10 NCAA Tournament Teams From Last Year That Won’t Be Dancing in 2013
Who Won't Be Back to the Dance In 2013?
March Madness is an animal like no other in sports. It's a rewarding, humbling, exhilarating, and for some a once in a lifetime opportunity. For household names like the Duke Blue Devils and Kansas Jayhawks, it's almost a right of passage. Almost. For lesser known teams like the Lehigh Mountain Hawks or Iona Gaels, a chance to dance in March is something the student-athletes treasure and it's certainly not something they take for granted. They fight tooth and nail. Every game of the season matters for these guys. The opportunity to lace 'em up in March against the big boys of college basketball, that's what they live for--they cherish the "underdog" role. It's not unfair, it's reality, and lot of schools in smaller conferences might only get one chance, so they've got to make it count.
This is where scheduling comes in. Big money is thrown around in college basketball. In the 2011-2012 season, for example, the Ohio State Buckeyes paid the Valparaiso Crusaders $110,000 for a game in November. Ohio State won, 80-47. Valpo won 25 games the previous year, so for them to go to Columbus and have a chance to knock off the Buckeyes and get $110,000, how could they turn it down. For small schools this money helps supplement the budget, or the coach may get the guaranteed money, and sometimes it simply goes to the school's endowment. Wherever it goes, it's worth it for the opportunity for David to slay Goliath. And if they do, they get a huge win and a big check.
Here's ten schools--both big and small--who danced in 2012 but have underachieved or simply haven't shown enough in 2013 to warrant serious consideration.
2011-2012 Record: 20-14; 2012-2013 Record: 11-3
This is really the only school everyone knows will definitely not be dancing in March. Due to sanctions handed down by the NCAA for academic performance, they're ineligible for postseason play this year. First year coach Kevin Ollie has UConn playing hard every game despite their end game being nil in 2013. Ollie just received a contract extension to the tune of five years, seven million dollars, so he's not going anywhere. And neither is UConn. They'll prove once again that they're a national force.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
2011-2012 Record: 16-19; 2012-2013 Record: 10-7
Western Kentucky isn't nearly as bad as they were last season, when they entered the Sun Belt Conference tournament with an 11-19 record. To their credit, after a coaching change midway through the year, they got hot and after running the table in the conference playoff, headed to Dayton for a First Four game against the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils. The Hilltoppers are a veteran-laden team, however, with point guard Jamal Crook running the offense. Despite all the upper class leadership, the class of the Sun Belt so far seems to be Middle Tennessee State.
South Dakota State Jackrabbits
2011-2012 Record: 27-8; 2012-2013 Record: 11-6
The Jackrabbits sure tried to shock the world last March in their second round game with Baylor, eventually falling 68-60. This year they already have as many losses in the Summit League (3) as they did all of last season. Though sharp-shooter and do-it-all guard Nate Wolters and his 20+ points per game is back for another run at the NCAA Tournament, SDSU just doesn't seem to stack up to the rest of the competition in the league. Western Illinois has raced to the top of the conference with a 5-0 mark and it's still too early to tell how it'll shake down, but my money is on the Leathernecks of Western Illinois or rival North Dakota State.
2011-2012 Record: 22-13; 2012-2013 Record: 7-8
On one hand, Purdue could miss the tournament because of how good the Big Ten Conference is this year. On the other, Purdue could make the tournament because of how good the Big Ten Conference is this year. If they can remain competitive and win a few games on the road, they've got a chance. Junior guard Terone Johnson has no problem firing up shots, as is evident by his 15+ field goal attempts in five of their 14 games this season--they're 2-3 in those games. He needs a lot of shots (12.5/game) to get his points (13.4/game) and shoots it at a low percentage (39%). He's the man when they've got the ball, but the rest of the Big Ten knows that and the surrounding cast just isn't there for the Boilermakers.
Lehigh Mountain Hawks
2011-2012 Record: 27-8; 2012-2013 Record: 10-4
Lehigh was the darling of the dance last year after knocking off the Duke Blue Devils in the second round thanks in part to their stud, C.J. McCollum. If you haven't heard, McCollum fractured his left foot and is expected to miss 8-10 weeks, essentially ending his college career. I'm sure he'll do everything he can to get back on the court but at the same time he can't compromise his potential future in the NBA. Without him, the Mountain Hawks are just your average run-of-the-mill college basketball team and with the Patriot League schedule set to begin, that's not a good thing.
Long Island Blackbirds
2011-2012 Record: 25-9; 2012-2013 Record: 5-9
LIU ripped through the Northeast Conference last year en route to a second round matchup with Michigan State. They were an offensive machine, putting up better than 81 points per game but that number has dipped. They can still get up and down the floor with the best of them, but when it comes to playing the best of them, they fall short. Very short. Kentucky beat them by 29, Seton Hall sent them to a 31-point loss, and Maryland took care of them by 17. Granted, the NEC isn't the cream of the crop, but Wagner is showing its staying power atop the conference.
New Mexico State Aggies
2011-2012 Record: 26-10; 2012-2013 Record: 8-8
The Aggies were the preseason favorite to win the Western Athletic Conference in 2012-2013 so maybe I'm crazy for saying they won't actually win it. Having only one scorer--junior guard Daniel Mullings--is never the recipe for success, unless he leads the nation in scoring a la Lehigh and McCollum. Defenses will focus on Mullings forcing the other guys to beat them. The question the Aggies want answered is can those other guys make shots when they need to. Utah State is 4-0 in conference, has three legit scoring options in Preston Medlin, Jarred Shaw and Kyisean Reed and shoots nearly 50% from the floor. This doesn't bode well for the rest of the WAC, as this is primarily a one bid league.
2011-2012 Record: 25-11; 2012-2013 Record: 6-6
The Commodores just don't have the same mojo they had a year ago. They lost three straight earlier in the season with losses to Oregon, Davidson, and Marist. An SEC school should never lose to a MAAC school. Ever. Kedren Johnson is a beast but their lack of a true point guard will come back to haunt them come tourney time. A lack of fluidity on offense is what's holding them back--they average a paltry 59.7 points per game and that's not going to get it done in 2013. And before I forget, as the salt in the proverbial wound, they aren't even ranked in the top 200 in any of the four major team offensive categories (points, rebounds, assists, FG%).
2011-2012 Record: 22-10; 2012-2013 Record: 11-4
Virginia is 11-4 overall with a win over North Carolina in the ACC opener and I think they're not a tournament team, huh? I must be crazy. I beg to differ. They followed up the big win against the Heels with a stinker against a Wake Forest team that has struggled for years. The Cavaliers have a hard time scoring and rebounding the basketball but the silver lining is they're in a wide open, abnormally average ACC, with Duke as the lone exception, but the injury to Ryan Kelly can change that in a hurry.
2011-2012 Record: 25-8; 2012-2013 Record: 10-6
Iona is a team that scares a lot of people but after seeing their collapse in their First Four game with BYU last year, I'm not so sure I'm a believer. They can score plenty of points (81.3 ppg) and they play in a conference (MAAC) that's simply average. This bodes well for the Gaels right? They sit at the top of the conference with a 4-1 mark and are getting hot so if there was one team I'd be a little more confident wouldn't bail on the dance in 2013, it's them. Arizona transfer Lamont Jones averages almost 23 points per game and in the MAAC, that can carry a team to the dance. It's just so hard to repeat in this conference. Not since Siena won three straight MAAC titles from 2008-2010 has a team repeated. Last year Loyola won the conference tournament but Iona got an at-large bid. This year, it's win or go home.