Introducing Cinderella: East Tennessee State doesn’t need an at-large bid anymore

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Every bubble team in college basketball can breathe a sigh of relief tonight.

That’s because East Tennessee State went out and won the SoCon tournament title. ETSU entered March firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble, and there was a real shot that the Buccaneers would have found a way onto the right side of the bubble had they lost to Wofford in the SoCon title game, but no one has to worry about that now.

That’s because Steve Forbes played his way into his second NCAA tournament as a head coach and his first since 2017. Isaiah Tisdale had 24 points to lead the way for the Bucs, who led by five at the half and pulled away by suffocating the Terriers for long stretches of the second half.

ETSU is going to be a dangerous team in the tournament. They are definitely good enough to win a game, if not two. And even if they don’t, do not be surprised if this is the last time we see Forbes in Johnson City, Tennessee. Eventually, someone is going to smarten up and hire him.

LEAGUE: Southern Conference

COACH: Steve Forbes

RECORD: 30-4, 16-2

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  • NET: 39
  • KENPOM: 55
  • TORVIK: 77

PROJECTED SEED: The Buccaneers are a No. 11 seed in the most recent bracket projection from our Dave Ommen. I would expect them to end up there or on the No. 12 seed line, depending on how bracketing principles play out.

WHO DID THEY BEAT?: ETSU won the SoCon outright this season, and the conference is one of the better mid-major leagues in the country. Wofford is not as good as they were last season, but both UNCG and Furman are in the top 100 of just about every relevant metric. The Buccaneers won three out of four against those two teams.

Oh, and they won at LSU.


They are old, they are tough, they can guard, they can make shots and they are well-coached. I know that all sounds really cliche and really simplistic, but this isn’t really a team that is going to come with the gimmicks. Before landing ETSU, Forbes was an assistant for Billy Gillispie at Texas A&M, Bruce Pearl at Tennessee and Gregg Marshall at Wichita State.


The best thing that ETSU does on the defensive end of the floor is force turnovers. They gamble and they give up easy twos. If they draw someone with good guards that don’t turn the rock over, ETSU could find themselves in a tough spot.


The last time that ETSU won a game in the NCAA tournament came way back in 1992, so you don’t know them from any recent cinderella runs. If anything, the name will probably be familiar because they’ve been in and around the bubble in each of the last four seasons. It never worked out because it almost ever works out for mid-major teams like this, but they should sound familiar. This is a team that has been talked about plenty nationally, especially in the month of March, for the last four years.


ETSU is absolutely going to be a trendy upset pick, and for good reason. Like I said before, they are well-coached, they guard, they have guys that can make shots and they have already proven the ability to beat good teams. You don’t get to 30-4 on the season by accident. You don’t win at LSU by accident. They are going to need a good draw, but this is absolutely a team you are going to have to keep in mind while picking upsets.