If you were a Club member in action on Thursday or Friday, it was not a time to be alive. In fact, every single NMTC team that partook in a conference tournament game lost in the last two days, missing out on Bill Walton’s auto-bid present.
Let’s take a tour de carnage:
ASUN Semis: (1) Liberty 66, Stetson 62
Garrett Lash: It was a tough end to what has been a successful season for the Hatters. They racked up 16 wins, their most in 12 years. Most notably, they picked up wins over South Carolina and Liberty, earning brutality mentions and plenty of Twitter love.
They came into the rubber match with Liberty hoping to reach the ASUN championship game for the first time since 2016 (where they lost by two in overtime, despite being ineligible to make the NCAA Tournament due to academic violations). After holding the lead the entire first half, Liberty finally went ahead with 16 minutes remaining. The Hatters remained close, cutting a 10-point deficit to two just with just over a minute to play, but down the stretch they were forced to foul Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz, a 91 percent free throw shooter. He made all eight of his attempts to salt it away. Also, Caleb Homesley torched them for 26 on 10/15 shooting.
And, much to Walton’s chagrin, Liberty escaped another weaker opponent (North Florida, come on, guys) to advance to the Liberty-Lipscomb Bowl Part III. And much to our chagrin, the GOAT nickname of the club is gone.
Patriot League Quarters: (5) Lafayette 73, at (4) Army 68
GL: It’s always a somber day when a Founding Father goes out.
After trouncing Lafayette twice by a combined 37 points during the regular year, Army never held the lead and was dominated most of the game. Give the Black Knights credit for cutting an 18-point deficit with 10 minutes to go down to four with a minute left, but Matt Wilson missed on the next possession and the Leopards held on. Perhaps even more disappointing than bowing out on your home court is knowing you’re losing the massive production of Wilson and leading scorer Tommy Funk to graduation.
Cue the trumpets.
Horizon League Quarters: (4) Illinois-Chicago 67, (5) Youngstown State 61
TJ: This game was played in Loyola Chicago’s Gentile Arena due to a Midwest Robotics Competition. Thus, the gym was completely empty, because who the heck is going to take the El up from UIC to freakin’ Loyola to watch a 17-16 Flames team? Loyola is barely even in Chicago. Okay, end Chicago basketball scheduling rant. Due to essentially being a neutral site, this game was the most competitive of any of the five losses. However, the Penguins really ran out of gas at the end.
Big South Quarters: (5) Hampton 78, (4) Longwood 53
Garrett: Tristan and I were really anticipating the use of fantastic puns for this little-known school in Virginia, but it turns out its presence was *too short for us to do anything with.*
The Lancers achieved their first conference record of .500 or better at 9-9 this year (that’s a big accomplishment for Longwood, believe me). But they weren’t able to compensate for their first-half shortcomings and ultimately left their fans, as well as us here at NMTC headquarters, unsatisfied. The more experienced Hampton squad dominated in almost every category, and after months of working so hard, Longwood went soft when it truly mattered. At least Hampton backed it up by knocking off No. 1 seed Radford the next day.
SoCon First Round: (7) Wofford 93, (10) The Citadel 76
TJ: With the Terriers entering this game on a seven-game losing streak, it seemed like a good time for The Citadel to score a rare upset. Instead, another Founding Father had a dud. The Citadel went 6-23 in the regular season and feels like one of the furthest teams away from an NCAA Tournament bid, given the strength of the SoCon.
Big South Quarters: (2) Winthrop 106, (7) USC Upstate 70
GL: Not much of a story or surprise here. Winthrop handled Upstate for the third time this year, and as the score suggests, this one got out of hand pretty early.
Saturday’s Games (all times ET)
TJ: Saturday could still redeem everything for the NMTC. We have seven games featuring NMTC teams across the day, so there’s still everything to play for. I’m going to preview this in a random order because I’m exhausted tonight.
Oh, none of these have a KenPom thrill score over 35? Well, stats are for losers. The biggest game of the day is Sacred Heart vs. St. Francis (PA) at noon on ESPN3. Sacred Heart is playing on the road, but it still has a great shot to win. Sure, St. Francis is 2-0 in the season H2H, but they always say it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season! I don’t know if that’s statistically real or just something commentators say after a team loses the third game.
In the America East, we have all four teams in action. New Hampshire plays UMBC at 1 p.m. and UMass Lowell plays Hartford at 5. Lastly, we have Maine against Vermont. Not expecting much.
Our Summit League friends are also tipping off, with Fort Wayne playing South Dakota State and Denver playing North Dakota State. I’m hopeful after last year’s amazing Western Illinois upset, but these games are still in Sioux Falls and not really conducive to NMTC success.
Elsewhere, we have Elon going up against James Madison in the opening round of the CAA Tournament. This is the most even match in terms of odds (Elon is favored!), but neither of these teams are going to pull a Wyoming, sadly.
Coming Back Next Year
Army (out in Patriot League QF)
Bryant (out in NEC QF)
The Citadel (out in SoCon 1st Rd)
High Point (out in Big South 1st Rd)
Kennesaw State (missed ASUN Tournament)
Longwood (out in Big South QF)
NJIT (out in ASUN QF)
North Alabama (ineligible)
Presbyterian (out in Big South 1st Rd)
SIU-Edwardsville (missed OVC Tournament)
Stetson (out in ASUN SF)
St. Francis Brooklyn (out in NEC QF)
USC Upstate (out in Big South QF)
UT-Martin (missed OVC Tournament)
Youngstown State (out in Horizon QF)