Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC Conferences.
NEWARK, NJ – Player of the week was Joey Henley, a senior forward, who averaged a double-double (15 points, 11.5 rebounds) in two Sacred Heart victories. LIU freshman forward Julian Boyd earned his fourth Rookie of the Week honor with a 15 ppg, 8 rebound showing in a 1-1 week.
The standings as of Friday February 6, 2009:
Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC Conferences.
Decided to take a tempo free look at the Northeast Conference. The win-loss record includes all games, though everyone has a couple conference games in the total. The plus-minus is the difference between offensive and defensive points per possession. Naturally a figure on the plus side is good, while a minus figure suggests defense (most likely) should be addressed. The far right column is the average possessions per game. In the sixties is slow to moderate. Low seventies is still moderate while high seventies on up is ‘metal to the pedal’ range. A thank you to Basketball State for expedient availability of the data. The average possessions for NEC teams is 68, more on the moderate to slow variety.
Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC Conferences.
SOUTH ORANGE , NJ – There were a few tough starts for teams in the Northeast Conference. Chalk it up to difficult opponents, road games and just heartbreaking disappointments. On the bright side were several individual accomplishments standing out to give their respective programs something to build on.
FDU got off to an 0-3 start. The schedule was not too forgiving as the Knights faced three strong teams on the road. They dropped decisions in the Legends Classic at Washington State and Mississippi State and lost at Pitt.
Central Connecticut State lost a pair of contests decided literally in the final seconds. The Blue Devils were defeated by Colgate on a Mike Venezia jump shot at the buzzer. Additionally, Central rallied from 18 points down and took a lead against Albany. Following a turnover, Albany’s Tim Ambrose hit a shot with 3.8 seconds to give the Great Danes the victory. A bright spot for Howie Dickenman’s club is the fine play of sophomore forward Ken Horton who had 33 points against Albany.
Ray Floriani from College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the Northeast (NEC) and Metro Atlantic Athletic (MAAC) conferences.
Predicted Order of Finish:
Mount St. Mary’s (20-9) (15-3)
Central Conn. St. (19-9) (14-4)
Sacred Heart (17-10) (13-5)
Robert Morris (17-12) (12-6)
FDU (14-14) (10-8)
Quinnipiac (13-14) (8-10)
LIU (11-16) (7-11)
Monmouth (11-17) (6-12)
Wagner (11-18) (5-13)
St. Francis (NY) (9-20) (4-14)
St. Francis (PA) (5-23) (3-15)
What you need to Know (WYN2K). The Northeast Conference, in its 28th season of operation, formed in the Eighties from the old ECAC Metro. The eleven school league has granted admission to Bryant University who begins NEC play in 2012. The league postseason tournament admits the top eight finishers. Each game is played on the home floor of the high seed in the pairings. What this all means is February games are played hard each night out. Teams are fighting for a tournament berth, a higher seeding or to just become a spoiler. After Valentine’s Day everyone is scoreboard watching. The nation’s fourth most improved conference (behind the Southland, MAAC and Sun Belt) a year ago will see 60% of its starters return. Featured among them are All-NEC performers Jeremy Chappell, a senior swingman for Robert Morris, and LIU junior guard Jaytomah Wisseh. Central Connecticut also welcomes back 2008 NEC Rookie of the Year, sophomore point guard Shemik Thompson.
Predicted Champion.Mount St.Mary’s(#16 NCAA). The NEC defending tournament champs return four starters from a team that captured nine of their last ten games and took the tournament title on Sacred Heart’s floor. Junior lead guard Jeremy Goode, the team leader in scoring, assists and steals is back. Sophomore guard Jean Cajou caught fire late last season and wound up as NEC tournament MVP. Talent plus the momentum of a year ago, which included a play-in win over Coppin State, certify Mount as the favorite. Look for another 16 seed – could a Tar Heel rematch be in the works?
Others Considered.Central Connecticut St. will be in the mix. Four starters return and veteran coach Howie Dickenman is certain to have the Blue Devils playing their best as the season winds down. Sacred Heart finished as tournament runner-up the last two seasons and cannot be counted out. The same goes for Robert Morris, last year’s regular season champion who was upset in the NEC semis and represented the conference in the NIT.
Mount St.Mary’s @ Sacred Heart (12/4/08)
Mount St.Mary’s @ Central Connecicut (12/06/08)
Quinnipiac @ FDU (01/03/09)
Robert Morris @ Mount St.Mary’s (1/25/09)
Sacred Heart @ Central Connecticut State (2/19/09)
Mount St.Mary’s @ Robert Morris (2/28/09)
FDU @ Pitt (11/14/08)
FDU @ Wazzu (11/18/08)
Rhode Island @ Monmouth (Hoop Group) (11/20/08)
FDU @ Mississippi St. (11/22/08)
Monmouth @ Villanova (Hoop Group) (11/25/08)
Mount St.Mary’s @ George Mason (11/25/08)
Akron @ FDU (11/30/08)
Mount St.Mary’s @ Georgetown (12/20/08)
Robert Morris @ Xavier (12/31/08)
FDU @ TBA in Bracketbuster (02/20/09)
Neat-o-Stat. The NEC boasts three coaches who have hit the 400 win total. Dave Bike (464-414) of Sacred Heart leads the way. Mike Deane of Wagner and FDU’s Tom Greenhit the magic number this past season. Deane, in his sixth year at the NEC school, has a 416-292 mark. Green, entering his 26th season at FDU, has a 400-328 ledger. Of the trio, Bike owns a national championship. He led the Sacred Heart Pioneers to the D2 crown in 1986.
