“Rebellions are built on hope!”
- Jyn Erso, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
It doesn’t take much to trigger a revolution. One event, person, or thing can change a nation’s destiny.
The day after our last update, Indiana took on the Fort Wayne Mastodons at Assembly Hall. Although Indiana had hilariously lost to the Mastodons in Fort Wayne in 2016-17, few Indiana fans were expecting much of a contest. Vegas set the spread over double digits. Instead, Fort Wayne won by 20. We’d remarked that the NMTC didn’t have a signature win over a Power 5 team. Now, suddenly, thanks to Hoosier incompetence, we got our win.
After that, the floodgates of hope opened. Two weeks ago, who would’ve expected an 8-0 conference start from Quinnipiac, St. Francis Brooklyn, Elon, and William & Mary? I know it’s early in the conference season, but after nearly two months of expecting most members to struggle getting decent seeds in their conference tournaments, this is more than a ray of hope. It’s a full-blown Never Made the Tourney revolution. It’s good again!
The Quinnipiac Bobcats have never made the NCAA Tournament. In our last update, we didn’t even mention the small Connecticut school best known for producing political polls. Quinnipiac was 3-9 with losses to Lafayette, Maine, and Brown. The Bobcats were in the dreaded 300+ range of KenPom. There was nothing to see.
But as the schedule turned to conference play, Quinnipiac took the NMTC world by storm. The Bobcats stunned MAAC conference power Monmouth (you read Mid-Major Madness, I don’t need to explain) at home on Dec. 28. The Bobcats hit 13 threes and led for the final 10 minutes. That upset win over a double-digit road favorite seemed to spark this entire group.
On New Year’s Day, Quinnipiac backed it up with a 71-70 win at Siena. Once again, Quinnipiac was the underdog. Once again, the Bobcats found a way. After trailing 36-32 at half time, Quinnipiac came back to take a 71-68 lead late. Quinnipiac’s Abdulai Bundu blocked a potential buzzer-beater to secure the win. Somehow, the Bobcats are undefeated in conference play at 5-9.
The St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers are one of the old warhorses of this club. They have been playing Division I basketball since 1901 and have never made the NCAA Tournament. Since the Terriers’ heartbreaking loss to Robert Morris in the 2015 Northeast Conference Tournament final, Glenn Bracia’s team has been in free fall. The Terriers lost 16 straight conference games to end 2016-17. This year, they started 3-9.
So, of course, St. Francis currently sits in a tie for first in the Northeast Conference with upset wins at Sacred Heart and at home against Wagner. That’s spectacular. St. Francis was down 55-48 with 10 minutes remaining to Wagner. That didn’t faze our Catholic standard bearers, who outscored Wagner by 14 in the final quarter of the game.
As in the pattern of some South American leftists movements, it’s the Roman Catholic monastic orders who are providing the symbol of radical revolution of the NMTC. I mean, it makes sense for the Franciscan Order to be major factors in this column. St. Francis of Assisi himself was a big fan of poverty. The Franciscans would totally be down with the long-term suffering of not making the NCAA Tournament for over a century. There is nothing more Franciscan than the endless struggles of St. Francis Brooklyn, but perhaps now is the time when those sufferings become the joy that St. Francis had.
In the Colonial Athletic Association, Never Made the Tourney Club members sit at 4-0 to start the year. The Elon Phoenix and William & Mary Tribe have been phenomenal. Elon has added another impressive win to the NMTC’s tally with a come-from-behind victory over a highly touted Towson team on Tuesday night. William & Mary, one of the Founders, won an instant classic against Hofstra and backed it up on Tuesday with a convincing win over James Madison on the road. Meanwhile, Northeastern dropped a game at home to Hofstra and Towson is on a four-game losing streak. Suddenly, things are looking up.
The South Dakota Coyotes have established themselves as the class of the Summit League for the second year in a row. South Dakota has broken into the top 90 on KenPom and have a top 105 offense and defense. Fort Wayne has won five of its last six and could make an impact in that conference as well. Lipscomb has established itself as the main force to watch in the Atlantic Sun.
In the WAC, perhaps the only mild disappointment of the last few weeks has been Grand Canyon, who blew a winnable game at Illinois and still hasn’t looked completely ready (New Mexico State, on the other hand, is scary). But to make up for it, Utah Valley went on a four-game win streak to close out non-conference play.
There’s optimism everywhere, even amongst the “fire and brimstone” teams.
New Hampshire is out winning hearts and minds in the doldrums of buy games. UC Riverside did a good thing and fired head coach Dennis Cutts (51-79 in his time at the helm). Youngstown State (PENGUINSZN!) broke a nine-game losing streak with a brilliant 80-77 win at Cleveland State. The Gardner-Webb Running Bulldogs upset Liberty. It’s all coming together.
It’s a good thing revolutions never fail, right?
It’s also two games. There’s a long way to go.