The Futility list took a beating today as we lost eight schools and now only have 18 of the 43 still in postseason contention. Several long suffering schools included in those eliminated by their conference foes, and most notable is that The Citadel is the third of the four schools who will roll into 80 consecutive years of not making the NCAA tournament. Only William and Mary remain alive in 2018.
Also faltering on Saturday was Maine (0-56), New Hampshire (0-39), Western Illinois (0-37), Elon (0-21), Sacred Heart (0-19), Nebraska Omaha (0-7), and Abilene Christian (0-5). All but Abilene Christian were via Conference Tournament games. The Wildcats were edged out by the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders in a Southland tiebreaker for the final spot in that Tournament.
Similar to the postseason tournament displacement that plagued Abilene Christian, many of the updates on the Drought list were resulting from the music ending and no conference chairs were left. Columbia will celebrate the golden anniversary of their last NCAA appearance after failing to make the Ivy League plus one tournament.
All but two schools make the Conference USA tournament, but UTEP faltered just enough to allow Rice hope before slamming the door shut on Friday. This ensures 48 years will pass since Rice was in the 1970 NCAA Tournament. McNeese was also left out in the Southland, and will see their drought hit 16 years as a result.
Western Carolina got obliterated by Furman in SoCon tourney action, and will mark 22 years since their last NCAA.
We dial it back a notch tomorrow with just ten conference tournaments in action as we begin to prepare for the final crescendo of activity next week. No new tournaments begin, but four championships will be doled out.
The Missouri Valley Championship will end a drought for one fan base. The one seed Loyola Chicago is potentially in proximity of the bubble, but likely needs a win which makes an at large moot. They have not been in the brackets since 1985. Their opponent is none other than last year’s slighted Illinois State Redbirds, who are looking to return for the first time since 1998. The Valley always seems to deliver, albeit at a pace less than desired, but this should be a fun one.
The Atlantic Sun Championship is between the perennial representative Florida Gulf Coast and a team looking for their first ever NCAA in the Lipscomb Bison. Radford and Liberty will decide the Big South Championship, while Purdue and Michigan will complete the trilogy in the Big Ten Championship.
Several league semifinals are scheduled for Sunday. The Patriot League returns and Colgate will be looking to move into the finals for a chance to end their drought at 21 years. They will be hosting Holy Cross, while Bucknell hosts Boston University on the other side.
The Southern Conference has a little intrigue in both games. UNC Greensboro is the top seed, and looking to end 16 years of misses with two more wins. They will be up against Fletcher Magee and Wofford. In the other semifinal, Furman is bringing a 37 year drought with them and will have to get past East Tennessee State to keep that from growing.
The MAAC is utterly ridiculous but equally fun. The seeds in these semifinal games are the 4, 6, 7 and 9. Quinnipiac is the seven seed, and have never made the tournament. To get to that finals, they’ll need to knock off the six seeded Fairfield. The Stags motivation will be the 20 year NCAA drought they have to their resume. St. Peter’s and Iona are your nine and four seeds respectively.
The Colonial has our last hope for 2018, William & Mary. The Tribe are the four seed, and drew Towson in the quarterfinals as they begin their quest to avoid the same fate as Army, St. Francis NY, and The Citadel. Towson isn’t exactly a March name either, with their last appearance coming in 1991. The top seed is the College of Charleston who are looking for their first tournament trip in the 2000s. They will take on Drexel who won the play-in game on Saturday. Hofstra is the three seed and also carrying a relatively lengthy drought at 16 years.
Finally a couple latter half ladder quarterfinal matchups. In the Horizon, IUPUI takes the postseason court for the first time this year trying to snap their drought at 14 years. The Jaguars have Oakland in Detroit, which presumably will be a difficult out. In the Summit, Denver is seeking their first ever trip and will get six seeded Oral Roberts in South Dakota. Fort Wayne is also looking for their first banner, and will need to get past the always tough North Dakota State to advance.
Notable Games (predictions in italics, 4-1 tonight, 0-0 from pending games previous night, 81-49 overall, 0 game pending from tonight)
Sunday's top five as I see them:
#5 Liberty at Radford- Radford 67, Liberty 64
#4 Lipscomb at Florida Gulf Coast- Florida Gulf Coast 80, Lipscomb 74
#3 East Tennessee State vs Furman- Furman 73, East Tennessee State 72
#2 Michigan vs Purdue- Purdue 72, Michigan 69
#1 Cincinnati at Wichita State- Cincinnati 72, Wichita State 71