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Never Made the Tournament Club Update, 11/19: Merrimack Rises, Grand Canyon Falls

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On Location For “The Dark Knight Rises” Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

“You merely adopted the mid-majors. I was born in it. Molded by it. I didn’t watch a major conference game until I was already a man.”

If you’ll indulge me, let’s talk about The Dark Knight Rises and its relevance to college basketball...because HE WORKA FOR DE MERSENERY, DA MASKETTA MAN.

One of the key themes in The Dark Knight Rises is the revolutionary rise of the poor to take over Gotham City. This phenomenon is what Mid-Major Madness is ostensibly all about. We are all about restoring power to the masses. That’s why we root for things like #2BidIvy. But if Mid-Major Madness is the palatable social democratic wing of the Marxist theory of men’s college basketball, then the Never Made the Tournament Club is essentially anarcho-syndicalism reborn. This makes traditional college basketball media the center-right, conference-specific mid-major outlets the Blanquist/Leninist leftist elements, low-end major conference team blogs the center-left, and Duke fans conservative oligarchs. I don’t even think some Duke fans would take offense to that labeling.

It’s also worth noting that Bane doesn’t actually lose in The Dark Knight Rises. Sure, he doesn’t win either, but if ISIS were able to control New York City under a revolutionary dictatorship for two months, that would be big news. Much like the Paris Commune of 1871 and the original Jacobin Committee of Public Safety in 1792-1794, the League of Shadows certainly proved a point. Whether that point actually meant anything is hard to fathom. The Jacobins and the Soviets turned out to be quite corrupt themselves, part of the endless revolutionary tradition of the splinter group turning around and using authoritarian methods to crush its enemies. Hence, when a team escapes the NMTC, they very quickly start to demolish their opponents without any regard from whence they came.

Regardless, at NMTC headquarters, we still demand as much brutality dished out by our brethren as possible. Those that have left become new targets. It doesn’t matter if we take out our own mid-major darlings or a power conference team—we’re willing to build chaos so that our teams can make it. This is especially true in the early part of the calendar, when many NMTC teams are losing buy game after buy game. All we want is some hope.

That’s why the example of Merrimack is so exciting. The first major win of this year’s NMTC season came when the Warriors upended Northwestern 71-61 in Welsh-Ryan Arena. After getting crushed by Maine, another NMTC team, Merrimack responded by outplaying Chris Collins’ crew at home. It’s a doubly fascinating win because Merrimack is the newest member of the NMTC, while Northwestern is arguably its most famous alumnus. Three years ago, Northwestern broke a decades-long curse and made the NCAA Tournament. There were uncountable hordes of proud “this is why I’m proud to be a Medill grad” takes from all of sports media. It was insufferable. In many ways, Merrimack’s victory closes the door on that Northwestern era of this column. Like a different Batman movie, Northwestern had lived long enough to see it become the villain, and then finally succumbed in an awful performance. The college basketball world laughed and rooted for its new underdogs.

However, Merrimack is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, so let’s discuss some teams that are eligible. We need to make note of South Dakota, which is on a hot 4-0 start and earned a big win at Hawai’i in the first week of the season. Center Tyler Hagedorn and point guard Triston Simpson, seniors that have spent their entire careers at South Dakota, have begun the season with some offensive fireworks. Hagedorn’s eFG% is an absurd 84.9 through four games.

The rise of South Dakota is matched by an inverse situation at Grand Canyon, a team that seems to be falling apart. The Lopes began the season by losing 82-73 to Davenport, a D2 school. Yikes, yikes, yikes. They followed this up with losses to Illinois and San Diego State, neither of which were very close. The Lopes beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff to get back to 1-3, but they have some serious work to do.

We need to talk about William and Mary. The Tribe were not picked by many in the CAA, but they earned a tremendous win by beating Wofford at the buzzer on the road. They backed that up with a strong performance against Oklahoma last night that ended in a narrow 75-70 loss. Could it be time for another Founding Father to finally exit this group? I’d say that The Tribe are the most well-known school in the NMTC, although I brought this up to some W&M grads at my office and they swore they’d been in the tournament before. I assume this is what it’s like to be mansplained a subject that you are, quite literally, the Internet’s foremost columnist on.

Lastly, NJIT has started the season 2-2 with losses to Colgate and Providence. The Colgate game was close, and while NJIT could’ve been more convincing in a 59-58 win over Cornell, I still think this team is capable of upending the A-Sun.


  • The best game played by an NMTC team in the first two weeks came from the Presbyterian Blue Hose, which took down VMI on the road after a buzzer-beating three in overtime.
  • UC Riverside picked up the first NMTC brutality of the year by blowing Nebraska out 66-47. We can only hope the Highlanders shoot 48% from three during the rest of the season.
  • Utah Valley picked up a nice road win over UAB.
  • Longwood is 4-1, but two of those wins came against fellow NMTC teams! Tragic.