Going home so soon?
It happens, especially the past week. While the big name conference tournaments now get the floor, it’s the other leagues where NCAA tournament hopes steadily fall away, like leaves off the trees back in November. Look at some of the victims from one week.
Loyola Chicago is gone.
Only 334 days after the Ramblers played in the Final Four and the college basketball world could not get enough of Sister Jean, they shot under 36 percent and lost 53-51 to Bradley in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. The close ones, they won last March. Marques Townes, Clayton Custer and Cameron Krutwig – three mainstays of the Final Four run -- combined for only 23 points. “We got a taste of it last year. We had a goal, and we didn’t reach it,” Custer said. “And that hurts a lot.”
Campbell is gone.
The Camels were upset at home 79-74 by Gardner-Webb in the Big South semifinals. So while Chris Clemons has climbed to fourth on the Division I all-time career scoring list, he won’t make a single basket in the NCAA Tournament. Then again, neither did No. 1 scorer Pete Maravich. One team’s broken heart is another team’s dream come true. Gardner-Webb ended up with its first NCAA Tournament bid in school history.
South Dakota State is gone.
Mike Daum followed Clemons onto the 3,000-point club and wished only to cap off a golden career with a fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Jackrabbits seemed on course as the No. 1 seed in the Summit League. Then they were shocked 79-76 by eighth-seeded Western Illinois, a team they had beaten by 42 and 20 points during the regular season. Daum took only 10 shots and scored 16 points, nearly 10 below his average. “To be blunt, it sucks,” Daum said afterward. “It really sucks.”
Furman is gone.
Remember when the Paladins were in the top-25 with a 12-0 start, including an overtime win at Villanova? UNC Greensboro sent them to the exit 66-62 in the Southern Conference.
Detroit Mercy is gone.
So is the nation’s top freshman scorer and third overall. Antoine Davis’ 30 points could not stop a 99-88 loss to Northern Kentucky in the Horizon League, but it was still his ninth 30-plus game, and the school hadn’t seen anything like that in 31 years. Davis finished with a 26.1 average and the most 3-pointers – 132 – ever for a freshman.
High Point is gone.
The Panthers came from 19 down in the second to trail by two, but lost in the end to Gardner-Webb 75-69. That means Tubby Smith is still trying to become the first man ever to coach six different schools into the NCAA Tournament.
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Indiana State is gone.
This was a landmark year for the Sycamores; the 40th anniversary of the Larry Bird national championship game team. Things have changed. The finished 15-16 with a 77-55 thud in the Missouri Valley tournament against Valparaiso, a team they beat twice during the season. This makes five consecutive losing seasons at Bird’s old place, and athletic director Sherard Clinkscales did not mince words when talking to the Terre Haute Tribune-Star: “I hear a lot about the apathy and cynicism of our fans. I can’t dispute that when we have what happened yesterday.”
Florida Gulf Coast is gone.
The remarkable Sweet 16 March of 2013 seems a long time ago. Recession has hit Dunk City. The 14-18 Eagles lost for the first time ever in the quarterfinal of the Atlantic Sun, 83-78 to NJIT. “I’ve been doing this awhile and have never faced this much adversity in one season from an injury standpoint to guys having to play out of position,” said coach Michael Fly.
Stony Brook is gone.
The Seawolves began the season by rallying from 22-0 down to beat George Washington in overtime, and three days later stunning South Carolina. They lasted one game as No. 2 seed in the America East tournament, losing 78-72 to a seventh-seeded Binghamton team they already had beaten by 26 and 13 points.
St. Francis Brooklyn, William & Mary, Army and The Citadel are all gone.
They’re the last four original Division I schools to never play in the NCAA Tournament, and it didn’t take long to find out none of them would be graduating from that club soon. Combined, they went 0-4 in their league tournaments.
That included St. Francis losing 69-65 in overtime to Robert Morris after leading 37-22 at halftime in the Northeast . . . William & Mary up 14 at halftime but being ousted by Delaware 85-79 in the Colonial . . . and Army holding the nation’s best 3-point shooting team – Lehigh – to 4-for-23 from behind the arc, but still losing 75-70 in the Patriot League.
Samford briskly sent The Citadel home in the Southern 100-71. If it’s any consolation for the Bulldogs, and all the others above, they'll have lots of company.