Checking In On… the NEC

Posted by rtmsf on December 23rd, 2011

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


Looking Back

  • Quick Recap: Relatively quiet time lately with exams finishing up. As we look towards the new year, the expected contenders: Robert Morris, Central Connecticut and LIU, are on top … with a surprise. St. Francis (PA), which played eight home games to date, had both their NEC games in friendly confines and the Red Flash won both contests to join the aforementioned trio on top of the conference standings. Wagner and Quinnipiac, certain to be factors, lead the next group. All of this will begin to get sorted out in earnest when 2012 arrives and conference play heats up.
  • Player of the Week: Ben Mockford, St. Francis (NY), So., guardKnocked down seven 3-pointers in the Terriers’s win at Howard. Deadly from beyond the arc, Mockford paces the NEC with 3.3 treys per game.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut, Fr.  guardVinales captured his fifth award in six weeks. Scored a game-high 27 points in 37 minutes in a loss at Northwestern. The 6’1″ Vinales has scored at least 24 points on six occasions to date.

Robert Morris's Andrew Toole Has His Team On Top Of The NEC Standings

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Checking In On… the NEC

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2011

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


Looking Back

The pre-2012 portion of the Northeast Conference schedule didn’t give us a whole lot to discern, with a couple of exceptions. Defending conference champ Long Island will once again be a tough out for rival foes. Central Connecticut State appears to be a threat with more players stepping up to help standout guard Ken Horton. Robert Morris has its young talent playing well and Wagner, despite having the “luck” to open the conference season at LIU, gave the host Blackbirds all they could handle. At the start of the season, I labeled Wagner (7-2) as a dark horse for the NEC title. Now, they are getting referenced in the same sentence as “contender.”

Leading Off: On December 6, Wagner defeated a talented Hofstra squad (58-43) in Staten Island, signaling another solid non-conference win for Danny Hurley and company. Meanwhile, King Rice earned win number one on the season as Monmouth nipped Navy (69-67) in Annapolis on Tuesday.

Player of the Week:  Ken Horton, 6’8″ Sr. F, Central Connecticut State – Has averaged 31 points in the Blue Devils’ two NEC games so far, highlighted by an impressive 32-point outburst against Bryant. Horton was dangerously effective inside (nine rebounds) and out (6 of 10 from three).

Rookie of the Week: Lucky Jones, 6’5″ Fr.  G/F., Robert Morris – Jones averaged 12.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in the Colonials’ two wins. Ironically, a product of New Jersey and famed high school national power St. Anthony’s, Jones face off against the Garden State’s two NEC schools.

Central Connecticut State's Ken Horton is averaging a conference-best 22.5 points per game so far this season (

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Checking In On… the NEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2011

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

Looking Back

Early-season returns proved Long Island will have some challenges if they hope to defend their Northeast Conference crown. Wagner is off to a good start with a competitive loss at Connecticut being their only blemish so far. Robert Morris likewise, is fast out of the gate. Central Connecticut found some scorers which will make them a more dangerous club and take pressure off their senior do-everything star Ken Horton. Quinnipiac found another tough rebounder and will prove again to be a force under the glass. St. Francis (NY) lost at Seton Hall in overtime and the Terriers have struggled thanks to some late game  problems.

Player of the Week: Ike Izotam, 6’7” So. F, Quinnipiac – Averaged 16 points and 16 rebounds in a 2-0 week for the Bobcats. Izotam is tied for first in the nation and leads the NEC in rebounding with 14.0 per game.

Rookie of the Week: Kyle Vinales, 6’4” guard, Central Connecticut – In a 39 point outburst against Niagara, Vinales scored 29 in the first half, including 16 in the game’s opening six and a half minutes. That performance marked the most points by a player in this young season.

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RTC Conference Primers: #20 – Northeast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 17th, 2011

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC.

Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • Coaches Enjoy Honors: In September, Mount St. Mary’s coach Robert Burke coached in the Congressional County All-Star Classic. Burke coached a team of members of Congress while George Washington mentor Mike Lonergan guided a team of lobbyists.  The game was at GW’s Smith Center. Hopefully Burke did not allow his ‘club’ a lengthy recess. In other news, Wagner assistant Bobby Hurley was inducted into the Duke University Hall of Fame in September. Hurley scored over 1,700 points, handed out an NCAA record 1,076 assists and led Duke to two national titles during his playing days (19989-93).
  • A Long-Awaited Repeat In The NEC? Long Island is attempting to become the first NEC school in nearly two decades to successfully defend its conference title. The last? Current  MAAC  member Rider, which captured the NEC crown in 1993 and 1994.

