Presently, as I went on, still gaining velocity, the palpitation of night and day merged into one continuous greyness; the sky took on a wonderful deepness of blue, a splendid luminous color like that of early twilight; the jerking sun became a streak of fire, a brilliant arch, in space; the moon a fainter fluctuating band; and I could see nothing of the stars, save now and then a brighter circle flickering in the blue.
—H.G. Wells, The Time Machine
BEN: I really do enjoy doing these updates. The fact that a weird corner of college basketball internet gives a crap about the screeds Tristan and I write about Ohio Valley Conference basketball is both extremely bizarre to me and a dopamine drip, I can’t lie. It’s fun, it keeps me busy, and it lets me write words in a form that’s longer than 140 characters, which is always good, even if I’ve had to completely relearn it.
But I fear this is doing irreparable damage to my brain. Days are becoming increasingly hard to tell apart. Presbyterian games turn to Hartford games turn to Kennesaw State games with the lines in-between becoming immaterial. The Tribe are the Penguins are the Wildcats. There are no differences. They have all become one part of this great, interminable march of an omnipotent machine. I will document the travails of the group until the group is no more, though the Me that emerges from the end of the journey will not be the Me who began it.
March only comes ‘round once a year
For teams without futures, I cannot steer
their mascots to glory, their dreams to fame
I just watch the basketball games
Give me some of that sweet Summit League action!
We begin with the final remaining Founding Member of the Never Made The Tourney Club who came into the day with a chance to extend its season. It did not go well. Despite scoring a whopping 57 points in the second half, the William And Mary Tribe in truth were never really a threat to top seeded UNC-Wilmington and fell 105-94. There isn’t a whole lot to say about this game. Turns out defense is an important part of basketball. William and Mary returns with three other founding members: The Citadel, St. Francis (NY), and Army. The future doesn’t look exceedingly bright for any of these teams. While Northwestern makes its way into the NCAA Tournament in its season-long, public exorcism of its demons, spare a thought for the other Final Four. They will need all of your help.
The Northern Kentucky Norse have now become the next most likely NMTC members to make their escape this season. After Youngstown State’s huge upset over Oakland two days prior and Valparaiso’s loss against 10th seeded Milwaukee, the Norse have become favorites in the Horizon League. They avoided a slip up against Wright State thanks to a torrid offensive performance.
It was a slow first half for Northern Kentucky, but 53 second half points would prove decisive. Four of the Norse notched double figures and three more added at least seven. Those Norsemen roll deep.
TRISTAN: It is surely the power of Odin’s spear Gungir that propels them forward. I hope it does not end like the Danish invasion of England in 1066 that Harold Godwinson defeated (before he got hit in the eye by those damn Normans).
BEN: I do not have pithy remarks about medieval history or Norse mythology, so I will pass on that one.
South Dakota State’s Mike Daum was enough to take down the Denver Pioneers. He lit up Denver for 33 points to lead the way. A shame for Denver, and a shame for the Club. We could’ve been guaranteed an All-NMTC Summit Semifinal, but instead, the South Dakota Coyotes will have to get past the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State if they want to reach the Summit League championship and, eventually, the NCAA Tournament.
TRISTAN: The other Summit League game was crazy. We had NMTC on NMTC insanity as the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks put away the IPFW Mastodons. Nebraska-Omaha led for just 9:29 in this game, but that was all it needed to erase a nine-point halftime deficit. John Konchar’s 25 points for the Mastodons were not enough to save them from extinction. Two Mavericks messed around and got double-doubles and five topped 10 points.
Last Night’s MVP: Tre’Shawn Thurman (Nebraska-Omaha)
23 points (10/15 FGs, 2/3 3FGs), 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block
BEN: That’s one heck of an all around performance. You know you have it going on when, in a must-win playoff game, you decide to hit more than one three for the first time all season. Thurman, along with teammate Tra-Deon Hollins (13 points and 11 assists), was massive for Nebraska-Omaha who seem to be in a good position to make a run to the Summit League title game.
4:00 PM CST (ESPN3): (12) North Carolina A&T Aggies vs (5) Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks (79% chance to win via KenPom)
One of our three MEAC members (one of which, Savannah State, is not eligible for postseason play) gets started this afternoon as the Hawks take on the Aggies. This would be a tremendous let down for the Club if Maryland Eastern Shore lost this. North Carolina A&T ranks 349th in KenPom and got their first D1 win of the year in their last game of the regular season. Granted it was against the top team in the conference, but still, the Hawks should take care of business. The game did go to triple overtime when these teams met two weeks ago, though.
6:00 PM CST (ESPN3): (4) New Hampshire Wildcats (17% chance to win) at (1) Vermont Catamounts
Vermont, as we’ve said before, is the best team in the conference by leaps and bounds. Still, the Wildcats played the Catamounts tight during the regular season, and, if the past week has been any indication, top seeds are ripe for the picking. Can New Hampshire add a scalp on the road in a hostile environment? Almost assuredly not. But, hey, why not hope?
6:00 PM CST (ESPNU): (9) Youngstown State Penguins (22% chance to win) vs (4) Northern Kentucky Norse (78% chance to win)
TRISTAN: This game is between two NMTC teams that appreciate the cold. This is almost as exciting as when the Penguins of Madagascar...alright these jokes about 2000s kids’ movies are getting old. Instead, I shall lay out a difficult choice. Should you root for Northern Kentucky, who provides the best chance for another escapee, or PENGUIN SZN? Here’s a quick flowchart:
Do you like the North Pole? ——> Norse
Do you like the South Pole? ——> Penguins
Do you like both Poles equally? ——> root for the Ecuadorian men’s soccer team
6:00 PM CST (ESPN3): (4) South Dakota State Jackrabbits vs (1) South Dakota Coyotes (59% chance to win)
BEN: The Summit League is such a jumble that the Coyotes are still only a slightly better bet than a coin flip against their in-state rivals. Now I don’t know much about taxonomy, or biology, or food chains, but I’m pretty sure that a Coyote would absolutely ruin a Jackrabbit in combat. In that regard, this one shouldn’t be close.
TRISTAN: SDSU has been here before though, and that might be enough of a sports cliché to get the Jackrabbits over the line.
8:30 PM CST (ESPN3): (7) IUPUI Jaguars vs (3) Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (50% chance to win)
BEN: WHEW LAD. We’ve got a toss-up KenPom game!
TRISTAN: I can tell you why! In 1519, conquistador Cenon Pomeroí landed in Mexico, looking for riches to fund his true passion, advanced statistics for Renaissance card games. He wandered around the New World with Cortés, did some reckless plundering, and fought against anyone who crossed him. However, when he finally arrived at Tenochítlan, he made friends with an Aztec jaguar warrior. Unfortunately, this jaguar warrior was merely tricking Pomeroí into letting his guard down. The jaguar took back all of Pomeroí’s belongings and gave them back to their rightful owners. The jaguar then called Pomeroí a giant nerd and left Pomeroí in an Aztec jail cell until Cortés broke him out.
That’s why the Jaguars are getting so much respect despite their seeding.
BEN: IUPUI made mincemeat of the second seeded North Dakota State Bison in its first Summit League tournament game, so they’re certainly the hot team. We could be blessed to have our second all NMTC final of the year. Or we could be NMTC-less. The tension. It’s real.
Teams that have escaped:
JACKSONVILLE STATE, WHAT YOU THINK WE FORGOT, NAH HIT THE MUSIC AGAIN DJ.
Teams that will be back next year:
William and Mary
St. Francis (NY)