The Never-Been-To-The-NCAA-Tournament Club: Northwestern and our 51 best friends

As you might have heard, I write a blog about Northwestern, a school that has had Division I basketball since before my parents were born, but has never been invited to that sport's defining tournament, featuring, as of this year, 68 teams every season.

As we know, everybody else finds this massively hilarious.

As we also know, the odds that changes this year are monumentally slim.

So I think it's time again this year to get familiar with our brethren: those other 50-plus schools who, like Northwestern, have never seen the promised land and its flowing milk, honey, and ability to pick your school in an office pool.

Conference tournaments start today, with the Horizon League and Big South conferences. Between now and next Sunday, Sippin' on Purple will get to know these 51 other schools. And I don't want us to just pass over them like a joke: I want you to seriously look at each one of them, and realize that, in hoops terms, they're our brothers. And that brotherhood means a lot. Looking at each of these teams should feel like taking a look in the mirror.

Next Sunday, some of these schools will have left. They'll have gotten up, gone over to the maitre d', and said, "YO, WHY'D YOU PUT ME AT THE KIDDIE TABLE" and been moved to sit with the adults. Maybe, just maybe, Northwestern will do that as well. Until then, we'll follow, with daily updates.The majority of these schools - in fact, probably all of them - don't have bloggers. For a couple weeks, I'm taking them under my wing.

This post features the list of the 52 schools, as well as which ones are in action today.

Three tourney-less bros kick off their tourney runs today. Things look... well, bleak. None of the three earned above a No. 7 seed, and due to their conference's tourney rules, all three will be on the road. Which is bad.

All predictions are from Kenpom.

Tuesday, March 1

6 p.m., Big South Tournament: No. 7 High Point Panthers (11-18, 7-11, kenpom ranking 315) @ No. 2 Liberty Flames (19-12, 13-5, kenpom ranking 223

Our squad: High Point.

High Point's chances today: 12.7 percent.

High Point's chances of winning the conference tourney: .1 percent.

Something High Point has going for them: The name is pretty optimistic. You could say this is the high point of their season, eh? (i wish i was dead)

Some things High Point distinctly does not have going for them: They have no signature wins, lost to Liberty twice, and the last game of their regular season was a loss to Gardner-Webb (wait for more about them), the No. 8 team in the conference, by a score of 64-40 in a 65 possession game. That's not a good offense.

Reasons to irrationally hate Liberty: The school was founded by Jerry Falwell, who by all indications is a racist jerk, was so bad that Seth Curry went "man, going here is probably worse than going to Duke", and convinced Drew Crawford once upon a time that shooting a lot was a good idea. They also named their school after a very-difficult-to-dislike concept, like they have a friggin copyright on it. Jerks.

Wanna watch it? Seriously?: It's on ESPN3, for reasons I can't comprehend.

6 p.m., Big South Tournament: No. 8 Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs (11-20, 6-12, kenpom ranking 274) @ No. 1 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (26-4, 16-2, kenpom ranking 96)

Our squad: Gardner-Webb.

Gardner-Webb's chances today: 6.8 percent.

Gardner-Webb's chances of winning the conference tourney: .4 percent.

Something Gardner-Webb has going for them: First off, hyphens. Second off there's one team G-Dub has a chance of knocking off, it's Coastal Carolina: Coastal Carolina has had a phenomenal year, after early losses to an equally good College of Charleston team and Georgetown, they ran off 22 straight wins. However, when the Bulldogs went to... wherever Coastal Carolina is on February 15, they left with one of the less likely victories in all college hoops this year: a 59-57 win over the Chants, ruining their hopes of a perfect conference slate. In their other matchup, Lil Webbie also pushed CC to the limit, losing by a slim margin of 58-55. They have to hope lightning strikes for a third time, enabling them to place close with a significantly better team.

Something they don't have going for them: They probably shouldn't be in the conference tournament to begin with: top eight teams from the Big South make the tournament, Gardner-Webb finished ninth out of ten, but provisional member Presbyterian - go Blue Hose! - was ineligible to make the tournament.

Reason to irrationally hate Coastal Carolina: Even the dude who was like "hey, we should name our teams 'the Chanticleers'" was clearly doing so for no good reason. Chanticleer comes from the French for "sing clear" and is apparently a rooster. Also, "North" and "South" are the only two acceptable Carolinas. Jerks.

Wanna watch it? Seriously: This one's also on ESPN3.

7 p.m., Horizon League Tournament: No. 10 Youngstown State Penguins (9-21, 2-16, kenpom ranking 252) vs. No. 4 Valparaiso Crusaders (21-10, 12-6, kenpom ranking 104)

Our squad: Youngstown State

Youngstown State's chances today: 8.9 percent

Youngstown State's chances of winning the conference tourney: .01 percent. (Yes, .01. Thanks, kenpom.)

Something Youngstown State has going for them: The film "March of the Penguins" won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. They also had a very improbable win against Butler and took Valpo to OT.

Some things Youngstown State does not have going for them: This game is on the road, at Valpo. Youngstown State's road record: 0-13. (In their defense, they were 9-8 at home. Not bad! They will not have any more home games this year.)

Reasons to irrationally hate Valparaiso: Everything about Bryce Drew. Coach's son, hit a huge game-winner yes, then parlayed that into a brief (and completely undeserved) NBA career and now a gig as an assistant coach for Valpo.

 

So that's that for today. Now on to the list. I'll divide it every day into three groups: In the tournament, still alive, and done for the season.Obviously, no teams are in the tournament yet. So we just have two categories - for today, and today only, I'll give a brief explanation for the teams that are done. As far as I can tell, this is the only list on the internet of the teams never to make the NCAA tournament, so, enjoy it.

