NEC Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2010

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC conferences.

LYNDHURST, NJ – ‘It is a marathon not a sprint,’ the coaches tell you. That analogy of the college season is very true. In the case of the Northeast Conference race, Robert Morris grabbed the early lead and led a good portion of the way. Quinnipiac was at the head of the second pack, trying to keep the pace setter in sight. The Colonials hit the wall about the 24 mile mark (maybe the 25.5 mile as Robert Morris held the lead from January 30 until the season’s final day) and were caught by Quinnipiac. Both teams tied for first but the Bobcats earned the top seed on a tiebreaker.  With the unbalanced schedule Quinnipiac and Robert Morris met once with the Bobcats taking the February 20 road decision. Both teams finished in a tie and that win gave Tom Moore’s team the top seed.

A look at the Quarterfinals

  • Monmouth at Quinnipiac: The Bobcats have never won a NEC tournament title but earned a share of their first regular season crown in the conference. That championship guarantees Quinnipiac a spot in either the NCAA or NIT this season. With a perfect 12-0 record at home and the top seed in tow, Tom Moore’s club does not have to leave campus during the NEC Tournament. They face a Monmouth team thatsplit with them this season. The Hawks missed the postseason for only the third time in program history last year. Monmouth is one of only three teams in the NEC to knock off Quinnipiac with  a 72-60 victory at home on January 2.
  • Central Connecticut at Robert Morris:  The Colonials have won or shared three straight NEC regular season titles. They have 46 NEC wins over the last three years and look to become the first team since Rider (in ‘93 and ‘94) to repeat as the conference postseason titlist.  CCSU defeated St. Francis (NY) to earn that last tournament spot. Howie Dickenman’s club has now been to 12 straight NEC tournaments (winning in 2000, 2002 and 2007), the longest such streak in the conference. Robert Morris captured the lone meeting 69-60 at Central Connecticut on February 11. CCSU has a tall order traveling to Robert Morris’ friendly confines of the Sewall Center (the “Chuck”). But after a rocky start, just getting in the tournament was a significant achievement.
  • St. Francis (PA) at Mount St. Mary’s: The Mount made a strong late season run with ten consecutive victories down the stretch. This is a veteran team with an outstanding and red-hot point guard, Jeremy Goode. The Mount is arguably the most dangerous team in the field. The Red Flash are appearing in their first NEC tournament in five years, and are now looking for that first tournament victory in fifteen seasons. The two teams split the season’s series with each winning on its home floor. The Mount has a history of success here, capturing the 2008 title as well as ’95 and ’99 and coming in as runner-up last season.
  • FDU at LIU:  This opening round matchup figures to be a real tossup. The Blackbirds host a quarterfinal game for the second straight season and are 23-13 against NEC competition the past two years. LIU edged FDU 68-62 in the two teams’ only meeting back on February 18. Under interim coach Greg Vetrone, the Knights had their best conference regular season record in four years. Interestingly, the two teams have met seven times in NEC tournament history with FDU owning a 5-2 advantage. After a disastrous pre-conference start (1-12), FDU has settled down and played very well the second half of the season.

Projecting the Semifinals

  • FDU at Quinnipiac – In an upset FDU should knock off LIU but the Knights  season ends here. FDU has a fine backcourt with the dangerous Sean Baptiste. Up front Alvin Mofunanya is a presence capable of rebounding and blocking shots. The host Bobcats, winners of eight of their last ten regular season games, just have too much inside and perimeter talent . They swept FDU in regular season and will advance into the final.
  • Mount St. Mary’s at Robert Morris – The Colonials split with the Mount but that last meeting on the season’s final day was a determining one. Robert Morris dropped a 63-61 decision in Emmitsburg which allowed Quinnipiac to edge Mike Rice’s club for the top seed. Robert Morris, in the friendly confines of home, will seek revenge. It won’t be easy as the Mount is red hot having finished with ten straight regular season victories. The edge goes to the Colonials at the ‘Chuck.’

And the Finals…

  • Robert Morris at Quinnipiac – This will be Robert Morris’ only trip to the TD Banknorth Sports Center this season. The unbalanced schedule saw the Bobcats defeat Robert Morris on the road 87-79 in late February. The Colonials would love to repeat as NEC titlists and avenge that one loss. It won’t be easy in this environment. Granted, home courts do not score points or make stops, but players such as junior forward Justin Rutty, a rebounding force, and a dangerous scorer in senior guard James Feldeine (17.3 PPG), do. Quinnipiac claims its first NEC postseason title and moves on to the Big Dance.
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