After South Dakota got taken down by Mike Daum and South Dakota State, the authors of the NMTC column were reduced to wandering through Death Valley in despair.
Ben: It’s still so bad.
TJ: He only played for a half and he still scored 25.
Ben: Jenkins’ 29 points ruined it.
TJ: Was there anything else good that happened?
Hartford got demolished by UMBC. Sacramento State is out. Bethune-Cookman got upset by Morgan State. It’s all bad.
TJ: Well we’re approaching the lone spot of cell signal in Death Valley and Savannah State is still playing. Let’s see what happened!
So, Savannah State, which averages like, a million points and possessions per game, scored three points in the final five minutes despite only allowing two. We had the top two seeds in the MEAC and they couldn’t get out of the first round.
Ben: That’s tremendous content. Chicago State? UC Riverside?
TJ: No. Just no.
Ben: Hey, we’re in California right? I’m going to go watch the tennis at Indian Wells for the rest of the week. Is that okay with you?
TJ: Well, there’s still the WAC Tournament. We always have Lipscomb!
Ben: Yeah, Indian Wells it is.
In all seriousness, Tuesday-Thursday saw a disastrous stretch of games for NMTC contenders.
The two MEAC losses were complete disasters. Bethune-Cookman was up 11 at halftime but completely goofed in the second half. With the game going down to the wire, Isaiah Bailey had a chance to put Bethune-Cookman up two. He made the first but missed the second. To make up for this, Bailey lunged for a steal, but all he did was send Tiwian Kendley to the line. Kendley hit both free throws and Bethune-Cookman missed the buzzer-beating layup attempt.
The Savannah State loss cannot be fathomed. Savannah State had scored over 75 points in every single game this season. In the majority of games, they scored over 100. Somehow, both teams completely forgot how to shoot the ball and NC Central managed to slow the game down to a crawl. It ended 58-56. There were 8 points scored in the final five minutes.
(2) Utah Valley vs. (3) Grand Canyon - 9:00 p.m. ESPN 3 (Utah Valley 59% chance of winning)
These are the final two NMTC teams left in the hunt. Of course they are playing each other in the semifinals of the WAC Tournament. The winner likely earns the right to get steamrolled by New Mexico State. Knowing the NMTC this year, the winner will probably make a game of it in the first 10 minutes only to lose by 30.
If you’re feeling good about Grand Canyon, remember that the Antelopes barely beat a completely overmatched UMKC Kangaroos team in the first round. UMKC just lost to Chicago State by double-digits. I’m not feeling good about this one, Bob!
Teams that escaped in 2018
Teams returning for 2019
Abilene Christian (missed Southland Tournament)
Grambling Tigers (Academically ineligible)
Incarnate Word (missed Southland Tournament)
Maryland Eastern Shore
St. Francis (NY)
William & Mary