseason at that time, this according to a new "Prestige" ranking released by ESPN.com in the summer of 2008 ... The Buccaneers, who have enjoyed six NCAA Tournament trips, one NIT berth, eight 20-win seasons, and a slew of conference regular season and tournament championships since 1984-85, ranked tied for 82nd out of 300 teams, meaning they were in the Top 27 percent of schools making the list. ETSU ranked ahead of every current Atlantic Sun Conference team, as well as former Southern Conference rivals Appalachian State, Western Carolina, Georgia Southern and UNC Greensboro. The Bucs were placed ahead of every member of the Colonial Athletic Association with the exception of Old Dominion ... In addition, the Bucs ranked ahead of SEC schools such as Tennessee, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Georgia, Mississippi and Auburn, as well as other programs like Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, DePaul, Bradley, Clemson, California and Florida State.