Teams poised to end NCAA tourney droughts
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
Is it March yet? Hardly. With the NCAA tournament far in the rearview mirror and Midnight Madness several months away, USA TODAY Sports examines several story lines for the 2013-14 college basketball season.
In the 2013 NCAA tournament, three of the four teams playing in the First Four matchups broke longstanding NCAA tournament bid droughts from the NCAAs. Middle Tennessee (1989), James Madison (1994) and North Carolina A&T (1995) all earned their first trip to the tournament after long hiatuses. To emphasize how long ago 1989 was: Michael Jackson was still topping the charts and New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits.
Although reaching the postseason — the NIT or other invitational tournaments — is considered a milestone for some schools, getting an invite to the Big Dance is the goal of practically every Division I school. And when teams do get there, you never know what could happen. (i.e. Florida Gulf Coast). Of course, there are the schools, such as Northwestern, that continue to suffer having never played in the NCAAs.
Heading into the 2013-14 season, there are plenty of teams once again poised eclipse NCAA tournament droughts. Here’s a look at those best positioned:
1. Stony Brook (Never): The Seawolves transitioned to Division I in 1999 and it’s been an uphill battle to compete in the America East, but coach Steve Pikiell has transformed the program since his hiring in 2005. Stony Brook has captured three of the past four regular-season conference titles and appeared in the conference tournament title two of the past three years, but they keep coming up short. “It’s like we hit two home runs having a strong non-conference record and winning the conference, but we haven’t hit that third home run yet,” Pikiell said. Well, the program’s first NCAA tournament is certainly in sight. Vermont will be a top challenger in the America East, but the Seawolves are in perfect position to earn an automatic bid, returning four starters from last year’s 25-8 squad, including Jameel Warney (12.4 ppg), Anthony Jackson (11.3 ppg) and Dave Coley (11.1 ppg).