I have it on good authority that it is now March. This is where the fun begins, folks.
It’s time for all the clichés to return with a vengeance. Much like Louis XVI, Sean Miller has kicked off the month by proclaiming his innocence in front of a large public audience. We also had a 4OT game in the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament and an NMTC coach firing. It’s just that time of year.
The best article in the SB Nation family about the American bison has already been written. That’s a high bar though. Here at the Never Made the Tourney Club, our columns are mediocre, and our subjects are mediocre.
Except that’s not true. The Lipscomb Bisons are a good basketball team, and they gracefully crushed Jacksonville on Thursday night by the score of 77 to 62. They are the best chance we have to get a team out of the Never Made the Tourney Club. With Florida Gulf Coast beating North Florida 95-72, the two top seeds will battle it out for an NCAA Tournament bid on March 4th.
Let’s look at what Lipscomb has accomplished since 2018 started. The Bisons started A-Sun conference play 1-3. Not great. They have lost one game since, beating FGCU on the road and crushing most of their other opposition. Conference tournaments may be flawed, but Sunday’s game truly is the best way to determine who gets the bid. FGCU had a better regular season record and earned home court advantage. That’s fair. They split the season series, each winning a game at the other stadium. They are the two best teams in Atlantic Sun by a massive margin. This is going to be fun.
Next, we have Quinnipiac, which dispatched Siena in Albany in the first round of the MAAC Tournament (for those who don’t know regional New York schools, Siena is in Albany). Quinnipiac had lost seven of its last eight games, but the Bobcats will now get a shot at taking down No. 2 seed Canisius tomorrow.
Meanwhile, another Founding Father fell in the NEC, as St. Francis Brooklyn got pasted by LIU Brooklyn. Sigh. SIU-Edwardsville got boatraced by Tennessee Tech. Sigh. These were not unexpected, but it would’ve been nice if one of these teams managed to put up a fight. Still, a 2-2 stretch over two days is worth celebrating.
Apocryphal Non-NMTC Ramblings
Rutgers and Holy Cross still could make the NCAA Tournament.
This is not a drill.
Rutgers stunned Indiana at home in Madison Square Garden (“home” because they are New York’s Big Ten team, obviously) and Holy Cross destroyed Navy in Edition No. 25,354 of the Carmody/DeChellis rivalry. This is only relevant for fans of my work on Rutgers and Ben’s obsession with Bill Carmody.
(8) The Citadel vs. (9) VMI - 5 p.m. EST on ESPN3 (60% chance of winning)
When the Ottomans put the Venetian fortress city of Candia to siege in 1648, near the beginning of the Cretan War/Fifth Ottoman-Venetian War, no one could’ve expected that the siege would last 21 years. In fact, the city fell by negotiated surrender, which mean the Ottomans spent more thousands of men and ships over the course of two decades and still could not capture the citadel at Candia. That’s what happens when you hire Tony Bennett.
As you would expect for the only team that is named after a building that could withstand a long siege, The Citadel plays at the fourth-fastest pace in the nation. Like Savannah State, The Citadel runs down the court and just chucks threes while hoping for victory. They will face an extremely mediocre VMI team (TROOPS v. TROOPS!), but The Citadel’s own mediocrity will make the game a tense shootout. Lightning war, baby. It’s good again.
(8) Cleveland State vs. (9) Youngstown State - 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN 3 (47% chance of winning)
PENGUINSZN!!! Last year, the Youngstown State Penguins captured the hearts of millions when they defeated Cleveland State and No. 1 seed Oakland in a string of huge Horizon League upsets. This helped the Northern Kentucky Norse advance to the NCAA Tournament and earned the Penguins eternal gratitude in the NMTC.
This year, Youngstown State is even worse by KenPom metrics than last season, but will once again face Cleveland State in the 8/9 game. I don’t watch much Horizon League, but this game seems like a total tossup. The Penguins have been there before, so you’d better watch out.
(8) Quinnipiac vs. (2) Canisius - 9:30 p.m EST on ESPN3 (18% chance of winning)
Quinnipiac — best known for its polls during election season — actually started the MAAC regular season at 6-4 and looked on course for something decent. Then they went 1-7. However, the Bobcats have played Canisius within single-digits in both meetings this year, and anything can happen at a neutral site game. Is a win likely? No, but 18% is a helluva lot better than some of our contestants so far, so you should watch the first half anyway.
Teams returning for 2019
Bryant (missed NEC Tournament)
Grambling Tigers (Academically ineligible)
Sacred Heart (missed NEC Tournament)
St. Francis (NY)
UT-Martin (missed OVC Tournament)