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Never Made the Tournament Club, 3/8: Extinction averted

The Mastodons made us proud.

Illustration of Mastodon Walking Toward Lake

Well, it was a busy day for the NMTC, so let’s just get straight into it. Tristan will be saving a more philosophical take for the next update, as he spent much of Saturday night watching snippets of college basketball while giving WasTED talks with his friends. Apparently, he’s purchased tickets to the CAA Tournament tonight.

NEC Semis: at (2) St. Francis PA 84, (3) Sacred Heart 72

Ah, sad. The team with the highest percentage chance of breaking free did not, in fact, break free. Despite getting all five starters in double figures, star E.J. Anosike was held in check. Sacred Heart was trailing by double digits for most of the second half. St. Francis took care of the ball and shot over 50%.

Am. East Qtrs: at (4) UMBC 73, (5) New Hampshire 67

Not a bad showing at all for the Wildcats, who stayed within striking distance of the Retrievers until the final minute. Makes you wonder what would have happened in the end if UNH didn’t go -9 on turnovers. The saddest fact I learned today was that New Hampshire has never even made the America East final, despite being a founding member back in 1979. Oof.

Am. East Qtrs: at (3) Hartford 89, (6) UMass-Lowell 75

Hey, an NMTC member won a game! Sure, the game was against a fellow Club member, but in a year of such negativity, it’s important to force ourselves to see positivity sometimes.

Besides, I’ll always side with the team who has been in the club longer, and Hartford (30+ years) has been at it quite a while longer than UMass-Lowell (third year of eligibility). According to Elias Sports Bureau, our contributors have had 298.2 times more years of struggles than River Hawks fans (what even is a River Hawk?).

Hartford may be one of the best remaining candidates to escape this year. They’ve played much better since the return of Malik Ellison, have beaten Stony Brook twice, played Vermont pretty close and didn’t struggle with their first opponent like the remaining three squads.

Am. East Qtrs: at (1) Vermont 61, (8) Maine 50

I opine that there is one experience worse than having expectations for a team and watching them mercilessly disappoint you: not expecting anything from a team, watching them play extremely well, letting them steal your heart and unlock your wildest fantasies, then watching them crash down to Earth and mercilessly disappoint you. Except with even less mercy. (It is why I haven’t re-watched the end of the UCF-Duke game.)

And thus I present you with an example: Maine, whose script logo looks to be hand-drawn from the 1970s. Its head coach led the women’s team for six years before switching over and leading the Black Bears to a 5-27 finish last season. Today, Maine did that horrible thing, manufacturing hope by pulling within a point midway through the second half. With just over six minutes left, they were still within three. Then, Vermont scored 12 in a row over the next five minutes to turn my heart into a blood puddle. So yeah, congrats to Catamount Country and Lamb and the 14 Duncan brothers on continuously making sure their New England compatriots have exactly zero fun ever.

And, if you thought that was bad...

Summit First Round: (1) North Dakota St. 71, (8) Denver 69

...this was way worse. Tell me the last time you thought about the Denver University Pioneers. We certainly didn’t mention them in the Summit League feature. And maybe the Bison weren’t thinking too much about the 7-24 Pioneers either, letting them rattle off a 22-6 run to turn a 10-point deficit into a six-point lead. Denver shot 50% on the game and for a day looked like the Denver Nuggets.

But after a frustrating two minute stretch with no scoring, NDSU’s all-conference Vinnie Shahid annoyingly hit a three for a two-point lead. After DU Jamal Murray-ed to tie the game twice (I can’t stress how good they looked for a team with a hideous record), Shahid drew a foul with seven seconds left and hit both foul shots. Denver drove the length of the court but the Summit Curse gods blew the ball out of the hoop as Jase Townsend attempted a layup. And they didn’t get caught. What nerve, and what agony. The Summit Curse lives on...

Summit First Round: (7) Purdue Fort Wayne 77, (2) South Dakota St. 74

Tristan: It happened again! Last year, Mike Daum the Destroyer and the No. 1 seed South Dakota State Jackrabbits lost to Western Illinois. This time, the Jackrabbits came in as the heavily favored No. 2 seed and lost once again. Like Denver, Fort Wayne was barely discussed heading into the weekend. They’d lost to South Dakota State twice and had won just one game in their last five.

