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Never Made the Tournament Club, 3/13: Exit, Savannah State

Savannah State’s time in the NMTC is at an end.

NCAA Basketball: Savannah State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

We out here covering teams that have never made the NCAA Tournament.

I should’ve expected a hangover. The euphoria of Gardner-Webb’s upset over Radford was too much for us. The comedown has been incredibly painful.

First, we must tackle the disaster that took place on Tuesday night. Nebraska-Omaha had a chance to escape the and were favored to defeat North Dakota State. Everything went badly. The Mavericks were sluggish in the first half and could not mount a comeback in the second. For the second time in three years, Nebraska-Omaha has made it to the final hurdle, only to trip and fall. The NMTC had three teams in the Summit League semifinals, but could not prevail.

I blame everything on this article:

Meanwhile, we mourned the end of Savannah State’s time in Division I, which ended with an ignominious 71-67 loss to the worst team on Kenpom in the entire country heading into the game. The Tigers shot a cool 8-for-35 from three and were never really in the game. You know, against Delaware State. The worst team in the country in shooting percentage and adjusted offense outlasted our guys. That’s...certainly something (insert Curb Your Enthusiasm music here).

Savannah State spent 19 seasons in Division I. In 2005, they went 0-28. They set the NCAA record for fewest points in a half (four, against Kansas State in 2009). The only real shot they had to make the NCAA Tournament came in 2012, when they went 14-2 and had the No. 1 seed in MEAC. They lost by 13 to Hampton.

Historically, I think Savannah State might be the saddest member of this club not named Northwestern (and Northwestern has relinquished its title forever after making it in 2017). Head coach Horace Broadnax has been there for 13 years. The whole experiment began incredibly poorly with Savannah State as an independent. Then, after they joined a conference, they blew their chances with actually good rosters. In 2016, after a full 10 years of playing at a significantly slower than average tempo, Broadnax decided said “screw it” and went full Moreyball, playing ridiculously fast while only jacking threes. That made everything extremely entertaining, but it didn’t work.

But we will always have this:

kenpom

Farewell, Savannah State. You will not be forgotten. You guys better win the SIAC and come back to us someday.

And then there was Hartford. Oh, Hartford. The Hawks came back after going down 50-24 to UMBC and took it to double overtime, only to lose. The two overtimes were some of the worst college basketball played this century. Hartford’s point guard fouled out with two minutes left in double-OT and that was the end of it.

Life is not fair.

The second act of the NMTC starts today. It is a much more difficult time, with only the WAC, Big Sky, Big West, Southland, and SWAC still possessing members. The most important team in this second week will be Abilene Christian, the No. 2 seed in the Southland. Grambling State picked up a huge 59-52 win over Arkansas Pine Bluff, which means the Tigers are still alive to face No. 1 seed Prairie View A&M on Friday.

Today and Tomorrow’s Games

Big Sky

(9) Sacramento State vs. (8) Northern Arizona - happening now, 25-16 Sacramento

Sacramento State is the most obscure NMTC team. They’re in the most obscure mid-major conference and have done pretty much nothing in recent years. Maybe this year can change that.

WAC

(6) Seattle vs. (3) Grand Canyon - 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, ESPN+ [70% Grand Canyon]

The Lopes are the Prince Who Was Promised of this column, and frankly, they must win this game for the sake of respectability. The Lopes lost to Seattle at the end of the regular season and have no momentum whatsoever. Sigh.

(7) UMKC vs. (2) Utah Valley - 9 p.m. on Thursday, ESPN+ [Utah Valley 80%]

But the Wolverines are back! Utah Valley has won seven straight and are the new “most likely team to challenge New Mexico State” in the conference. Catch the fever!

(8) Chicago State vs. (1) New Mexico State - 3 p.m. on Thursday, ESPN+ [1%]

You know, congratulations to the Cougz for still having a Division I basketball team. There was some doubt that the university would exist due to the stupid plans of the city of Chicago and Bruce Rauner. But they are alive, they are here, and they are going to lose to New Mexico State.

(5) Cal State Bakersfield vs. (4) UT-Rio Grande Valley - 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, ESPN+ [59%]

You know, if the Vaqueros can get past Cal State Bakersfield, they have played New Mexico State close twice this year (2-point loss at home, 8-point loss on the road). But first, they need to defeat a solid Bakersfield squad that has done damage to the NMTC since making it out in 2016.

Big West

(8) UC Riverside vs. (1) UC Irvine - 9 p.m. Thursday, ESPN3 [10%]

UC Irvine is a top 60 Kenpom team. UC Riverside is not a top 300 Kenpom team.

FREE FOREVER!

Gardner-Webb

Coming back next year...

Army
Bryant
Cal Baptist (transitioning to D1)
The Citadel
Denver
Elon
Fort Wayne
Hartford
High Point
Incarnate Word (will miss the Southland Tournament)
Kennesaw State
Maine
Maryland Eastern Shore
Nebraska-Omaha
New Hampshire
NJIT
North Alabama (transitioning to D1)
Presbyterian
Quinnipiac
Sacred Heart
South Dakota
SIU-Edwardsville
St. Francis (NY)
Stetson (missed ASUN Tournament)
UMass Lowell
UT-Martin
William and Mary
Youngstown State

We’ve reached the point where the “coming back next year” list is essentially the Class of 2019 list.

THE NEVER MADE THE TOURNAMENT CLUB CLASS OF 2019

America East: Hartford Hawks, Maine Black Bears, New Hampshire Wildcats, UMass Lowell River Hawks

Atlantic Sun: Kennesaw State Owls, North Alabama Lions (NEW MEMBER!!), NJIT Highlanders, Stetson Hatters (GOAT NAME)

Big Sky: Sacramento State Hornets

Big South: Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs, High Point Panthers, Longwood Lancers, Presbyterian Blue Hose, South Carolina Upstate Spartans,

Big West: UC Riverside Highlanders

CAA: William & Mary Tribe, Elon Phoenix

Horizon League: Youngstown State Penguins

MAAC: Quinnipiac Bobcats

MEAC: Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, Savannah State Tigers, Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks

Northeast Conference: Bryant Bulldogs, St. Francis (NY) Terriers, Sacred Heart Pioneers

Ohio Valley Conference: SIU-Edwardsville Cougars, Tennessee-Martin SkyHawks

Patriot League: Army Black Knights

SoCon: The Citadel Bulldogs

Southland Conference: Abilene Christian Wildcats, Central Arkansas Bears, Incarnate Word Cardinals

SWAC: Grambling Tigers (BACK AT IT)

Summit: Denver Pioneers, IPFW Mastodons, Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, South Dakota Coyotes, Western Illinois Leathernecks

WAC: California Baptist Lancers (NEW MEMBER!!) Chicago State Cougars, Grand Canyon Antelopes, Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros, Utah Valley Wolverines, UMKC Kangaroos