Every week or so, we update our readers on the teams that have never made the NCAA Tournament. Folks, it’s time the NMTC recap.
We began this season with an inextinguishable feeling of doom. With five teams exiting the Club last year, we seemed primed for regression. The biblical struggle of these teams seemed insurmountable. No team better exemplified the epitome of brutality in the Club than the Savannah State Tigers, which has two years to make the NCAA Tournament before the program drops down to Division II. Originally, it seemed like their 2017-18 campaign would not even get off the ground due to APR problems, but the NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, has granted the Tigers a waiver. I didn’t even know that was possible.
Savannah State is certainly not throwing away its shot. In fact, the Tigers are shooting more than ever. Savannah State plays at the fastest pace in Division I and also takes the most threes of any team in the country. They also are one of the 10 worst three-point shooting teams in the country. It’s basically cocaine basketball. It’s frickin’ awesome. When you have two years to make the NCAA Tournament and you’re a perennially awful MEAC team, why not just jack up as many threes as possible? [This is a strategy preferred in pickup basketball by my co-EIC at Inside NU, Will Ragatz.]
And it’s working. Savannah State is 5-1 in conference with wins of 80-71, 87-59, 91-90, 103-101, and 104-99 (OT). In that 103-101 game, Hampton (the presumptive MEAC favorite) and Savannah State combined for 54 three-point attempts. It was also one of the best basketball games of the season, as Hampton blew an 11-point second half lead, nearly made a miraculous comeback, and then lost in the final minutes. The Tigers are rolling.
But the Tigers are not alone in the MEAC. Bethune-Cookman, recently eligible itself, has started the conference season 5-0 and has a solid non-con win at Stetson. Since our last update, the Wildcats won at Delaware State and now have a 0.2 percent chance of finishing the season unbeaten. This is crazy. Both Bethune-Cookman and Savannah State were supposed to be at the bottom of the conference with fellow member Maryland-Eastern Shore. Could the MEAC become a race between two long-tormented NMTC members? We shall see.
Mike Daum has finally fallen back to earth. In Wednesday night’s Summit League blockbuster between South Dakota and South Dakota State, Daum was held to just 18 points and went 7-of-17 from the field. Meanwhile, our Coyotes crushed the famously competent Jackrabbits 87-68. It wasn’t even close. South Dakota’s Matt Mooney, the erstwhile foil to Daum, scored 30 points. Triston Simpson, my personal hero, added 20. South Dakota’s offense had 1.18 points per possession. Daum’s crew finished at 0.92.
The game meant more for South Dakota, who got knocked out of the Summit League Tournament in 2016-17 by the Jackrabbits in a heartbreaking 74-71 loss on a buzzer-beater. But the Coyotes are back. There is no doubt now that South Dakota is the best hope for the Never Made the Tourney Club this year. The Coyotes are the 12th-best non-WCC mid-major in KenPom, and lead the Summit League at 6-1. As long as South Dakota holds serve down the stretch, it should have another No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the Summit Tournament. THIS COULD BE THE YEAR!
Is anyone else good?
In Saturday’s NMTC Derby between Elon and William & Mary, the Tribe proved themselves to be the more dangerous candidate by winning 80-73 on Elon’s floor. Elon fell to 4-4 in conference while William & Mary is staying afloat in the Colonial at 6-2. But despite the big win, I’m more worried about William & Mary than I was last week. For one, a 26-point home loss to Towson does not bode well for the future. Following that up with a 20-point home loss to Northeastern is even worse. It’s abundantly clear that Towson and Northeastern are more talented than William & Mary. Even more annoyingly, Towson is mucking around and is only 4-4 right now, which means the Tribe might have to go through Towson in a semifinal before Northeastern. William & Mary needs to keep winning and hope Northeastern and Towson take each other out.
UPDATE: William & Mary nearly defeated Towson, but then lost by 14 in OT. Not looking good!
If FGCU doesn’t win the Atlantic Sun, I’d be shocked. That’s bad for Lipscomb and Stetson, and NJIT. New Hampshire and Hartford are both hanging in the top half of the America East, but if Vermont loses that conference I’d be absolutely flabbergasted. Same goes for Grand Canyon with New Mexico State in the WAC. Maybe Youngstown State could make another run.
Until next time, stay hopeful, everyone.