The overwhelming experience of rooting for Never Made The Tournament Club teams is one of constant and unrelenting disappointment.
None of these teams earned the top seed in their conference, and more often than not they are among the very worst teams in the country. Every year we enter the journey of March with wide eyes and high expectations. Almost every year, we are cruelly reminded of these teams’ limitations.
2018 didn’t wait long.
All four Atlantic Sun games featured a Club member. USC-Upstate, NJIT, Kennesaw State, Stetson, and Lipscomb were all featured.
Only one of them is still in the hunt.
We didn’t really think the Spartans of USC-Upstate had a chance. KenPom gave them just a 3% chance of moving on. But if you looked at the first half box score, you wouldn’t know anything about that. The Spartans shot better than 50% from the floor. Their red hot shooting did enough to hide their defense which is one of the worst in the whole country.
Then the second half started, Florida Gulf Coast scored 57 second half points, and USC-Upstate lost by 20. The aristocrats!
A cool thing that Kennesaw State did was let Jacksonville’s Jace Hogan single handedly end their season. Hogan averages a shade under 17 points per game, which is very good. The Owls let him score 39 points in an elimination game. That is extremely ungood. Kennesaw State lost 87-68. Less than ideal!
Lipscomb were the one team that handled business, and even they made it a little more interesting than it should be. Stetson, who we love despite their myriad of fatal flaws, were down a measly, solitary point at halftime. Lipscomb got mad and proceeded to unleash a hell fury on the poor Hatters and basically had the game won at the 15-minute mark of the second half. A sterner test against Jacksonville awaits.
Finally, we get to NJIT, which completely did not justify its 70% chance of winning on KenPom against North Florida, last year’s A-Sun representative. NJIT went down 27 points in the first half and entered halftime down 20. But the Highlanders, playing in an electric home gym, battled all the way back to make it a two-point game with less than 40 seconds remaining. It was a truly insane comeback, complete with the usual array of banked three-pointers and crazy defense, but if anything NJIT should’ve gone ahead earlier if the referees didn’t call a foul on every single defensive possession. An NJIT player’s knee exploded and caused a long stoppage. Everything was going into this enormous swing in win probability.
But when UNF’s Garrett Sams (28 points, 12-of-13 from the line) missed the one free throw that could give NJIT the ball down two, the Highlanders failed to get the rebound. WHAT KIND OF SCOTTISH HIGHLANDERS CAN’T GET A BOARD AT THE RIGHT TIME?! Some real Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Battle of Culloden hours out here.
NJIT lost 80-76. They are coming back next year.
Well, we’re guaranteed one win, but that’s probably all we’re going to get. Presbyterian and Longwood both have earned spots in the bottom 20 of the KenPom rankings. High Point has a 4.7% chance to win the conference tournament, which honestly is pretty good. If they lost to Longwood, we would have a serious problem.
9. Army at 8. Loyola-Maryland (55% chance to win) Patriot League Network
Teams returning for 2019
Bryant (missed NEC Tournament)
Grambling Tigers (Academically ineligible)
Sacred Heart (missed NEC Tournament)