NEC Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-UpPosted by rtmsf on March 1st, 2012
Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.
The top teams in the Northeast Conference proved to be competitive and battled it against each other all season. Interestingly, the conference postseason shapes up as a very balanced eight team field. LIU Brooklyn is the defending champion and favorite. LIU will face challenges from Wagner, Robert Morris and St. Francis (NY) to name a few. Among the eight teams, even a hot Monmouth team poses a threat. It should make for an interesting tournament and if LIU Brooklyn repeats, they will have truthfully worked and earned it.
The top eight in the NEC qualify for postseason conference play. Each individual game is at the higher seed of the two teams. The conference tournament begins on Thursday with all eight teams tipping it off.
- Sacred Heart vs. LIU Brooklyn – The Blackbirds were knocked off by Monmouth on Saturday but take a 24-game home winning streak in this meeting. Player of the Year Julian Boyd leads a well balanced and dangerous attack. Sacred Heart lost closes contests to Robert Morris and St. Francis (NY) in the last week. The Pioneers also took LIU Brooklyn to overtime before losing 103-91 back on February 16. Dave Bike’s club will try to become the first #8 seed to knock off the regular season champion in NEC history.
- CCSU vs. Wagner – A Wagner-LIU semifinal is highly anticipated. First, the Seahawks have to knock off a dangerous CCSU team. The winningest team in the NY metro area, Wagner split with CCSU this season. The Blue Devils of Howie Dickenman are on a roll, winning three of their last four, included was that victory over Wagner on Saturday. With a versatile veteran and star in Ken Horton plus a backcourt talent in Rookie of the Year Kyle Venales, CCSU will not be an easy out.
- Monmouth vs. Robert Morris – The Chuck is not easy on visitors but Monmouth is arguably the NEC’s most dangerous team at this point. The Colonials are on a roll of their own, winning six of their last seven. Monmouth, a preseason number ten pick, captured seven of their final nine under first year mentor King Rice. The ten NEC victories posted by the Hawks is their most since 2006 and includes victories over LIU Brooklyn and St. Francis (NY) the final week of the campaign.
- Quinnipiac vs. St. Francis (NY) – A season ending loss at FDU dropped the Terriers to a four seed. Glen Braica’s group, a preseason 11 pick, will host their first NEC postseason conference game since 1997. St. Francis swept the Bobcats this season but Quinnipiac is another team with momentum, entering the NEC tourney winners of eight of their last eleven games. St. Francis will most likely be without two keys players in Travis Nichols and Stefan Perunicic who also missed the FDU contest.
Final Regular Season Standings
Team, NEC record, overall record:
|Robert Morris||13-5, 22-9|
|St. Francis (NY)||12-6, 15-14|
|Central Connecticut St.||10-8, 13-15|
|Sacred Heart||8-10, 14-17|
|Mount St. Mary’s||6-12, 8-21|
|St. Francis (PA)||5-13, 6-23|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||2-16, 3-26|
NEC Player of the Year: Julian Boyd, LIU Brooklyn – A unanimous choice among NEC coaches, Boyd added a strong perimeter game this season to his already impressive offensive game. Boyd was fifth in conference scoring (17.3) and the leader in rebounding (9.3). He also had 13 double-doubles this season. The versatile Boyd was hard to contain underneath or out in transition.
NEC Coach of the Year: Glenn Braica, St. Francis (NY) – The Terriers had to weather the loss of two outstanding players, Akeem Bennett and Ricky Cadell, from last season. Then, in November starting point guard Dre Calloway went down with an injury. St. Francis started slowly before winning nine out of ten games to move into the NEC’s upper echelon. St. Francis ended with 12 regular season wins, the most in NEC play by St. Francis in eight years. All testament to an excellent job on the sidelines by Braica and his staff.
NEC Rookie of the Year: Kyle Vanales, CCSU – Vinales’ rookie debut saw him score 24 points. Several nights later he went for 39. The talented newcomer simply never looked back. An all-purpose guard, Vinales averaged 18 points per game while handing out 3.6 assists per outing. If it was late in the game, you did want to put him on the line as Vinales canned 83.7% of his free throws.
NEC Defensive Player of the Year: Kenneth Ortiz, Wagner – A six-foot point guard from Newark, N.J., Ortiz takes pride and satisfaction of drawing the toughest defensive assignment. His signature game came in December as he forced Ashton Gibbs of Pitt into 5-of-16 shooting in Wagner’s big upset win.
NEC Most Improved Player: Scott Eatherton, St. Francis (PA) – One of the hardest workers and student’ of the game, the 6’8″ sophomore improved dramatically. Eatherton was 7th in the country and first in the NEC in shooting percentage (61.4% from the floor). He raised his scoring average from 3.9 as a freshman to 14 points per game this past season.
NEC All Conference First Team:
- Julian Boyd, LIU, F, 6’7″, Jr.
- Shane Gibson, Sacred Heart, G, 6’2″, Jr.
- Ken Horton, CCSU, F, 6’6″, Sr.
- Velton Jones, Robert Morris, G, 6’0″, Jr.
- Jamal Olasewere, LIU, F, 6’7″, Jr.