Plant City native Johni Broome and the Morehead State Eagles are going dancing this week.
There’s only one school from Kentucky that’s going to the NCAA’s national championship tournament this year, but it’s neither of the two you’re used to seeing.
This year it’s the Morehead State Eagles who will represent one of America’s biggest basketball hotbeds in March Madness. It’s been 10 years since the Eagles (23-7) last won the Ohio Valley Conference and punched their ticket to the big dance. And even if you have no ties to Morehead State yourself, you do have at least one reason to root for the Eagles in this year’s tournament.
One of MSU’s most impactful players on both ends of the court has been freshman forward Johni Broome, a Plant City native whose family still lives in the area. After starting his first college season strongly with OVC Freshman of the Week honors, Broome continued to put in work throughout the 29 games he played in (including 26 starts). He currently leads the Eagles in scoring with 13.9 points per game and 404 total, exactly nine rebounds per game (88 offensive, 174 defensive) and 53 total blocks (1.8 per game) while averaging 25.6 minutes played per game.
Broome saved one of his best performances for last: facing Belmont in the March 6 OVC championship game, the freshman finished with a career-high 27 points and 12 rebounds en route to the team’s 86-71 win. He was then named tournament MVP and was one of three Eagles (along with teammates DeVon Cooper and Skyelar Potter) to make the All-Tournament Team.
The Eagles are now on a seven-game win streak heading into the tournament. They’re a 14 seed scheduled to start this year’s tourney with a game against (3) West Virginia (18-9) on Friday night. The Mountaineers were most recently knocked out of the Big 12 conference championship tournament by Oklahoma State, who escaped with a 72-69 win in the March 10 quarterfinal round.
If you need any more encouragement to pick Broome and the Eagles to make a run, Cinderella-style or otherwise, you don’t have to stop at the fact that MSU is playing hot and WVU is not. Back in 2011, the last time the Eagles were in the NCAA tournament, they upset (4) Louisville in the first round when Demonte Harper buried a three-pointer with 4.2 seconds left to pull MSU ahead, 62-61, and Kenneth Faried blocked Mike Marra’s shot attempt to lock up the first upset win of the 2011 tourney.
Tip-off for the MSU-WVU game is scheduled for 9:50 p.m. Eastern and the game will be broadcast on truTV. The winner will play either (6) San Diego State or (11) Syracuse in the second round.