EKU fans celebrate OVC championship, NCAA Tournament bid

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RICHMOND, Ky. (WKYT) - The sign at the Alumni Coliseum on Eastern Kentucky University's campus says "Eastern Rising." That's an easy claim to make after their men's basketball team turned this season into a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

"It's like a historical thing for us," said Richard Parks, an EKU Fan who brought his children to witness the players welcome home, "We've been waiting for this for seven years!"

"I graduated from here, work here, and even people in Richmond probably don't know what we did here last night," added Kelly Young.

What the Colonels did, was win the Ohio Valley Conference Championship on Saturday night, which gives them a bid into the "Big Dance."

"That's right! You better believe we're going to be on that dance floor and we're going to be ready for them!" exclaimed Robbins Dell.

"We keep calling it the 'Season that Never Ends,' and I'm totally okay with that. So proud to be a Colonel. Great way to end my senior year!" boasted Leah Thomas.

Thomas and her friend Marlee Jennings know a thing or two about dancing, since they're members of the EKU Dance Team, but even they admit this "dance" is pretty overwhelming.

"I'm just so excited that my freshman year I get to come out and watch them win the OVC," answered Jennings.

The crowd of Colonel-faithful waited for their team to return from Nashville, and it was hard to hide their smiles no matter how small or big.

"I was so ready. I took off from work all week just to be able to get ready to go watch them play," said Donna Sowder, while holding a giant cut-out of her smiling face.

Just after 4:30 in the afternoon, the bus carrying the champions pulled up and the players received a big welcome home with chants of "EKU" building over the song, "We are the Champions," by Queen.

It seems every year, there's an underdog to fall in love with in the tournament and for fans, like Young, they say, "May as well be us, if it's anybody."

"Our Colonels are going to do their thing when they get in that tournament," bragged Parks.

"They're going to take them down!" Sowder said emphatically.

While tournament births are a expectation in Kentucky, for EKU this is one to remember.

"It's so sweet to be a Colonel, and we love it," said Parks.

The Colonels will learn who they'll face first Sunday, March 16th, when the tournament teams are selected.

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