The drive from New York City to Boston represents all the despair and misery of the 21st century. You will inevitably hit at least 40 minutes worth of traffic somewhere in Connecticut, and there’s a very good chance the bulk of it will come around Hartford. This is common knowledge. What’s not common knowledge is that Hartford contains a school that has never made the NCAA Tournament.
We haven’t talked much about the Hartford Hawks, the perennial sad sack of the America East that has never made the NCAA Tournament. Hartford has been hanging around in the middle of the conference this year, but the Hawks did something no team from the America East has done since March 12th, 2016. Hartford beat Vermont 69-68 (nice). This is the first loss the Catamounts have had in Burlington since January 30th, 2016. Ding dong, the witch is dead.
Vermont is still by far the best team in the conference, but Hartford has come from absolutely nothing to third place in the America East. Hartford had fallen into the 330s range of KenPom after a 3-6 start and repeated abysmal defensive showing. This was expected after the team went 9-23 last season and had one of the worst offenses in college basketball. But now...could it happen? The Hawks will almost certainly need to defeat Vermont on the road again, but suddenly the impossible now seems at least doable.
New Hampshire, the other NMTC team in the America East, has lost five of its last six.
New Mexico State is vulnerable! The Aggies did the two things it couldn’t do if it wanted to hope at an at-large bid by losing to Utah Valley and Seattle on the road. That should give some hope to the Wolverines (and I guess to Grand Canyon), who are still chasing down the Aggies for a Tournament berth. As we’ve chronicled, Mark Pope’s Utah Valley squad has really emerged as the primary challenger to New Mexico State. A terrible loss to UMKC aside, Utah Valley thumped New Mexico State in Orem and are going to be the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.
With New Mexico State dropping its level slightly, this could be Utah Valley’s chance to surprise everyone and steal the WAC bid. Grand Canyon is also hypothetically in this debate thanks to coaching and raw talent, but the ‘Lopes have lost three straight games and are in some disarray. There’s also UT-Rio Grande Valley, which could be a difficult out in the early rounds of the WAC Tournament.
Savannah State’s crazy win streak in the MEAC finally came to an end on Saturday with a 85-77 loss at Norfolk State. Savannah State had scored over 100 points in six of its seven previous games (the one “outlier” was a 97-point showing against Morgan State), so it’s fair that the Tigers are slowing down a bit.
This may not be St. Francis Brooklyn’s best shot at an NCAA Tournament berth of all time, but it’s a shot, and the Terriers better take it. The Terriers knocked off LIU Brooklyn and Fairleigh Dickinson in fairly convincing fashion last week, and they should have a decent shot at a No. 2 seed in the NEC Conference Tournament. That would be huge.
The regression monkeys have finally come for William & Mary. The Tribe have dropped four of five and lost at Northeastern on a buzzer-beater from Vasa Pusica. The Tribe will need to make it happen in the conference tournament. Same goes for Elon.
South Dakota is one of the best mid-major squads in the nation. A six-game winning streak has done nothing to hurt the Coyotes’ chances, but South Dakota State has matched them with a six-game win streak of its own. The Summit League tournament is at a neutral site in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, so the regular season title won’t matter that much, but it really looks like these two teams will battle for the NCAA Tournament spot.
Of course, it would be really nice if South Dakota can get to the No. 1 spot to avoid Fort Wayne, a dangerous squad that, if you recall, beat Indiana in non-con. We never want to see NMTC teams knock each other out in the conference tournament. I suppose the Denver Pioneers would be the other opponent though, so we can’t get around it. But seriously, South Dakota is our best hope in this entire group. Please. Just do the thing.
That’s right, Lipscomb beat Florida Gulf Coast on the road on Saturday! The Bisons have won eight of their last nine and are definitely the hot team heading into the conference tournament. It’s on. We gotta have our large, improper plural, adult mammals into the NCAA Tournament.
Grambling State still hasn’t lost a game since January 8th, but since the Tigers are not eligible for the NCAA Tournament their 13-2 SWAC record and two-game lead in first mean absolutely nothing for the purposes of this column. Can we just let them in anyway? Would it be that hard?