By CHRIS MACKOWIAK
A heart-wrenching loss welcomes the Salisbury men’s basketball team into Selection Monday for a second-straight year. On Saturday, the Sea Gulls made the three-hour journey to Newport News, Va. to face their rivals for a third time this season.
The 2017 Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) was fitting of the rivalry once again. Senior center Tim Daly nailed a jumper just inside the arc with 1.2 seconds left in regulation to give CNU the 63-62 lead. A quarterback pass down the court from SU freshman center Nick Gittings could not find a recipient and the Sea Gulls looked on as the Captains celebrated a second-straight CAC title.
Since CNU joined the CAC from the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) in the 2013-14 season, Salisbury is 5-7 against the Captains, including 1-5 over the last two seasons. Five of those last six contests between the two teams finished with a margin of two points or lower, including two overtime games.
While Salisbury displayed a strong effort on Saturday, it does not change the fact that the Sea Gulls now have an uncertain future come Monday. Christopher Newport claims the CAC’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Now, Salisbury must hope that their resume is enough this season to get over the hump for an at-large bid.
As we head into Selection Monday, below I have listed the current winners of automatic bids (conference champions), the conference championships still to be played and current potential at-large bids according to D3hoops.com. The overall layout of the NCAA Tournament is as follows: 64 teams that include 43 conference champions and 21 at-large bids.
Automatic Bids through the current time:
AMCC: Medaille (21-6)
American Southwest Conf.: Hardin-Simmons (22-6)
Capital Athletic Conf.: Christopher Newport (25-2)
Centennial Conf.: Swarthmore (22-5)
CUNYAC: College of Staten Island (21-6)
CCIW: North Central (Ill.) (17-10)
CSAC: Neumann (24-2)
Commonwealth Conf.: Lycoming (23-4)
Commonwealth Coast Conf.: Nichols (23-5)
Empire 8: St. John Fisher (22-5)
Freedom Conf.: Misericordia (20-7)
GNAC: Albertus Magnus (23-4)
Heartland: Hanover (22-3)
IIAC: Wartburg (19-9)
Landmark Conf.: Scranton (21-6)
Liberty League: Union (16-10)
Little East Conf.: Eastern Connecticut (20-8)
MSCAC: Salem State (17-10)
MIAA: Calvin (17-10)
Midwest Conf.: Ripon (20-5)
MIAC: Bethel (21-6)
NACC: Benedictine (23-4)
NEAC: Morrisville State (22-6)
NECC: Becker (19-8)
NESCAC: Middlebury (24-3)
NEWMAC: M.I.T. (21-6)
NJAC: Ramapo (25-2)
North Atlantic Conf.: Husson (21-6)
NCAC: Wooster (21-7)
Northwest Conf.: Whitman (27-0)
OAC: Marietta (24-4)
ODAC: Guilford (23-5)
PAC: Thomas More (22-6)
SAA: Rhodes (17-10)
Skyline Conf.: Farmingdale State (20-7)
SCAC: Texas Lutheran (19-9)
SCIAC: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (22-4)
SLIAC: Westminster (Mo.) (19-8)
SUNYAC: Oswego State (21-6)
UAA: Washington Univ. (20-5)
UMAC: Northwestern (Minn.) (20-7)
USA South: LaGrange (18-10)
WIAC: UW-River Falls (24-3)
Potential at-large Bids (according to D3hoops.com; high chances in italics):
Amherst (NESCAC 17-7)
Augustana (CCIW 19-7)
Brockport (SUNYAC 19-7)
Cabrini (CSAC 19-7)
Cal Lutheran (SCIAC 20-6)
Emory (UAA 18-7)
Hope (MIAA 21-6)
John Carroll (OAC 17-8)
LeTourneau (ASC 22-6)
Loras (IIAC 18-8)
Mount St. Joseph (Heartland 20-7)
New Jersey City (NJAC 21-7)
Ohio Wesleyan (NCAC 21-7)
Rochester (UAA 21-4)
Salisbury (CAC 20-7)
Susquehanna (Landmark 21-5)
Skidmore (Liberty 19-7)
St. Lawrence (Liberty 20-6)
St. Norbert (Midwest 19-5)
St. Thomas (MIAC 19-7)
Tufts (NESCAC 20-6)
Whitworth (Northwest 23-4)
Williams (NESCAC 19-8)
UW-Whitewater (WIAC 21-6)
The Salisbury men’s basketball team makes it into the potential field of at-large bids. What is helping the Sea Gulls at the moment is their fantastic strength of schedule and non-conference spread. Salisbury went 5-2 in the non-conference, but it is the teams they scheduled that makes the difference.
The two non-conference losses for the Gulls came at the Hoopsville Classic in Las Vegas back in the holiday season. The two teams that defeated Salisbury were Ramapo College (NJAC champions) and Hardin-Simmons (ASC champions). While these were already considered “good” losses, now those losses improve with the title of “conference champions” next to both of these squads.
Most notable among Salisbury’s non-conference wins is the College of Staten Island (CUNYAC champions) who made it into the NCAA Tournament field. Salisbury’s win over Johns Hopkins (Centennial) was also a solid resume addition, but the Blue Jays faced many losses down the stretch and exited their conference tournament early so they will not be in the field of 64.
Wins over Goucher, Washington College, and Virginia Wesleyan (No.16 at the time) also highlight Salisbury’s non-conference. Of course, in-conference CNU bolsters the Salisbury resume.
Three games against the Captains boosts both strength of schedule and resume for the Gulls. Unlike last season, one of the match-ups was even a win for Salisbury, which helps the Sea Gulls even more.
Potentially aiding the Gulls the most at this point is their double-overtime win against York (Pa.) in the CAC Semifinals. York has slowly trended upward in its national reputation. While the Spartans will not be a tournament team, their recent success helps to minimize Salisbury’s early-season road loss in Pennsylvania.
Last week’s regional rankings brought Salisbury down to the sixth spot after going 0-2 in the final week of the regular season. Four of the five teams above Salisbury in the rankings won their conference tournament. Therefore, Susquehanna is the only at-large candidate above Salisbury, which bodes well for the Gulls. If more upsets had occurred in the Mid-Atlantic Regional, then trouble could have occurred for Salisbury.
What makes college basketball so special is exactly what happened to the Gulls. If they ended up winning either against St. Mary’s (Md.) or Frostburg St., Sea Gull nation would not be quaking right now because SU would be a lock.
Time will tell what will happen to Salisbury, but for now here is my personal take.
I think credit must be given to SU head coach Andrew Sachs in scheduling such a tough lineup this season. That may prove to be the difference this time around. I believe the strength of schedule and non-conference record will be enough to overshadow Salisbury falling in three of their last four games. While the Sea Gulls will have to hit the road later this week, they will at least be in the tournament as one of the final teams. It should be the first time in program history that Salisbury has made it to the “big dance” in three-straight seasons.
UPDATE: Salisbury was selected as the tenth at-large bid of the 21 available during the D3hoops.com mock selection show. This gives the Sea Gulls plenty of room headed into tomorrow.
Stay tuned for updates as they come in. The Flyer will have Selection Monday coverage tomorrow. The NCAA Selection Show occurs at 12:30pm on Monday online at NCAA.com.
The best source for the moment is D3hoops.com, which features coverage of all 43 conference tournaments across the nation here.