The ETSU Men's Basketball team is returning for their second consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament after winning the Atlantic Sun tournament last weekend. This will mark ETSU's ninth trip overall to the NCAA tournament and its eighth trip in the last twenty-one years as well as its fourth tournament appearance in the last eight years. This year's tournament appearance is however the most unlikely of any in recent memory. Trouble for the Bucs started long before the season when rising sophomore Seth Coy was tragically killed in an automobile accident in Kentucky while on his way home to Indiana in July. Coy was expected to see additional playing time this season in the post with the departure of Greg Hamlin to graduation and the need for his height and physical presence inside. ETSU would likely have benefited from his contributions on the court this year but his presence was missed most off the floor and in the locker room where his positive attitude and outlook on life kept his teammates loose and laughing. He seems to have been a friend to all and was there for his teammates anytime they had a need. That sort of presence is hard to replace and ETSU missed Seth Coy the person as much or more than they missed Seth Coy the basketball player.
With Seth never far from their thoughts, ETSU began their season only to have returning starter and team leader, Mike Smith, go down with a leg injury which would eventually result in him being sidelined for the remainder of the season. Without Smith or Coy the Bucs pressed on through their season with moderate success. There were moments during the season when the team seemed to put it together and play well while at other times they seemed lost and with little hope of repeating their NCAA tournament appearance. Tommy Hubbard was one of the few bright spots for the Bucs throughout the season as he elevated his offensive game and became one of the few consistent scorers that the team could look to while continuing his fine defensive play and work on the boards earning him second team all conference honors. Others like Justin Tubbs and Micah Williams showed signs of their potential offensively at times during the season but never became consistent threats for the Bucs. ETSU finished their regular season with a record of 17-14 and posted a conference record of 13-7, good enough to be one game back of a four way tie for the conference championship.
That left the Bucs seeded fifth in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament playing a Campbell University team in the first round that had beaten them by twenty-two points less than two weeks before. The Bucs did however enter the tournament having won three straight and knowing that they were only three more victories away from another trip to the NCAA tournament. The experience of those who played on the previous year's championship team proved valuable as the Bucs marched through the tournament. Micah Williams started the tournament with a career game scoring thirty-two points and Hubbard added eighteen of his own in an eight point victory over Campbell. In the semifinals ETSU faced Kennesaw State, who had pulled off an upset of their own by beating number one seeded Lipscomb. Micah Williams poured in another twenty points and Hubbard again added eighteen as the Bucs escaped with a five point victory over the Owls. J. C. Ward's play down the stretch in that game was also big as he hit a critical shot in the last minute of the game that helped to secure the win. That win in the semifinals set the stage for a match up with Mercer on their home floor for the tournament championship. The Bucs had lost to Mercer twice during the regular season including a game in Macon in which they trailed by as many as twenty before cutting the final deficit to five. In the final ETSU had five players score in double figures including another thirteen points from Williams and were led by Justin Tubbs with eighteen as the Bucs were able to defeat Mercer by six winning their second consecutive tournament championship. For his efforts Micah Williams was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament while Hubbard and Tubbs joined him on the All-Tournament team.
The post game ceremonies were emotional for many as Seth Coy was honored by the team as they cut down the nets. Coy's roommate and friend, Adam Sollazo, who changed his number to Coy's 43 this season, discussed how he talks to Seth before every game and how he felt his presence with him during the tournament final assisting him with free throws. Despite all that this team has suffered through during the last year, ETSU now has the opportunity to once again make their presence felt in the NCAA tournament. Seth Coy's presence will be right there with them every step of the way.