This is the final painting of The Course of Empire series by the American painter Thomas Cole. Like The Course of Empire, we have risen from humble beginnings (remember Longwood?) to the highs of civilization (ROLL DAMN NORSE). Now, the empire has fallen (thanks Mike Daum) and most teams are fading into obscurity once again.
Look upon my basketballs, ye mighty, and despair.
That last column gives us seven teams left in the hunt for their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid. Northwestern, Utah Valley, North Dakota, Maryland-Eastern Shore, UMKC, UC Davis and Grambling State are still in this thing. All other seasons are in the dustbin of history. Other than North Dakota, every other team is an underdog heading into the next round (Northwestern, of course, is almost certainly in).
But let us still celebrate while can. The Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks are a bad team playing in a bad conference but they gave the Club its biggest win of the day. In the 4-5 matchup in the MEAC, the Hawks scored a nail-biting 68-66 win over Hampton. The two points that decided the game? A goaltending call on Hampton with just 11 seconds left. NMTC GOOD JUJU BACK???????
The best game of the day was in the WAC as the UT-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros and UMKC Kangaroos played their hearts out. The game went to the Kangaroos (another great nickname) 82-78, but not before the Vaqueros tied the game on a three with 7 seconds remaining to send it to overtime. But UMKC’s Lavell Boyd scored 12 of his team’s 15 points in the overtime period, including four clutch free throws. UMKC, the No. 3 seed, will now face New Mexico State.
The Utah Valley Wolverines got our first win of yesterday, a 65-53 cruise, thanks to holding off the Seattle Redhawks. A whopping 46% of the Wolverines’ points came from its bench. It’s always a good sign for teams in conference tournaments when their bench is firing on all cylinders. Maybe there’s some juice for a stretch run for Utah Valley. KenPom did not lead us astray when he said that the Wolverines had a 69% chance of winning. Nice.
The Chicago State Cougars were not up to the task. The story of that school is about a whole lot more than basketball, and if there is a school in the country that really deserves a bit of March Madness, it’s Chicago State. Alas, there would be no magic for the Cougars. They stuck around for a good chunk of time against New Mexico State, but they were never really going to win this game. They lost 67-53. There is no school, Northwestern included, who we want to make their way out of this club more. We’ll be pulling for our Cougars next season.
UC Riverside had just a 16 percent chance on KenPom to defeat UC Irvine. As expected, UC Riverside lost 76-67 in a game that was never really close. Secean Johnson had 22 points but it was not enough. UC Irvine even covered. UC Davis bailed us out, however, with a comfortable 66-55 win against Cal Poly. I just want to give a shout-out to Siler Schneider, who shot 11 times from the field and made one shot across 21 minutes. Basically, every two minutes that Schneider was on the floor, he missed a shot. And yet UC Davis still won. Shooters gotta shoot?
Portland State supposedly made the NCAA Tournament in 2008 and 2009, but they will not make it this year. Our boys in green (not the troops, but we’ll have to make do at this point) cruised to a 95-72 win. The top-seeded North Dakota Fighting Hawks shot 55 percent from the field, 55 percent from three and 94 percent from the free throw line. We love our anthropomorphic bird mascots here at NMTC, and they will go on to face the Idaho Vandals at 7:35 tomorrow. Good stuff.
As for NUtger, you can read Caleb Friedman’s excellent description of
Sideshow Bob stepping on a rake the Northwestern Wildcats’ game against the Rutger Scarlet Knights. No, they do not deserve their “s” after giving up a 31-0 run.
LAST NIGHT’S MVP: Corey Baldwin (North Dakota): 18 points, 10 rebounds, 6-of-7 shooting, 6-of-7 3FG, 5 assists, 2 turnovers
Yeah, that’s right, Corey Baldwin only took threes. He made six of seven. That’s some efficiency right there (or, as they say in Inside NU circles, the “Josh Burton strategy”). Baldwin, I expect, is sitting in his room right now calculating the maximum expected points total from every single jumpshot he takes. As the giant nerd boys say, only take three-pointers. Everything else is irrelevant.
All six remaining teams are in action tomorrow.
2:30 PM CST: (1) Texas Southern Tigers vs (5) Grambling State Tigers (16% chance to win)
No, that’s not a typo, both teams are named the Tigers. Grambling State are big underdogs in this game, but underdog status didn’t stop them from knocking off Prairie View last time. Grambling has now won six of its past seven and are looking better than their KenPom ranking suggests. This could be a big upset, or a double-digit loss. Unfortunately, you won’t see it because this game is not televised. Get on that, ESPN!
2:30 PM CST: (2) UC Davis Aggies (59% chance to win) vs (3) CSU Fullerton Titans
While it would be really nice if UC Davis takes care of business against a not-quite-as-good Cal State Fullerton team, it would be even nicer if Long Beach State could somehow mount an upset over the UC Irvine Anteaters in the other half of the bracket. While UC Davis should win this game, I don’t see them getting past the Anteaters right now. However, we could have yet another NMTC member make a conference tournament final. NMTC members are 2-2 in finals (thanks again, Daum), but if UC Davis has to face UC Irvine it will be 2-3 (full reverse jinx in effect?).
7:30 PM CST: (4) Idaho Vandals vs (1) North Dakota Fighting Hawks (62% chance to win)
After shooting the lights out in Reno against Portland State, North Dakota will need to repeat the feat against Idaho. Luckily, North Dakota is 54th in eFG% and 48th in the country from beyond the arc. Warning to the general public: if the Fighting Hawks do make the tournament, they can shoot anyone out of the gym. Idaho, on the other hand, doesn’t really do anything well.
5:00 PM CST (ESPN3): (1) North Carolina Central Eagles vs (5) Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (20% chance to win)
Another NMTC member is playing its best basketball of the season. The Hawks have won five of their last six and just extended their season again. Unfortunately, they now face North Carolina Central, who is 150 spots higher in KenPom efficiency and apparently brushed off dropping its final two conference games with a dominant win over Bethune-Cookman. I’m worried. I hope that KenPom just really likes his patriotic birds of prey and is overrating the Eagles by a healthy margin.
TRUE WAC-TION HOURS
4:00 PM CST (ESPN3): (1) Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners vs (4) Utah Valley Wolverines (32% chance to win)
You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
-The Dark Knight, a movie which I think is superior to The Dark Knight Rises @Will Ragatz
After escaping the Club last year on a dramatic buzzer beater, the Roadrunners are now the enemy. Perhaps a taste of the Promised Land will make the Roadrunners complacent. It’s Utah Valley’s turn.
10:30 PM CST (ESPN3): (2) New Mexico State Aggies vs (3) UMKC Kangaroos (23% chance to win)
According to all sources, New Mexico State and Cal State Bakersfield are destined to make the final in the WAC. But this is March, so that means the Kangaroos can pull the upset, right?
I’m not too optimistic.
Nope, kangaroos fighting doesn’t work.
Teams that have escaped (redux):
JACKSONVILLE STATE, BABY, THE DIRTY BIRDS ARE RIDING
SKYHAWKZ— NMTC: HOURS (@BenG412) March 5, 2017
ITS ON. pic.twitter.com/F5geomLylM
AND THE (NORTHERN KENTUCKY) NORSE, REWIND THAT DANCING VIKING GUY
tfw youre the norse and youre dancing for the first time ever pic.twitter.com/eHsh5QBsyn— NMTC: HDLESSNORSEMAN (@BenG412) March 8, 2017
Teams that will be back next year:
UT Rio Grande Valley
Sam Houston State
Youngstown State (PENGUINSZN)
William and Mary
St. Francis (NY)