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Never Made the Tourney Club Update, November 19: Optimism

The early season non-conference optimist train is hyped.

NCAA Basketball: Chicago State at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Belief is the currency of human experience, if not human society. Whether it’s manifested in faith, self-confidence or loyalty, belief fuels all action. We believe that money is valuable. We believe that people will make sure the subway runs properly (it won’t). We believe that every one of these teams will make the NCAA Tournament. That includes the Chicago State Cougars.

The travails of the Cougars have been long chronicled on this column. The school basically went bankrupt in 2016 and nearly closed down. The athletic department has been in total disarray. Things looked really bad. And yet, in the worst possible college basketball situation imaginable, there is belief. And thus, we can write about Chicago State’s heroic efforts against Notre Dame (close at the half!) and Illinois State (only lost by four on the road!). Chicago State may well still lose every game this season, but we can always look toward the Cougz for belief. Heck knows we’ll need it though, because results have not exactly been forthcoming.

The best moment of the NMTC this season so far involved one of our two new members, the Cal Baptist Lancers, who earned their first NCAA Division I win with a half-court buzzer-beater.

However, the Lancers are not eligible for the NCAA Tournament, so this won’t have ramifications for escaping our legation.

By KenPom, Grand Canyon is the best of the bunch so far (132nd), but a 78-74 loss to noted NMTC Destroyer of Dreams Mike Daum and South Dakota State tempered some expectations. Grand Canyon has beat up on the dregs of its schedule and still looks capable, though. William and Mary is the next-best team on KenPom at No. 148, but they’re only 1-3 with a win over High Point to their name. The next team up is South Dakota, but the Coyotes have been awful to start the season. Neutral court losses to Air Force and High Point are not good, folks.

Then we have St. Francis Brooklyn, which very, very nearly defeated Boston College (the Terriers were up with less than five minutes left), but lost in the end, 74-69. St. Francis, one of the Founding Fathers, has always been heartbreaking to root for. Add this to the list. I still think the Terriers could do something. I don’t think I’ve ever written about Incarnate Word successes in this column, but the Cardinals picked up an impressive win in the Bahamas over North Dakota State...only to a blow a second half lead to Florida Atlantic the next day. Sigh. Sacramento State is the last remaining undefeated NMTC team, but due to the wildfires in California, the Hornets have played a grand total of one game this season. That’s not uplifting in the slightest.

I’m looking for positives, I really am. Elon is 2-1. Cal Baptist is 2-1. Hartford picked up a nice win over Quinnipiac and inexplicably sits at No. 204 on KenPom despite a home defeat to Central Connecticut State. The Citadel only lost to Clemson by 20. NJIT is a legitimate positive after a 3-1 start, but the Highlanders lost 86-73 at home to Cornell on Saturday. Sigh. And what of Savannah State in its last year of eligibility? Well, the Tigers held Texas A&M to a 98-83 margin, but only have one Division I win thus far. It’s still early. It’s still early for everyone. But there’s no real spectacular brutalities to trumpet yet. Close, but no cigar.

Let’s hope for better next week.