It’s probably difficult enough for Youngstown State to see their streak roll into year 37, for the moment tied for 10th longest among active teams who have not made an NCAA Tournament appearance. However it has to be extra painful when you’re being eliminated by a team in your part of the state that you’ve never really been able to get some traction against. Making matters worse was that you lose by one point, and time ticks away as two Penguins collide on a point blank offensive rebound that sends an errant carom frittering away. We only lost one team off the Futility list tonight, but it was in some gut wrenching fashion. 26 remain, including stalwart Citadel and Quinnipiac who picked up Friday wins.
It wasn’t just the conference tournaments sending teams to the junk pile. The Ivy League regular season completed another four games Friday night, and the result and tie-breaking permutations will not allow Brown to advance to the post-season four team tournament. The Bears have now missed every NCAA Tournament dating back to 1986, which is a top 30 active Drought.
Eleven brackets are in action tomorrow, with three tipping for the first time. The American East will be the busiest of the rookie brackets with four games at the higher seeds. Four of the eight teams have never been to the NCAA tournament. New Hampshire and Hartford will square off against each other, while Maine is at Vermont and UMass Lowell is at UMBC.
In Charleston, South Carolina the Colonial will initiate post season play with two first round games. Elon hasn’t made an NCAA tournament in their twenty years, and will draw Delaware on Saturday. Drexel one ups the Phoenix as their fourth NCAA appearance came 21 years ago on the shoulders of Malik Rose. The Dragons will have James Madison in the early game.
The Summit (or Badlands, pour one out for midmajority) splits their quarterfinals with the top two seeds in action Saturday night. Mike Daum and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits start us up against the Leathernecks of Western Illinois who will be searching for their inaugural trip to the NCAA Tournament. The second game includes two teams who have never made the brackets. Nebraska Omaha is still in the booster seat era of the Division I livelihood, and South Dakota is only slightly older, but as the second seed has a legitimate path to drop off this list.
The first ticket will be punched tomorrow night in the Ohio Valley Conference. It’s the top two seeds, with #1 Murray State and #2 Belmont making it through the ladder tournament. The two played just once this season, and it was a 79-72 win at home for Belmont. That Championship is on ESPN2 at 8pm.
Loyola Chicago is now in the semifinals and will face Bradley in Missouri Valley action Saturday. The top seeds last appearance was in 1985. Illinois State after their omission in last year’s bracket has also secured a semifinal berth, and will take on Southern Illinois in the second game. The Redbirds are looking to end a 19 year drought.
The Northeast Conference has its semifinals Saturday. Wagner is the top seed and seeking to snap a 14 year drought. They will host always pesky Robert Morris. LIU Brooklyn and Fairleigh Dickinson rounds out the bracket.
The Big Ten semifinals are an alliterative set of good basketball games. Michigan State and Michigan are the first game at the Garden as the Spartans try and secure a one seed. The other Big Ten team thinking possible one seed is Purdue and they have to deal with a Penn State team looking to beat any good team that isn’t coached by Chris Holtmann.
The Southern quarterfinals are Saturday and two of the matchups in particular are noteworthy to me. Certainly, topping that list is The Citadel who received stay number one on Friday night as they outlasted VMI. Their challenge increases exponentially tomorrow against the top seed UNC Greensboro who are looking for their first trip since 2001. The other matchup to highlight is the Furman and Western Carolina. The Paladins are 18th on the Drought list without a tournament appearance since 1980. The Catamounts don’t quite go back that far, but still with a fairly modest drought dating back to 1996.
The MAAC has the second half of their quarterfinals tomorrow and beware remaining top seeds Niagara and Iona. Friday night saw the one and two seeds disposed of and this automatic berth is wide open. Fairfield may have newfound hope as a result and the path to end their twenty year drought looks slightly more manageable as a result. In the bracket below, Iona is now my MAAC representative after the Canisius loss.
The West Coast quarterfinals will be held Saturday before an off day on Sunday. Loyola Marymount was successful on Friday night in advancing their drought to 28 years, but now must contend with reigning National Championship Runner-up Gonzaga. Pepperdine, last seen in the 2002 NCAA tournament, will be in a similar challenging position against the second seeded St Mary’s Gaels. San Franciso will also be in action and are staring at a 20 year drought without three wins in Las Vegas.
The Horizon continues their ladder tournament with quarterfinal games involving the top two seeds.
Teams With A Zero
Chicago State! We did not forget about you. In fact, here’s hoping the Vibes of March have begun to bloom in Chitown and instilled a confidence in this Cougar team. Saturday is the rematch with UMKC who won a few weeks ago 76-67 in Kansas City. The Machine says take the Roos 76-72, but the heart wants a win in the finale.
Winless (against Division I) teams (1): Chicago State.
Notable Games (predictions in italics, 3-2 tonight, 1-0 from pending games previous night, 77-48 overall, 0 game pending from tonight)
Saturday's top five as I see them:
#5 Penn State vs Purdue- Purdue 74, Penn State 70
#4 Nevada at San Diego State- San Diego State 76, Nevada 74
#3 Belmont vs Murray State- Murray State 73, Belmont 72
#2 North Carolina at Duke- Duke 81, North Carolina 75
#1 Michigan State vs Michigan- Michigan State 72, Michigan 68