Stony Brook is the best team this season that’s never made the NCAAs

One of the thousands of reasons why college basketball is so much fun and injects irrefutable joy into our cynical sports world every March: the small-school automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It’s even better when that school wins its league bracket to reach the Big Dance for the first time.

Stony Brook should — or at least deserves to — be that team this season. Finally.

The top seed in the America East has its best chance ever to finally crack through, and not just that, but kill demons in the process. The Seawolves (what a moniker) have been taken out in varying methods of heartbreak the past three seasons — by the same program. Look farther and you’ll see Stony Brook has entered every March since 2010 with realistic hopes of winning the America East’s auto bid. No school in that span has gotten closer to the NCAAs yet failed to actually get there than the Seawolves. This has been Stony Brook’s rocky road in recent history.

2010: The Seawolves, who converted to D-I just nine years prior, go 13-3 and wins their first regular-season America East title. It’s the program’s first season finishing above .500 in the league. But Boston University says buh-bye with a semifinal knockout.

2011: BU again beats SBU, this time in the Seawolves’ first trip to a D-I league championship game.

2012: Stony Brook bests its previous record mark in the league with a 14-2 finish. The top-seeded Seawolves get the title game on their home floor — then manage a season-low 43 points lose to Vermont.

2013: Stony Brook’s highest-rated team ever finishes with a program-record 25 wins and goes 14-2 in the league. It faces Albany in the semis and the hex begins.

“We didn’t know how to handle it,” do-everything Stony Brook star Jameel Warney said. “We didn’t show up that game.”

The Great Danes — which got the game on their home floor because the America East held its tournament in Albany that season — beat the Seawolves 61-59 on a layup in the closing seconds.