Remember, last year, this post was called "the 55": Wofford and Arkansas-Pine Bluff made the tourney, meaning they left the club. And Winston-Salem dropped down to D-II, so they're also out, because this only refers to current D-I schools. I don't believe any additional schools became fully-fledged D-I members, so I didn't add any additional schools.

And yes, any of these teams could hypothetically get at-large bids. But it's unbloody likely.

Northwestern Wildcats, Big Ten

High Point Panthers, Big South

Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs, Big South

Youngstown State Penguins, Horizon

UC-Davis Aggies, Big West

Cal Poly Mustangs, Big West

UC-Riverside Highlanders, Big West

UC-Irvine Anteaters, Big West

Grambling State Tigers, SWAC

Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks, MEAC

Norfolk State Spartans, MEAC

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, MEAC

Buffalo Bulls, MAC

San Jose State Spartans WAC

Quinnipiac Bobcats,NEC

St. Francis Terriers, NEC

Northern Colorado Bears, Big Sky

Army Black Knights, Patriot League,

The Citadel Bulldogs, Southern Conference

William and Mary Tribe, CAA

Maine Black Bears, America East

New Hampshire Wildcats, America East

Stony Brook Seawolves, America East

Hartford Hawks, America East

Denver Pioneers, Sun Belt

Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks, OVC

Elon Phoenix, Southern,

Kennesaw State Owls, Atlantic Sun

Lipscomb Bison, Atlantic Sun

North Florida Ospreys, Atlantic Sun

IPFW Mastodons, Summit

South Dakota State Jackrabbits, Summit

 

GONE BABY GONES

Centenary Gentlemen, Summit. Double whammy for the Gents: the first reason they don't qualify for this year's tourney is that they were last in the Summit, where only the top eight teams make the tourney. The second is that this is Centenary's final year at the Division I level, meaning they won't take place in any postseason play, including the conference or NCAA Tourney. Sadly, that also means that even if no team makes the NCAA Tournament from this list, NU will lose a member from its club: Centenary is waving the white flag and receding to Division III without ever going dancing. Somewhere, Robert Parish weeps. Somewhere, Robert Parish weeps hard.

Western Illinois Leathernecks, Summit. Yeah, they placed better than Centenary, but they were still ninth in a conference that needed you to finish top eight to make the tourney. And yes, in case you're wondering, Centenary's only win in a 1-17 conference season was against Western Illinois. You guessed it.

Stetson Hatters, Atlantic Sun: Eight teams make the A-Sun tourney. The Hatters have a lot to be mad about, as they were in a three-way tie for eighth, of which two teams - Campbell and no-tourney bro Kennesaw State - made the conference tourney. Reason: Campbell was 8-22, Stetson, 8-23. That'll teach you to schedule that extra game (when you aren't very good.)

Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, Atlantic Sun: They're a provisional member of the conference, so even though they finished seventh, therefore better than Stetson could muster and therefore worthy of a conference tournament bid provided to the top eight teams, they weren't allowed to participate in the tourney.

USC-Upstate Spartans, Atlantic Sun: Actually the exact same scenario, except USC-Upstate finished last in the A-Sun. Yes, worse than Stetson.

Sacramento State Hornets, Big Sky: It seems pretty silly to me that in a conference with nine teams, the top six make the conference tourney, instead of just having an 8-9 play-in game. It seems especially silly to Sacramento State, who is currently in a tie for eighth with no hopes of getting to sixth in their final regular season game.

Sacred Heart Pioneers, NEC: For the second consecutive year, the Pioneers pioneered their way to tenth place - they needed it to be top eight to make a conference tourney.

Jacksonville State Gamecocks, OVC: The Gamecocks are not as good as the no-tourney bros on the UT-Martin Skyhawks, who booked an 8-seed to the OVC. Out of eight. Jacksonville State finished the year a pitiful 5-25, good for last in the conference.

Central Arkansas Bears, Southland: The fact that my first ever college basketball game featured Scottie Pippen's alma mater wasn't enough to keep them from being deadlast in the Southland for a second straight year, which is weird, because I'm pretty certain Southland sounds like a cop TV show on like TNT or something and not a conference. So it's impressive they went 1-13 and didn't get into the conference tourney.

Great West schools: The Great West is probably the second-worst conference in the nation. Thank goodness for the SWAC. Anyway, since it's a contrived hodgepodge of formerly independent schools ranging from New Jersey (note: not in the west) to North Dakota, the NCAA considers it a provisional conference in basketball. That means no bid to the NCAA tournament. The CIT, the uber-crappy fourth-best postseason tournament that doesn't allow bids to major conference schools, said that the Great West's winner gets an auto bid as an attempt at legitimacy. But that's dumb. And since North and South Dakota have both promised to move on to, you know, conferences that get you into the NCAA's, I'd doubt this conference ever earns an auto bid. (And none of them have an RPI higher than 255, so, at-large, yeah, not happening.)

Texas Pan-American Broncos Great West

NJIT HIghlanders, Great West

North Dakota Fighting Sioux, Great West

South Dakota Coyotes, Great West

Utah Valley State Wolverines, Great West

Chicago State Cougars, Great West

Independents: Tough to get into the NCAA when there's literally no possibility of you getting an autobid and when your schedule is a hodgepodge of other independent schools, and no independent school has an RPI over 264. Also, when nobody good plays for your school because it's independent.

NC Central Eagles, independent

Savannah State Tigers, Independent

SIU-Edwardsville Cougars, Independent

Longwood Lancers, Independent

Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners, Independent

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