In 2017, the Never Made The Tourney Club never quits.
We saw it with Northwestern throughout this year. We saw it with PENGUINSZN, Northern Kentucky Norse and Jacksonville State. Same with Nebraska Omaha and Lipscomb and Stetson.
But Utah Valley took it to the next level last night. In its four-overtime loss to Cal State Bakersfield, easily the best game any NMTC member will play in their respective conference tournaments, Utah Valley went through hell. And of course, because this is the Never Made The Tourney Club, the Wolverines never made it out the other side.
A blow-by-blow account:
END OF REGULATION:
I tuned into this game after Northwestern finished off Maryland. The Utah Valley game had already descended into sheer delirium. First off, neither team was hitting anything. Over FOUR OVERTIMES, both teams averaged 30.5 percent from the field and 24 percent from three.
But Utah Valley, despite not playing well whatsoever, had a 49-41 lead with 2:40 left. I felt good about their chances. Then Jaylin Airington (an A+ basketball name) took over for the Roadrunners, going on a 11-3 run by himself to close out the game. The Wolverines could not break a press to save their lives at the end of the game. It was agonizing.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Kenneth Ogbe had two free throws which could have Utah Valley up four. He missed the first. Airington drew a foul. He missed one of two, and then Utah Valley got the ball. This time, they successfully broke the press, and then Brandon Randolph got called for traveling. Airington hit a shot 24 seconds later to tie it at 52-52.
OVERTIME 1: How I learned to stop worrying and love this game
THERE WERE EIGHT POINTS IN THIS OVERTIME PERIOD. It was a fever dream, a cavalcade of missed shots, turnovers and broadcasters with zero chemistry whatsoever. I couldn’t get over how bad this WACtion broadcasting crew was. They were just...so unexcited to be courtside for a four-overtime game.
Okay, so after four minutes of watching a literal
rock fight, or perhaps two Transformers playing polo on ice with plastic forks, Utah Valley took a 56-55 lead on its first made field goal of overtime, a Zach Nelson layup with 34 seconds left. Then, Brent Wrapp drew a foul on the next possession. Before I learned to love this game, I really wanted him to hit both to end this game. Of course, Wrapp missed the first and made the second. Say hello to overtime No. 2, at 56-56.
OVERTIME 2: The Wolverines blow it again
Oh man, this overtime was even better. People are now fouling out left and right. There are more braindead turnovers. The legs are now gone, and yet the Wolverines keep trying. After blowing leads in two consecutive endgame sequences, Utah Valley did it again.
Ivory Young looked like he had saved the game for Utah Valley by hitting a clutch three with 1:30 left to put Utah Valley up 61-58. But no. No, we can’t have nice things. Why would you think, in this cruel and unforgiving world, that you deserve nice things. Roadrunners hit two free throws, but it’s okay, because Utah Valley has the ball up 61-60. Then Ivory Young gets called for a travel. Note: Utah Valley has now gotten TWO TRAVELING VIOLATIONS with the lead and the ball. So of course, CSU Bakersfield draws another foul and gets two more free throws.
But then Utah State refused to die. It was Cal State Bakersfield’s turn to commit an unforgivably stupid play with the lead and the ball. Airington missed a jumper with six seconds remaining. What does he do after Utah Valley’s Ivory Young pulls down the rebound? Airington fouls Young 80 feet from the basket with six seconds left, which is somehow even dumber than Scottie Lindsey fouling Thomas Bryant at the end of that Indiana game. This, of course, means that Utah Valley could win the game yet again.
Ivory Young missed the first free throw.
But he tied the game on the second, and we headed to overtime No. 3.
Back in elementary school, us third-graders would have the most incredible sporting contests. There were last second winners, near-fights, high drama—all the good stuff that had to fit within a 40-minute span because recess could never last long enough. I always wondered how our lunch monitors, impassive, watching over the high drama of third grade pickup soccer, could be so unmoved by these testaments to sport. That game of kickball that ended on a walkoff bunt single up the third base line meant everything. And yet the lunch monitors stood, eyes glazed over, waiting for the bell.
This broadcasting crew was the college basketball equivalent of elementary school lunch monitors.
Sometime during the second overtime, the broadcaster announced that she had booked a flight to Italy, and it might now have to be changed. How on earth is that relevant during a double-and-soon-to-be-quadruple-overtime basketball game? Don’t ask me.
OVERTIME 3: REAL IVORY YOUNG HOURS
So now Utah Valley hits a three on its first possession of overtime. This is good, but Cal State Bakersfield responds with a quick 5-0 run (quick by the standards of this game, in reality it took nearly 80 seconds). A series of bad shots and missed free throws later, it is now 67-69 in favor of Cal State Bakersfield. Zach Nelson somehow hits a layup to make it 69-69 (nice). Shon Briggs answers, Utah Valley misses two more shots and then has to foul down two with 35 seconds left.
At this point, I want the game to stay tied. Much like that legendary Kansas-Oklahoma game from last year, I’m rooting for any way we could see overtime No. 4. But my hopes are thin. Cal State Bakersfield can ice the game right here with two free throws. But once again, my mans Brent Wrapp is on the charity stripe. He missed the potential game-winning free throws at the end of overtime No. 1. Could he redeem himself?
No. He missed the first and made the second. Ivory Young rumbled back down the court and gets an incredible and-1 to make it 72-72. This was ridiculous. Ivory Young, yes, Ivory freakin’ Young, has just done the thing.
