For the second night in a row, one of the core four Futility schools participated in their inaugural 2018 post season game, and limited their post season to forty total minutes. Tonight, it was NEC quarter final night, and St. Francis NY never really provided much of a challenge for LIU losing by a final margin of 23 points. That makes our Mount Rushmore of Futility zero for two, and Thursday will be an off day before The Citadel jumps into Southern Conference Tournament action on Friday.
Elsewhere, in the OVC ladder tournament SIU Edwardsville dropped their opener against Tennessee Tech. It will be ten seasons of Division I play without an NCAA appearance for the Cougars. 29 of the 43 Futility schools are still alive
Toggling back to the NEC we had the first major seed upsets of the tournament, which was even more surprising given the top seed home court advantage the format provides, and the nearly .800 home court winning percentage those four teams collectively boasted. Nevertheless, while we just ticked into March officially, the seventh seed Robert Morris and the sixth seed Fairleigh Dickinson provided some magic. Both teams had two regular season losses against their opponents, but it was the third that mattered most, which was extra painful for St. Francis PA has this will now be 27 years without an NCAA tournament. That streak is currently 34th on the Drought list. Rough night for the holy franks.
Tennessee Tech is seventh on that list, and while it came at the expense of SIU Edwardsville, the Eagles live to see another day. Eastern Illinois similarly survived another day, but at the expense of Tennessee State and their now 24 year long streak of heartbreak.
Seven tournaments are in action tomorrow, including two for the first time this year. First we have semifinal action in the Atlantic Sun. Florida Gulf Coast is the overwhelming favorite and will take on North Florida. The other semifinal features a Futility school in Lipscomb against a Jacksonville team who hasn’t made the tournament since 1986.
Three leagues are in the quarterfinal rounds. The Big South resumes with action in Asheville, NC after first round campus sites. Gardner Webb will be looking to take a step toward their first NCAA appearance against a Winthrop team that is seemingly in the dance every year. Longwood, the ten seed, will look to continue their run against the second seeded Radford. Campbell and their dynamic guard Chris Clemons are looking for the first trip since 1992, and will take on Liberty in the nightcap. The game will follow the top seed UNC Asheville who will be hosting Charleston Southern who has not made the tournament since 1997.
The Patriot League is back in action again at campus sites for their final eight teams. Colgate is the second seed and will host Lafayette. The Raiders of Hamilton, NY have not made the NCAA since 1996 when Adonal Foyle took them to the promised land. Navy, who has not been in the brackets since 1998, will be hosting Holy Cross.
The Ohio Valley has two quarterfinal games on the schedule. The previously mentioned Tennessee Tech will start the action taking on the four seed Jacksonville State and March wizard Ray Harper. Eastern Illinois will look to take another step toward ending their own as they will face Austin Peay in the second game.
The Big Ten tips at noon in the Garden with four second round games. Rutgers avoided elimination tonight against Minnesota, and will take on Indiana tomorrow night. The Scarlet Knights own the longest drought in the Power Six conferences at 26 years and counting.
As for the new tournaments beginning play, the MAAC has three first round games tomorrow. Quinnipiac is in the middle game, hosting Siena, and looking for their first ever trip. Marist, the last place eleven seed, has less optimism but will be looking for their first return trip since 1987. The Red Foxes drew Fairfield, who is 61st on the Drought list having not went since 1997.
The Missouri Valley is our final conference in action tomorrow. Evansville and Missouri State are tied on the drought list with both teams in the 1999 NCAA field. The Aces will have Northern Iowa in the opening first round game. Missouri State will have Valparaiso in the following game.
Notable Games (predictions in italics, 3-1 last night, 2-2 from pending games previous night, 69-45 overall, 1 game pending from tonight)
Thursday's top five as I see them:
#5 Oregon State at Washington- Washington 73, Oregon State 71
#4 Marshall at UAB- UAB 78, Marshall 74
#3 Weber State at Montana- Montana 75, Weber State 70
#2 Virginia at Louisville- Virginia 67, Louisville 65