Neat-o-Stat con’t.Robert Morris owns the best overall record among conference schools over the past two seasons even though it hasn’t won the tournament title. The Colonials are 43-19 during that time. Interestingly they did it with two different coaches. Mark Schmidt put together a 17-11 record in 2006-07 before heading to St. Bonaventure, and last season, in his first year in Coraopolis, Mike Rice’s club was a gaudy 26-8.
65 Team Era. NEC life usually means facing a #1 or #2 seed (20 of the past 24 years), and unfortunately, the NEC has yet to defeat one of those teams in the first round. FDU under Tom Green has been competitive each time out. In 2005, they gave top ranked Illinois a battle for twenty minutes, and have also given #1Michigan (1985) and #2 UConn (1998) scares over the years. Last season, conference tournament champion Mt. St. Mary’s defeated Coppin State in the play-in game before running into the UNC juggernaut the next time out.
Final Thoughts. In a perfect world the NEC would be a multiple bid conference. This is not a perfect world (see the $700 billion bailout) so the conference gets one invitation to the Big Dance. From a fan perspective that makes for added drama as the regular season and postseason tournament takes on huge meaning. The championship is especially intense as teams vie for that one spot on Selection Sunday. Geographical proximity is another issue. You have three schools (St. Francis (PA), Robert Morris and Mt. St. Mary’s) ‘way out west’. But a good percentage of the membership is in relatively close driving distance of each other. In fact, FDU, LIU, Wagner, Monmouth and St.Francis (NY) are all within a 40-mile radius which affords their fans an easy, nearby road trip. Another attractive feature of the NEC is that players stay around. If a coach recruits a player, then outside of transfer or academic issues, they are typically on board for the duration. No ‘one and done’ to David Stern’s league here.
WYN2K. The NEC is currently going through a down cycle, but it hasn’t always been that way. In the 23-year history of the 65-team NCAA Tourney, the NEC has earned a non-#16 seed twelve times, getting a seed as high as #13 twice, in 1996 (Monmouth) and 1997 (LIU). Lately, though, the Northeast Conference has been stuck in #16 seed hell, having earned a bottom seed three years in a row (the 2006 appearance was in the PiG – Monmouth defeated Hampton). Over those last three years, the NEC’s OOC record is 94-215 (.304), featuring wins over Seton Hall (FDU – 2007), S. Illinois (Monmouth – 2006), Rhode Island (Wagner – 2006) and St. John’s (St. Francis (NY) – 2005). As you can see, it’s a better conference in general than the SWAC and MEAC, but it too typically cannot compete with first- and second-tier leagues.
Predicted Champion.Sacred Heart (#16 Seed NCAA). With twin NEC behemoths CCSU and Monmouth (6 of last 8 NCAA bids) likely to have down years, Sacred Heart is poised to take over the crown of the NEC. Five of the top seven players return from a team that finished winning seven of their last eight games before falling in a close one against CCSU in the NEC championship game.
Others Considered. Robert Morris returns a trio of high-scoring players for a team that was considered disappointing last year. Notable from a statistical oddity bent is that 6’0 guard Tony Lee shot a sizzling 67% on two-point FGs last year (150-224), which is an extremely high percentage for a small guard. Mt. St. Mary’s returns its leading scorer and assist man from a squad that earned a reputation of playing very hard on every possession. Wagner has everyone back from an 8-10 team that showed some promise midway through the conference season last year.
Games to Watch. Like a broken record, there will only be one NEC game on your television this winter.
NEC Championship Game (03.12.08). ESPN2.
RPI Booster Games. With only 18 games against BCS opponents, the NEC will have to make it count if they want to earn RPI points this year (the league was 1-20 vs. BCS teams in 2007). But there are a few opportunities for the league to take advantage of down years among several Big East teams (and one former Big East squad) if they catch them sleeping.
Robert Morris @ Seton Hall (11.18.07)
Sacred Heart @ St. John’s (11.20.07)
FDU @ St. John’s (11.25.07)
Sacred Heart @ Providence (12.18.07)
Robert Morris @ Boston College (01.07.08)
Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Again, zero.
Neat-o Stat. This isn’t a stat, but it’s neat-o nonetheless. Earl “The Goat” Manigault’s cousin, Ronald Manigault, is a junior college transfer at LIU this season. If he’s anything like his cousin (see video tribute below), LIU may become the And1 crowd’s underground team of choice this season.
64/65-Team Era. In 23 appearances, the NEC is actually the least successful conference of the era, going a measly 1-23 (.042) over this period. When you consider that the one win was Monmouth in 2006’s play-in game, it looks even worse. Despite getting two #13 and #14 seeds, the NEC has never been able to pull off the big upset.
Final Thought.The NEC champion has played well as a #16 seed vs. the #1 seed in two of its last three NCAA appearances, but simply wore down in the second half against a far superior team (2005 – CCSU down one at halftime to Illinois; 2006 – Monmouth down seven with six mins remaining vs. Villanova). In order to have a legitimate chance to win a game, the NEC champ will likely have to win enough nonconference games to improve its RPI enough to earn a #15 or #14 seed. Unfortunately, we don’t see a team capable of that in this year’s NEC.