2009-10 Conference Primers: #30 – NEC

Posted by rtmsf on October 6th, 2009

seasonpreview Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC conferences.   Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials..

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Mount St. Mary’s (15-3)
  2. Robert Morris (14-4)
  3. Quinnipiac (13-5)
  4. Central Connecticut (12-6)
  5. LIU (10-7)
  6. FDU (9-9)
  7. Monmouth (8-10)
  8. Sacred Heart (7-11)
  9. St. Francis (NY) (6-12)
  10. Wagner (5-13)
  11. St. Francis (PA) (4-14)

 All Conference Team:

  • Jeremy Goode (G), 5’9 Sr., Mount St.Mary’s
  • Jaytonah Wisseh (G), 6’1 Sr., LIU
  • Rob Robinson (F), 6’8 Sr., Robert Morris
  • Ken Horton (F), 6’6 Jr., Central Connecticut
  • Justin Rutty (C/F), 6’7 Jr., Quinnipiac

6th Man of the Year. Julian Boyd (F), 6-1 So., LIU Newcomer of the Year. Mike Scott (G), 6-0 Jr., FDU

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What you need to know.

  • The Northeast Conference is composed of 12 members. Eleven compete for the championship as newest member Bryant will not be eligible for the NEC title or NCAA tournament appearances until 2013.
  • The NEC is primarily a guard/small forward conference. Solid big men ruling the blocks are rare. Interestingly one who went on to a nice career hailed from the NEC. Rik Smits of Marist owned the low post in the mid-80s before heading to David Stern’s league.
  • The NEC post season tournament is contested among the conference’s top eight finishers. Naturally, a good deal of scoreboard watching is in vogue past Valentine’s Day. In addition some non-qualifiers can still play the spoiler in their last regular season games so the conference schedule carries weight throughout the campaign.
  • The ’Battle of Brooklyn’ is waged every year. LIU and St. Francis (NY) square off for bragging rights. The two schools are about a mile apart in distance.
  • The dreaded ’Western swing’ has had an effect and separated contenders from pretenders. The Western swing is the trip to the two Western Pennsylvania schools, St.Francis (PA) and Robert Morris.

Predicted Champion. Mount St.Mary’s (NCAA #15). In a league predicated by guard and wing play, the Mount has a backcourt some BCS schools would envy. Jeremy Goode is an outstanding guard who can trigger the break, dish out assists or score. Goode is outstanding in transition and as comfortable in half court sets. He’s even improved his perimeter shot during his career. Alongside Goode is Jean Cajou, one of the NEC’s top players in his own right. There were a few losses in the frontcourt but Kelly Beidler, a 6’5 senior, leads several returnees who know the system and can fit right in. Mount St.Mary’s has enjoyed a recent history of consistent and resounding success. They captured the NEC in 2008 then lost a two point final at Robert Morris last March. The winning attitude perpetuated by coach Milan Brown is a huge factor. Finally, defense is the key that makes the Mountaineers go. The release tells us the Mount held NEC opposition to a conference leading 62.5 ppg last season. Tempo free breakdowns tell us more as their defensive efficiency was 93, clearly the conference’s best. And the coaches will tell you championships begin with defense. The belief here is the Mount will ‘hold serve’ and take the regular and postseason championships. But in the NEC, where the entire tournament is on campus there are no guarantees. Top seeds have been defeated in championships at home. The ‘sixth man’ is no guarantee their favorites will cut down the nets and go to the Big Dance.

Top Contenders. Should the Mount falter, several schools will be keeping pace and primed to make a move.

  • Robert Morris has had a great run under third year coach Mike Rice. Again, that recent winning tradition instilled by Rice goes a long way. The Colonials have a very talented returnee in Rob Robinson, a 6-8 forward. The Colonials also had a fifteen game road win streak in conference play that spanned over two seasons. They are a team that gets it done in any environment.
  • Central Connecticut has been a consistent winner for several years. Once Howie Dickenman got it going in the late 90s, the Blue Devils have been regulars in contention or the first division. The marquee player is forward Ken Horton who can do damage in the paint or beyond the arc (32 treys last year).
  • Another Connecticut entry is getting heard from. Under Tom Moore, Quinnipiac is getting the call as NEC favorite by some observers. James Feldeine is a dangerous scorer at the guard spot. A key to Tom Moore’s club is Justin Rutty. A 6’7 junior, Rutty maybe the best inside presence in a conference which, as noted, is scarce on such types. Rutty scored just under 15 per game and narrowly missed double figure rebounding averages. He’s outstanding on the offensive glass and gives the Bobcats a great presence in the paint.

