What is an italicized note at the beginning of this column supposed to achieve? It’s the Never Made the Tournament Club, and we have something to celebrate.
Greetings from the only blog post that is not at all sad about Chris Clemons and Campbell crashing out of the Big South Tournament. Yes, it is said that one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball history is out, but he did not do himself any favors last night.
Instead, it was our boys, the Gardner Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs who will finally have a shot in the Big South Final. In the last three years I’ve done this column, Gardner Webb has looked promising but unable to seal the deal. It didn’t look good for our challengers, who faced a road game against a red-hot Campbell team after taking out High Point, but a mixture of clutch late-game shooting and luck ensured a 79-74 win. They will play Radford, the other Highlanders, in the final.
As for our NJIT Highlanders, they went full Jacobite and got pulverized by a much, much better Lipscomb team. During my stint as a history student, I learned that one of the reasons the Scottish Highlanders were so successful against opposing forces was because of the “Highland Charge”, a tactic where Highlanders would fire a volley from their muskets before charging at the enemy before they could shoot twice. This idea really fell apart when entrenched artillery and rapid-fire guns came into fashion. Likewise, it feels like NJIT poured a lot of effort into defeating Florida Gulf Coast on the road, and then ran into a modern and talented Garrison Matthews artillery brigade. Such is life. If that’s the price I must pay to make sure Liberty doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament, so be it.
Speaking of the Scottish Highlanders, I just learned on Wikipedia that there’s some historian who has theorized the large number of Scottish/Celtic descendants in the Confederate army were still into disastrous and brazen charges, eventually culminating in disaster at Gettysburg. Isn’t that just a great transition into talking about The Citadel getting roasted 100-71 to Samford? Love South Carolina military academies. Unfortunately, their counterparts in West Point also lost, this time at Lehigh. The Army loss was less embarrassing but certainly more painful; they had so many chances to win and/or tie the game and just could not convert.
And then there’s Presbyterian or “Presby” as ESPN referred to them, who flirted with the idea of beating Radford before deciding to eject in hilarious fashion. That ejection was topped by Tennessee Martin, who secured 29 points from Quintin Dove in the first half (taking a 43-33 lead in the process) only to lose 88-81 after an even bigger late-game ejection. Good stuff, Skyhawks.
This is a critical day for the NMTC. Seven games and eight teams are in action. All times Eastern.
New Hampshire is already gone, which leaves us with four possible teams.
(5) UMass Lowell at (4) Hartford - 5:00 p.m. (ESPN+) [Hartford 75%]
This is annoying. It would be much more convenient for UMass Lowell to be the No. 6 seed instead of Albany, but we’re left with a NMTC-on-NMTC matchup that probably won’t be very competitive.
(8) Maine at (1) Vermont - 7:00 p.m. (ESPN+) [3%]
(7) Binghamton at Stony Brook - 7 p.m. (ESPN+) [8%]
If either of these teams win, it would be the biggest upset in the America East in the entirety of 2018-19.
(7) North Dakota vs. (2) Nebraska Omaha [72%]
(8) Western Illinois vs. (1) Mike Daum - 7 p.m. (ESPN+) [8%]
Western Illinois has no shot. Nebraska Omaha should win, nay, must win if they are to call this season a success.
(3) Quinnipiac vs. (6) Monmouth - 7 p.m. (ESPN3) [64%]
It’s Cameron Young time! For my sake, the Bobcats must, must, must take care of business against Monmouth. Monmouth started the year 0-12 and finished 11-20, which means they are probably going to win the MAAC, or something. Sigh. You gotta pay attention to Cameron Young, though.
(7) Elon vs. (10) UNC-Wilmington - 6:30 p.m. [43%]
What is it with UNC-blank schools being awful this year? UNC-Wilmington, usually good at basketball, went 5-13 in conference and lost to a very bad Elon team twice this year. The Phoenix have a good shot of making it three.
Coming back next year...
Cal Baptist (transitioning to D1)
Incarnate Word (will miss the Southland Tournament)
North Alabama (transitioning to D1)
St. Francis (NY)
Stetson (missed ASUN Tournament)
THE NEVER MADE THE TOURNAMENT CLUB CLASS OF 2019
Big Sky: Sacramento State Hornets
Big West: UC Riverside Highlanders
Horizon League: Youngstown State Penguins
MAAC: Quinnipiac Bobcats
Ohio Valley Conference: SIU-Edwardsville Cougars, Tennessee-Martin SkyHawks
Patriot League: Army Black Knights
SoCon: The Citadel Bulldogs
SWAC: Grambling Tigers (BACK AT IT)