OVERTIME 4: THE MILLENNIALS HAVE TAKEN OVER
Whomever running the ESPN3 broadcast had a brain cramp and sent on a student sideline reporter who was barely coherent. She ranted for a solid minute about how “history was being made here in the WAC Conference Tournament”. She was very loud, and did her job effectively. I have no idea why I was laughing, but I laughed. Is that not one of the great joys in life? To laugh for no reason?
I have the WAC game streaming on the computer on mute, but I’m pretty sure I can still hear the sideline reporter.— Chris Dobbertean (@ChrisDobbertean) March 11, 2017
I have a conspiracy that, as they tend to do, “the millennials” briefly seized control of the broadcast due to their entitlement and participation trophies. Yes, the social media era is not suited to the extremely boring broadcast style of a middle-aged white man and woman with no chemistry talking like it’s a random European Tour event. They need loud events. They need buzzwords! Thus, when this very excitable young student journalist, very much like me, went off on the absurdity of the situation, I found it hilarious. It was 1,000 times better than Mike Greenberg at the Northwestern/Rutger game.
Anyway, this was now overtime No. 4, and guess what, Utah State took another early lead. How did they lose it this time? Well, this was the overtime period in which both teams remembered how to offense. The Roadrunners’ Damiyne Durham, who had not scored for the entire 55 minutes of basketball up to this point, scored five points to erase an Ogbe layup and put Cal State up 77-76. But our boy Ivory Young went down the court and hit two clutch free throws. Advantage Utah Valley, 78-77. But then Cal State Bakersfield scored on back-to-back possessions, something which happened very, very rarely in this game. 81-78 Roadrunners.
But then, CAL STATE GAVE UP ANOTHER AND-1 TO UTAH VALLEY WHILE UP THREE. So Andrew Bastien is now at the basket; he is tired, his body is tired, and he puts up the free throw, which agonizingly bounces around the rim before rattling out. Fittingly, there would be no more points scored in the final minute of game, despite the fact that the Roadrunners ended the game with three straight empty possessions. Our boy Ivory Young could not get a layup to go with two seconds left.
But it wasn’t over. Moataz Aly straight-up airballed a free throw on the other end. Then he missed the second intentionally and only burned off 0.7 seconds, leaving Utah Valley with another shot at a full court heave. But Conner Toolson was way short, and the game was over. They should’ve run the Taphorn to Pardon play.
119 rebounds, 57 fouls and 47 made baskets later, Utah Valley sealed its return to the Club for another year.
North Dakota beat Idaho 69-64. It wasn’t clinical and it wasn’t outstanding, but North Dakota got the job done. On the other side of the bracket, Weber State beat Eastern Washington and their big burly boy Bogdan Bliznyuk (remember when some people were nervous that EWU could beat Northwestern in non-conference play?). It will be North Dakota and Weber State playing for the Big Sky Championship.
We wave goodbye to Maryland Eastern Shore, who got throttled by North Carolina Central 79-49. This game is not worth discussing.
Grambling State fared much better in the all-Tigers matchup against Texas Southern, but fell just short. A 62-57 loss is a good result after you score 19 points in the first half, however.
UMKC fell off a cliff in the first half and lost 78-60 to New Mexico State. The WACtion, it is good.
And then UC Davis decided it would be a good idea to go to another overtime at around 1:00 a.m. CST. Great, thanks guys!
OVERTIME 5: MARCH NEVER SLEEPS
This was far more pleasant. After an exciting, back-and-forth overtime period, Chima Moneke snagged an air-balled shot and laid the ball in for a buzzer-beater over CSU-Fullerton. Hooray!
2:30 p.m. CST (CBS) - (6) Northwestern (39% chance to win) vs. (2) Wisconsin
You should have this on your agenda anyway.
7:30 p.m. CST (ESPN3): (1) North Dakota Fighting Hawks (50% chance to win) vs. (3) Weber State Wildcats
We have been waiting to add a third team officially out of the Never Made The Tourney Club, and North Dakota is our last good shot to get a third before Northwestern gets an at-large on Sunday. North Dakota defeated Weber State twice in the regular season. This game is still a toss-up according to KenPom, however, and we all know that if he says it’s a toss-up, it’s a toss-up.
10:30 p.m. CST (ESPN2): (2) UC Davis Aggies (33% chance to win) vs. (1) UC Irvine Anteaters
Here we go. The Championship. The Big One. The Anteaters vs the Aggies. Assonance reigns supreme in the Big West.
I love UC Irvine. I love their track record of building low-major teams around Large Adult Centers. I don’t love that they are what stand in the of my Aggies. I’m not going to say that it would be a good use of your time to stay up until midnight to watch this game. I can’t lie to you.
I will say that conference championships are awesome, no matter the quality of play. I don’t think UC Davis is going to win. They beat the Anteaters (it’s hard to write that over and over again without laughing) by 9 once this year, but they also lost by 30 just a few weeks ago. There isn’t a whole lot of room for optimism.
But hope springs eternal.
We are in danger of getting not one, not two, not three, not four, but five teams out of the club if Davis springs the upset and North Dakota holds serve. That would be historic. And I am here for it.
Teams that have escaped:
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:
Maryland Eastern Shore
Utah Valley (sobs)
UT Rio Grande Valley
Sam Houston State
Youngstown State (PENGUINSZN)
William and Mary
St. Francis (NY)