Overall this is not a case of what these teams are missing to afford them a chance to cut down the nets. It’s a case of Mount St. Mary’s having excellent success of late, a solid backcourt and the fierce dedication to defense. Those are three tough factors weighing in their favor.

Top 5 RPI Boosters.

  • Nov 12, 2009 – Robert Morris at Syracuse
  • Nov 14, 2009 – Mount St. Mary’s at Oklahoma
  • Nov 16, 2009 – Robert Morris at Penn State
  • Dec 8, 2009 – Quinnipiac at Rhode Island
  • Dec 19, 2009 – Mount St. Mary’s at Pittsburgh

Key Conference Games.

  • Dec 3, 2009 – Robert Morris at Mount St.Mary’s
  • Jan 7, 2010 – Mount St.Mary’s at Quinnipiac
  • Jan 14, 2010 – Quinnipiac at Central Connecticut
  • Feb 13, 2010 – Robert Morris at Central Connecticut
  • Feb 20, 2010 – Quinnipiac at Robert Morris
  • Feb 27, 2010 – Robert Morris at Mount St.Mary’s

Digging Deeper.

  • It was a former NEC coach who had one of the greatest quotes ever about league strength. Wayne Szoke during his Monmouth days would say,”the toughest conference in the country is the one you play in.” Let that be engraved in stone at Springfield. Szoke incidentally recruited current Monmouth coach Dave Calloway. After his playing days in the Hawk backcourt, Calloway was hired as an assistant then succeeded his boss when Szoke resigned in mid-season in the late 90s.
  • Bryant is more than a trivia answer (who did NJIT defeat to end their losing streak ?). In their first year in D1 , Tim O’Shea’s club began 2-14. The Bulldogs gradually improved by mid-January and finished up 6-6 down the stretch to go 8-21. They were 6-8 against NEC schools with a respectable 3-3 road record as well.

Fun With Kenpom. Last season only two NEC teams had a turnover rate under 20 percent. Remember 20% or above is unacceptable. The two were Mount St.Mary’s (18.8) and the conference pacesetter in that category, LIU (17.7). Robert Morris was the only team in the conference with a top 100 rated defense (#98)

NCAA Tournament History. The NEC’s all-time record in the Big Dance is 3-28 (.097), with two of those wins coming in the last four seasons in the Play-In Game. NEC champions are annually slotted into a #15 or #16 seed, so the opportunity for a first-round upset is minimal. The last time a NEC team stayed within single figures of their first round opponent was Tom Green’s FDU team in 1998 (vs. #2 UConn, FDU lost 93-85). St. Francis (NY) and Sacred Heart are the only two teams currently in the league who haven’t played in an NCAA yet; it’s unlikely that either will break that drought this year.

Final Thoughts.

  • Arguably the biggest news in the offseason was the release of FDU coach Tom Green. A veteran of over a quarter a century at the school, Green was one of the conference’s best mentors and a class act. His last two seasons were a bit rough but Green had FDU primed in a position to crack the first division this winter. Unfortunately he was unceremoniously sent packing with the vague and oft used management excuse, “we want to go in a different direction.” Assistant Greg Vetrone was named interim head coach of the Knights.
  • Monmouth will open a new arena and get a visit from Seton Hall in early November. The 4,100 capacity Multi-Purpose Activity Center (MAC) opens with a visit by Isiah Thomas-led Florida International (will Knick fans with unforgiving memories trek to West Long Branch for this one ?). Two days later Seton Hall of the Big East pays a visit. The Monmouth administration is hoping the new facility can help get the Hawks back into NEC contention. Soon.
  • A good percentage of the conference membership as Monmouth, Wagner, FDU, LIU, St.Francis(NY), Sacred Heart, Central Connecticut and Quinnipiac are within short to moderate (under a tank of gas) driving distance.
  • The NEC has had its share of excellent mentors on the sidelines. As noted Tom Green turned in an outstanding body of work at FDU. Jim Phelan, whom the conference coach of the year award is named after, was a legend (bowtie and all) at Mount St. Mary’s. Sacred Heart’s Dave Bike and Wagner’s Mike Deane are two of 34 active coaches with 400 or more victories. Howie Dickenman of Central Connecticut has four coach of the years honors and three conference titles in the dozen years Central has been in the NEC.
  • The bright lights and packed public arenas get the pulse beating faster. But for enjoyable matchups where you don’t have to arrive two hours in advance and you can virtually walk up and get a good ticket or two without breaking the bank, the NEC is ideal. Plus with eight teams qualifying for post season there are rare nights when a team or teams are mailing it in.
rtmsf (3992 Posts)

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