DU Men’s Hoops looks to exit ignominious club

Every year we write the story and hope we never have to again.

Last season saw five programs leave the Never Made the Tournament Club (NMTC). Jacksonville State, Northern Kentucky, North Dakota, UC-Davis, and, yes, Northwestern all danced for the first time at the NCAA’s March Madness.

Northwestern, DU’s sister school, once the defining member of the club, is gone, replaced by new member Grand Canyon in their first year of postseason eligibility as the odds-on-favorite of the current NMTC members to make the NCAA Tournament. The remaining oldest D-I members of the club, Army, St. Francis (NY), William & Mary, and The Citadel are the only schools who, in consecutive seasons since 1943, have been unable to make the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, Denver, which started playing basketball in 1904, is a member of the club, too, but exited Division I play for 20 years, escaping national scrutiny as one of the oldest programs to not receive an invitation. 

DU began playing basketball in 1904, playing primarily regional schedules until after WWII, when it became an NCAA independent Division I program until 1979. In 1979, under financial pressure, DU joined the NAIA where it played until 1992 when it joined the NCAA again as a Division II program. In 1999, the program returned to NCAA Division I, when it became a member of the Sun Belt Conference until 2012 when it joined the Western Athletic Conference for one season before joining the Summit League in 2013. DU Basketball was unable to win a conference tournament since that time.

Could this be the year when Denver leaves the NMTC  club?

Denver was picked by Summit League coaches to finish 5th in the League this season but exceeded expectations and finished alone in 3rd place. They are on a four-game winning streak entering the tournament. After a shaky start, Denver is playing their best basketball at the right time.

But it will be a difficult task. Denver must go on the road and, most likely, beat league co-favorites South Dakota and South Dakota State on essentially their home floor in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. An optimistic head coach Rodney Billups said, “We can beat any team in the league.” But, as the Pioneers have shown this season, Denver is also capable of falling to nearly any team in the league, too.

Comprehensive Never Made the Tournament Club Class of 2018

America East: Hartford Hawks, Maine Black Bears (Maine is the only state in the contiguous United States to have never experienced March Madness), New Hampshire Wildcats, UMass Lowell River Hawks

Atlantic Sun: Kennesaw State Owls, Lipscomb Bisons, NJIT Highlanders, South Carolina Upstate Spartans, Stetson Hatters (Great name!)

Big Sky: Sacremento State Hornets

Big South: Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs, High Point Panthers, Longwood Lancers, Presbyterian Blue Hose (Another great name!)

Big West: US Riverside Highlanders

CAA: William & Mary Tribe, Elon (Musk) Phoenix

Horizon League: Youngstown State Penguins

MAAC: Quinnipiac Bobcats

MEAC: Bethune-Cookman Wildcats,  *Savannah State Tigers, Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks

Northeast Conference: Bryant Bulldogs, St. Francis (NY) Terriers, Sacred Heart Pioneers (Not another one!)

Ohio Valley Conference: SIU-Edwardsville Cougars, Tennessee-Martin SkyHawks

Patriot League: Army Black Knights (Won the right to go to the NCAA’s but elected to go to the NIT because NYC has great bars)

SoCon: The Citadel Bulldogs

Southland Conference: Abilene Christian Wildcats, Central Arkansas Bears, Incarnate Word Cardinals

SWAC: Grambling Tigers

Summit: Denver Pioneers, Fort Wayne Mastodons, Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, South Dakota Coyotes (South Dakota State keeps getting in the way), Western Illinois Leathernecks

WAC: Chicago State Cougars, Grand Canyon Antelopes (A cinch to go in their first year of eligibility in this horrible conference), Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros, Utah Valley Wolverines, UMKC Kangaroos

Teams Returning for 2019

Grambling Tigers (Academically ineligible)

*Savannah State is playing their final D1 season due to financial issues and has their last, unlikely, chance to break into March Madness

Later this week, Chris Shockey will be leading a Summit League pre-tournament podcast for LetsGoDU on DU’s chance to leave the NMTC club this season. The Pioneers face Oral Roberts Sunday night at 7:30 pm MT in Sioux Falls, SD.

(EDITORS NOTE: The is the first time ‘ignominious’ has ever been used in a LetsGoDU article.)

9 thoughts on “DU Men’s Hoops looks to exit ignominious club”

  1. I am an absolute realist. Our best chances in recent years were 2012 in Sun Belt and 2013 in WAC. Two years ago, Rosga choked on a FT that sealed Joe Scott’s fate. Last year, we had zero chance to run the table.
    But, but, but this year, maybe, just maybe, we get that DU mojo working. Maybe we have a run in us this year. We’re capable, we just need to be firing on all cylinders for three straight games.
    Couple of comments: I’m surprised Western Illinois has never gone dancing, as they’re roots go deep. Also, I beg to differ on GCU as a near lock for the WAC. My money is still on NMSU until proven otherwise.
    All in all, this is a fun time of year for hoops fans and it’s great to know that we have at least have a puncher’s chance. The Road to Dayton begins!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Our “Puncher’s chance” would be better if Arnold Rothstein owned all the punchers. Seriously, last place conference teams sometimes win their tournaments. That is why the small tournaments can be very exciting.
      PDNJ- I went to the WAC tournament when we lost to last place Texas State in the 1st round. It was crushing. We were never in the ball game.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. CD, that Texas State game was brutal. I was commuting home on a bus following on the ESPN score app and at some point late in the game the person in charge of updating had reversed a basket for DU when it should’ve gone to TSU. At the end of regulation I thought it was a tie game only to realize several minutes later when there was no OT. Cue the sad trombones.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. NMSU v Grand Canyon is a very attractive match-up. Former Phoenix Sun Dan Marjle coaches GCU, a for-profit school that is relatively new and making big bucks. NASDEX took action on them before Las Vegas bookies.


  2. Great fun read. So from that list, only 2 schools have ever won NCAA Division 1 National Championships. DU has 31 or so among 3 sports. I believe Army won 3 Football championships with their Heisman Trophy winners: Blanchard, Davis, and Dawkins. A little Heisman trivia I’m sure everyone wants to know which I picked up in Final Jeopardy a few years ago:: Answer:This man coached 7 different colleges and is immortalized by a trophy. Question: Who is John Heisman. I guessed correctly. Contestants said Bear Bryant and Vince Lombardi.


  3. I think DU can get through their side of the bracket and even play South Dakota well. Denver blasted them at Magness. Also, it would help if SDSU got upset on the other side of the bracket against Ft. Wayne – not an impossibility. While we do not line-up well against either SDSU or Ft. Wayne, at least the building will be neutral.

    The concern in round one is Oral Roberts big men. Six of their players are over 6’8″ and Albert Owens is a beast.

    Liked by 1 person

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