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The Owls have been an awesome story, but the stakes are dreadfully high

Game of the Day pits our Owls versus Liberty. Plus, we run down the teams we said goodbye to yesterday and who is still fighting for an NCAA Tourney berth.

NCAA Basketball: Kennesaw State at Indiana Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

The first watershed moment of the NMTC year has arrived, and it comes in the form of a once NMTC afterthought taking on one of its biggest villains.

Kennesaw State, to whom we usually devote one sentence or even part of a sentence this time of year, shook off years of futility and lack of expectations to stunningly snag the ASUN’s top seed and play at home throughout the conference tournament. This is a team that prior to this year had no winning seasons and three seasons with three wins or less. A 25-8 (15-3) season seemed well outside the realm of possibility.

But here we are. The ASUN title game at home. The opponent?

L*b*rty. (Editor Lance here: BARF).

We don’t want our boys to lose, but especially not to this poopy institution. The Flames on the biggest stage attempting to legitimize their school is always not good. And it’s worse when they are actually a threat to win a game.

Not to add any additional pressure to the situation, but the Owls are making a move to Conference USA next year, a conference which has lost its luster due to departees of late, but will still be a tougher proving ground than the ASUN. It feels like this is a golden opportunity that may not come again for a little while

So this is it. It’s time to do the thing boys.

Since We’ve Been Gone

USC Upstate took us on quite the roller coaster. First, they lifted our spirits to the heavens with this ridiculous three to defeat Gardner-Webb; then, they fell to UNC Asheville in the semifinals because of super softie Drew Pember was ever on the ground, it had to be, in the view of the officials, a foul on the nearest Spartan. UNC-Asheville used the ref assist to get a four-point victory and extinguish the last Big South dream.

Just at the moment we welcomed hope into our life with Morehead State’s defeat in the OVC, UT Martin stumbled to Tennessee Tech. (Then we sorta rooted for Tennessee Tech in the final because they haven’t made the tournament since the JFK administration, and they lost in heartbreaking fashion, so we’re never rooting for a Made the Tourney team ever again.)

We bid farewell to The Citadel, Denver, and NJIT, who all went down without much of a fight, while Maine sacrificed itself to better-positioned UMass Lowell. UML now faces off with New Hampshire, who has lost each of its 10 attempts to get one step away from the NCAA Tournament. We at least know we will be sending an NMTC soldier into Burlington on Saturday.

Not all NMTC wins are equal, and when Sacred Heart fell to still-transitioning Merrimack in one semifinal to make the other semifinal The Game for the Autobid, that was kind of sad. But it’s sad because the NCAA is still dumb and no other reason, because Merrimack should be playing for a tourney bid on Tuesday.

Finally, the Summit’s lowest-seeded team Omaha, who blocked our Twitter account after a very mild joke and then unblocked us at the behest of our loyal NMTC Nation, was rewarded for the latter action by destroying fellow NMTCer Kansas City and putting up a fight against second-seed South Dakota State, but asking for a win there was several bridges too far and they fell by eight.

Other action to monitor

Whether or not this will be deemed a “successful NMTC cycle” will hinge on results over the next two days, so brace yourselves.

We monitor the Army more heavily than any other American organization and know that it should be able to defeat a tube of toothpaste, but the toothpaste has gotten the better of the Army and everyone else in that conference for a few years now. We will hope, but try not to expect too much until further notice.

William and Mary has been playing better as of late, but they too take on their conference’s top seed Hofstra tonight. We will need one more result to invest hope. If we can get one of two results here, we’re in business.

Another top seed, Youngstown State, takes on Northern Kentucky in the now-neutral site portion of the Horizon bracket in the semifinals on Monday. It’s PENGWINSZN boys. Get ‘er done.