But Jon Coffman’s team played an incredible game in what was effectively a road environment in Sioux City. The Mastodons were in it for the whole game, taking a 40-33 lead into halftime and a nine-point advantage with 12 minutes left. Things got very dicey after that. Like the movie villain that finds its way back into control in the final third of the story, South Dakota State came back. We knew that would happen. It would all come down to the final minutes, as the Mastodons found themselves locked in a 65-65 tie. Thankfully, Jarred Gofrey and DeMierre Black combined for a short 5-0 run and Fort Wayne took it home.

The NMTC Player of the Week Award goes to Matt Holba, who scored 21 points in 30 minutes for the Mastodons. His 71% eFG and six threes were probably the deciding factor in the game.

CAA First Round: (7) Elon 63, (10) James Madison 61

The first day of Colonial action brought us a matchup of one-man teams, as Elon (Musk) took down James Madison with a furious comeback. Many in the arena were surprised when James Madison, a week short of his 269th birthday, schooled Elon to the tune of 14 straight to start the game. But Elon didn’t quit, even when falling behind by seven with under three minutes to play, and took his only lead of the game on a stepback J with three seconds on the clock. And the much younger Elon (Musk), though his basketball history remains in question, puts one in the bank for the Club. Talk about Mid-Major Magic!

Southland Regular Season:

Northwestern St. 100, at Central Arkansas 85

McNeese 70, at Lamar 66

At the day’s start, Central Arkansas was in decent position to sneak into the Southland Conference tournament as a sacrificial 8-seed to get their intestines ripped out by 29-3 SFA. They were tied with McNeese but owned the tiebreaker with two head-to-head wins. However, a four-point-play with 0.5 seconds left by McNeese’s karate-kicking CIA assassin Dru Kuxhausen (pretty sure anyone with that cool of a name does those things) won McNeese a victory over Lamar to keep the Bears out. And with the Land’s only other NMTC member Incarnate Word already eliminated, the tournament just got less interesting for us. But hey, at least they spared themselves from SFA’s wrath.

SUNDAY PREVIEW:

We start with an absolute doozy at 6 p.m. ET, as the Elon Musks take on the William & Mary Tribe in a battle of Club teams. William and Mary, for those new to our page, is the last remaining original D-1 “Founding Father” (and mother). Hopefully we see some Glorious Revolutions in the CAA order this weekend.

Tristan: I’ll be on-site! Wow!

NMTC record, conf. tourney games: 7-17

NMTC record, conf. tourney games against non-NMTC opponents: 4-14

Still Alive: 17 teams

America East: (3) Hartford Hawks

Big Sky: (9) Sacramento State Hornets

Big West: (6) UC Riverside Highlanders

CAA: (2) William & Mary Tribe, (7) Elon Phoenix

MAAC: (5) Quinnipiac Bobcats

MEAC: (4) Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, (9) Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks

SWAC: (5) Grambling State Tigers

Summit: (7) Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons, (5) Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, (3) South Dakota Coyotes

WAC: (8) Chicago State Cougars, (4) Grand Canyon Antelopes, (2) Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros, (6) Utah Valley Wolverines, (5) UMKC Kangaroos

NMTC Class of ‘20-21

Army (out in Patriot League QF)
Bryant (out in NEC QF)
Cal Baptist (ineligible)
Central Arkansas (missed Southland tourney)
The Citadel (out in SoCon 1st Rd)
Denver (out in Summit QF)
High Point (out in Big South 1st Rd)
Incarnate Word (missed Southland tourney)
Kennesaw State (missed ASUN tourney)
Longwood (out in Big South QF)
Maine (out in Am. East QF)
Merrimack (ineligible)
New Hampshire (out in Am. East QF)
NJIT (out in ASUN QF)
North Alabama (ineligible; out in ASUN QF)
Presbyterian (out in Big South 1st Rd)
Sacred Heart (out in NEC SF)
SIU-Edwardsville (missed OVC tourney)
Stetson (out in ASUN SF)
St. Francis Brooklyn (out in NEC QF)
UMass-Lowell (out in Am. East QF)
USC Upstate (out in Big South QF)
UT-Martin (missed OVC Tournament)