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Never Made the Tournament Club, 3/6: ‘Twas the Night Before Conference Tournaments (or Two Nights In, Who Cares?)

The NEC and ASUN combined for some extremely dramatic moments.

NCAA Basketball: Presbyterian at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

We’re back with another semi-regular update from NMTC headquarters.

But first, a poem, from Garrett:

The Night Before Conference Tournaments

’Twas the night before tournaments, when all through the Club

Not a mid-major was stirring, certainly not even a Central Arkansas Bear cub;

The resumes were sent to the committee with care,

With slim hopes that an auto-bid soon would be there;

The teams were nestled all snug in their beds;

While visions of net-cutting danced in their heads;

And Elon and Bryant and Sacramento State

Had just settled their brains for another extended spring break

When down on the court there arose such a clatter,

Awake sprung the Bulldogs, the Tribe and the Hatters,

And to the Club’s surprise as they sat up in their beds

They saw an old clunker led by eight talking heads.

With a towering old driver making such a large racket

I knew in a moment he must be St. Bracket.

And no one could get a clear glimpse of the fellow,

But they recognized his deep and familiar bellow:

“Now Rothstein, Now Davis, Now Pomeroy and Bilas!”

On Goodman, on Greenberg, Lunardi and Williams!”

And suddenly, on the rooftop, a few feet above them all

They heard the pundits whining for big-conference ball.

“Throw it down-er, pipe down!” They heard St. Bracket say,

Then he climbed through the chimney and slid down all the way.

As the teams gathered round, a tall figure emerged

With pants much too short and a tye-dye shirt

And as he finished wiping the soot from his eyes,

The teams cried “Bill Walton?” with lots of surprise.

“Ah yes it is I,” he said with a shrug,

“I came straight from my yoga class to visit the Club.

For months, when not bugging Dave Pasch, I’ve been observing

To see which one of you appears most deserving.

This year, the Conference of Champs really improved,

But I thought there’d be room for an extra spot or two.”

And just as the words were leaving his mouth,

The founding fathers let off a big shout.

All at once they yelled: “We’ve been here the longest!”

Then the Tribe said: “And guess what? My NET is the strongest!”

Then Army chimed in: “Our turnaround has been great!”

Bill stopped and he questioned: “But what about Colgate?”

Then Stetson piped up, said “We have a GOAT mascot name

And a few weeks ago we extinguished the flames!”

“Enough!” the man said. “Just a little advice,

I already know who’s been naughty and nice.

I saw Grambling State really shoot the ball,

I watched Sacred Heart rebound, though they aren’t too tall.

I saw Bethune Cookman, Hartford and Longwood,

And I was impressed. Some of you are all quite good.

So there’s no need for you all to beg or to plead,

And Youngstown: I’ve seen dancing penguins in Happy Feet, indeed.”

Just then there was whining from up on the roof,

Jay Bilas was antsy and ready to move.

“Could we just give the bids to the ACC?”

“Quiet!” Bill said, “Or I’ll drop their bids to three!”

But then the man sighed and scratched his nonexistent beard,

And said, “I’m sorry, I know I don’t come every year,

The Mid-Majors outside of the club are too strong,

So the outlook is bleak. But next year, you might come along!”

Excitement quickly turned into sorrow and gloom

As the teams all silently trudged back to their room.

Another March where tournament hopes had faded,

Another twelve months of having not made it.

As he saw their hopes dashed, Bill himself felt some sadness,

As he realized he denied them all a chance at the madness.

He thought about the feeling of fulfilling a dream

Of making the tournament for just one little team.

And so as off to their rooms the teams were walking,

A couple turned ‘round to see Bill fill a stocking.

I think he gave someone a bid! Was the news

And again there was hope, for they weren’t sure whose.

And just as he prepared to launch up in the sky

He felt the little Citadel tap him on his right thigh.

“We know this year we won’t get the chance to dance,

But can I ask when you’ll be replacing Jim Nantz?”

Bill let out a deep laugh, and patted his head,

Then replied: If they double their offer. Now off to bed!”

But they heard him exclaim, ere he drove off with the wind

“Happy March to all, let the madness begin!”

Tristan: The first two days of conference tournament season were the complete madhouse that we’ve come to expect. For my money, these two weeks are the best parts of the season, simply through sheer volume of high-pressure basketball. Every game means so much, and every game tends to have completely bonkers statlines and endings. The NCAA Tournament is for normies, the NEC Tournament is for hipsters, you can be sure of that.

Speaking of the NEC, that’s where we start today after three completely ridiculous finishes. For our purposes, Sacred Heart was the big success of the night, surviving a close test from Mount St. Mary’s thanks to a crazy game-winning shot from Jarel Spellman.

The excitement of this moment was balanced by yet another absolutely horrendous loss for the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers, who played a brilliant game on the road against No. 1 seed Robert Morris. After trailing by as much as nine points with less than two minutes left, the Terriers clawed back and had a chance to win the game at the buzzer. Of course, the shot rimmed out. The most cursed Founding Father of all will wait another year to escape. Sigh.

Bryant got destroyed by St. Francis (PA); no surprise there.

In the ASUN and Big South, things went as expected. Stetson dispatched North Alabama, which was good because North Alabama is ineligible. Everyone should be rooting for the Hatters to earn a second upset of the season over No. 1 seed Liberty, who took down NJIT in the first round.

In the opening round of the Big South, USC Upstate won the NMTC duel with High Point. Presbyterian got shellacked 81-64 by Charleston Southern. In the Horizon, PENGUINSZN is back as Youngstown State took out Milwaukee with a 63-57 win. We’re always here for a Penguins run at Mid-Major Madness, right? Right??

Looking Ahead

We won’t have an update until Saturday morning due to poor work scheduling, but we’ll have write-ups for all of the weekend games. I’m not doing in-depth previews of each game anymore, but here’s what you should watch for NMTC purposes.

Thursday, March 6 (all times ET)

USC Upstate vs Winthrop — 11 a.m.
Stetson vs. Liberty — 6 p.m.
Hampton vs. Longwood — 7 p.m.

Friday, March 7

The Citadel vs. Wofford — 6:30 p.m.


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

ASUN: Kennesaw State Owls, North Alabama Lions, NJIT Highlanders, Stetson Hatters (GOAT NAME)

Big Sky: Sacramento State Hornets

Big South: 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, Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks

Northeast Conference: Bryant Bulldogs, Merrimack (NEW!) , 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: Central Arkansas Bears, Incarnate Word Cardinals

SWAC: Grambling Tigers

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

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

Coming Back Next Year

Bryant (out in NEC QF)
High Point (out in Big South 1st Rd)
Kennesaw State (missed ASUN Tournament)
Merrimack (ineligible)
NJIT (out in ASUN QF)
North Alabama (ineligible)
Presbyterian (out in Big South 1st Rd)
SIU-Edwardsville (missed OVC Tournament)
St. Francis Brooklyn (out in NEC QF)
UT-Martin (missed OVC Tournament)