Our efforts will not be in vain this year.
The Lipscomb Bisons went to Florida Gulf Coast’s home gym and completely dominated the Eagles...for a period of time. Garrison Matthews completely dominated the floor and it looked like Lipscomb would cruise home. As the broadcasters repeatedly announced, FGCU went down by 32 points in the second half.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Never Made the Tourney Club without some absolute madness happening. FGCU then led a ridiculous comeback when Kenny Cooper, Lipscomb’s point guard, got into foul trouble. Suddenly, the Bisons could not get the ball across half court, and FGCU was rolling. In a period of intense agony for Ben and me, the lead was trimmed to six points with eight minutes remaining.
But Lipscomb did not blow what would have been the second-biggest lead in college basketball this season (thanks, Delaware). Instead, the Bisons found their stride offensively and salted the game away (with some thanks to a few questionable calls on the Eagles).
Elsewhere in the NMTC, we have to talk some Summit League. The Denver Pioneers played the game of the weekend, outlasting Oral Roberts in 2OT, 90-88. Denver blew a 10-point lead with 8:42 remaining, allowing Oral Roberts to sneak into the lead and come within a few seconds of advancing. But Denver’s Joe Rosga banked in a three-pointer with 5 seconds left to tie the game at 70-70. ALLEZ!
The first overtime was inconclusive, but Denver finally edged ahead by two in the second overtime and stifled ORU’s final shot to win the game. That sets up an all-NMTC matchup against No. 2 seed South Dakota, who took care of business against Nebraska Omaha on Saturday.
And then there was Daum.
Western Illinois could have upset No. 1 seed South Dakota State. After 27 minutes, the Leathernecks unexpectedly found themselves up by 7 points. South Dakota State lacked energy. In a normal situation, this would be the recipe for an upset.
But Mike Daum “did it again.” Down 7 and without a basket in the second half, Daum made two free throws, a layup and a midrange jumper for a personal 6-0 run. From that point onward, Western Illinois started to fall apart. Who made the dagger three to put Western Illinois away with 2:15 to go? Mike Daum. Who had 33 points and 19 boards, scoring half his team’s points and 65 percent of his team’s rebounds. MIKE EFFING DAUM!!! Is anyone surprised? No.
Fort Wayne nearly made a massive comeback on North Dakota State, but the Mastodons will also be back next year.
The rest of the weekend action was less exemplary. The best win of the day probably came from Chicago State, who beat fellow WAC NMTC member UMKC in the final game of the regular season to avoid a winless conference season. The Cougs have had a very difficult time keeping their team alive due to Chicago State running out of funding, but it’s great that they got a win at home.
The Citadel and Quinnipiac went from heroes to zeroes in their second conference tournament games. The Citadel could not develop enough offense to knock of UNC-Greensboro. Quinnipiac kept it closer against Fairfield but could not keep up with the Stags. We also had Elon bow out with a pedestrian performance against Delaware. Not great.
In the America East, every NMTC member lost badly except Hartford. Hartford was complicit in this, knocking off New Hampshire 71-60. UMass Lowell and Maine got blasted by the top two seeds.
We’ll finish with a surprising first round win for William and Mary, which beat Towson 80-66. Towson was favored, but the Tribe advance to take on Charleston today. Can our last remaining Founding Father escape?
(4) William and Mary vs. (1) Charleston 6 p.m. EST on CBS Sports (35% chance of winning)
On paper, Charleston should not lose this game. The Cougars have won 12 of their last 13 games and are playing in Charleston. However, the Cougars’ one loss since January 18 was to this same William and Mary team. It wasn’t a convincing loss (William and Mary almost made it convincing, but the Tribe allowed a ridiculous comeback before finally finishing off the Cougars in overtime), but it was still a loss.
William and Mary center Nathan Knight scored 29 on Charleston in the first game between these teams and 19 points in 22 limited minutes in the second. He’s a matchup nightmare for Charleston. Point guard David Cohn shredded Charleston for 30 points in the last meeting as well. I predict Charleston is not going to get through this one easily.
(2) South Dakota vs. (3) Denver - 9:30 p.m. EST on ESPN3 (South Dakota 83%)
We need the South Dakota/South Dakota State grudge match. Denver’s great and all, but this is South Dakota’s time.
(12) Maryland-Eastern Shore vs. (5) Norfolk State - 9 p.m on ESPN3 (15% chance of winning)
Amazingly, our other two MEAC representatives got first-round byes, meaning that Maryland-Eastern Shore is our only team in the first round of the MEAC. That’s completely bonkers, but we’ll cover Bethune-Cookman and Savannah State tomorrow. For now, we have a completely overmatched Maryland-Eastern Shore team that is No. 349 of 351 in KenPom’s rankings.
Somehow it’ll be a tie game with three minutes left and Norfolk State will win on a buzzer-beater.
Teams who escaped in 2018
Teams returning for 2019
Abilene Christian (missed Southland Tournament)
Grambling Tigers (Academically ineligible)
Incarnate Word (missed Southland Tournament)
St. Francis (NY)