The Marshall men’s basketball team did not make the NCAA Tournament. In fact the Thundering Herd has not made an NCAA appearance since 1987 and many fans are hungry to do so.
However, this season, it wasn’t for a lack of effort on the part of Marshall Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick and head coach Tom Herrion.
The scheduling philosophy set up by Hamrick and Herrion did not result in an NCAA tourmament trip, but it did get the Thundering Herd in the discussion. Marshall may not have gotten in the door, but the schedule did get them on the front porch.
As a consolation prize, Marshall will be playing in the NIT. That may not be a big deal to many programs, but for the Thundering Herd it is a step forward. Marshall last played in the NIT in 1988 when they lost a home game to VCU.
Hamrick and Herrion scheduled games against teams that had chances to win their conferences. Games against teams such as Iona, Belmont, Akron and Ohio reflected that philosophy. There were also non conference games against teams that were expected to make the NCAA Tournament such as the annual game vs. West Virginia and games against Big East teams Syracuse and Cincinnati.
The problem this season is that Marshall simply did not win enough of those games. Overall they were 3-5 in the games against those schools listed above. Had they won home games against Akron and Ohio, they might have deeper into the NCAA discussion.
Building a national reputation of a basketball program is a process. It can take longer when you are not in one of the power conferences. Unfortunately, the league that Marshall is in, Conference USA, does not get as much respect as they deserve and they have not won any NCAA tournament games in the last two years.
This year, however, at least Marshall showed that they are no longer lost. They are driving on the right highway with a scheduling philosophy that gives the team a chance to play good teams. Mike Hamrick and Tom Herrion deserve a lot of credit for that.