Can LIU Capture the Blackbird Magic Again? (credit: NY Post)

  • The Numbers Game: Among starters lost, FDU and Quinnipiac lead the way with three each. It’s a matter of perception. FDU, coming off a five-win season, can look at this as a fresh start. Quinnipiac, a 22-win team from a season ago, has spots to replace. Tom Moore has options as he has the Bobcats primed for another run. The program with the least amount of starters lost? Wagner. The Seahawks, coming off an encouraging 9-9 conference slate good for a sixth-place tie, have every starter back on board.
  • Sacred Heart Mourns Loss Of Former Star: On a sad note, Sacred Heart is mourning the passing of Chauncey Hardy, a prolific player for the Pioneers from 2006-10. Hardy scored over 1,200 points during his Sacred Heart career and was playing professionally overseas in Romania at the time of his tragic death, which came after Hardy was assaulted in a pub.

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Quinnipiac Keeps Two Players Charged With Assault On The Team

Posted by nvr1983 on September 21st, 2011

One of the major tenets of the American legal system is the concept that an individual is innocent until proven guilty. It is a principle that is commonly cited by defense attorneys and supporters of the accused. However, in the world of college sports, most programs keep this principle confined to the legal system and usually suspend the athletes while the school and legal system investigate the charges. Quinnipiac apparently is not one of those programs. Early Sunday morning, James Johnson, who was 1st team All-NEC while averaging 16.1 PPG last year as a junior, and Ike Azotam, who averaged 5.2 PPG and 5.5 RPG last year as a freshman, were arrested after allegedly assaulting two other students during a fight on-campus.  Johnson and Azotam were both charged with third-degree assault and second-degree breach of peace and detained before being released on $5,000 bond.

Azotam (L) & Johnson (R) Are Due In Court On Monday (Credit: Hamden Police)

While this is an unfortunately not uncommon occurrence on college campuses it was strange to hear that the school has reportedly decided to keep the two players on the team while they are investigating the matter. In reality, this is probably a trivial matter as the two players are due in court next Monday, September 26, but the standard protocol in college sports over the years has been to suspend the players while the investigation is on-going regardless of how light the penalties may be (see the recent cases of Erik Murphy and Jerime Anderson). For their part, neither Azotam nor Johnson have alluded to the incident on their Twitter accounts although Azotam has kept tweeting as if nothing had happened (unless you count this) while Johnson has been silent.

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RTC Summer Updates: Northeast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 19th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest and final update comes courtesy of our NEC correspondent, Ray Floriani.

Summer Storylines

  • Monmouth Makes Noise – First came the hiring of King Rice to take over for Dave Calloway. Rice promises a significant upgrade, change in culture and return to winning ways for the New Jersey Shore-based school. To beef up its revenue stream, the university recently announced a partnership with New Jersey’s Millennium Radio Group. As part of the deal, all Monmouth games will be aired on WOBM-AM for the next three seasons. Each Monday, the King Rice Show will also be broadcast on the station. Finally, Monmouth accepted a bid to play in the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Hawks will face Virginia Tech in Blacksburg in the East Regional. Other teams in that group are George Mason and Florida International.
  • Phenomenal Phelan: NEC Hall of Famer Jim Phelan will receive the Lapchick Character Award at Madison Square Garden. The former Mount St. Mary’s mentor joins Hall of Famer Pete Carril and Virginia women’s coach Debbie Ryan in receiving this year’s honor. The trio has enjoyed wonderful and winning careers punctuated with loyalty, longevity and success.
  • Red Flash Commemorates History: St. Francis (PA) looks to improve and be competitive in the NEC, but not without forgetting its past. St. Francis will honor the “Golden” basketball legacy between 1940 and 1970. Players from that area will be nominated and reviewed by a selection committee to be included in an extended wing of the St. Francis Hall of Fame. As 1970 alumnus Bob Moore said, “Small Catholic colleges, particularly in the East, ranked among the nation’s collegiate powers.  To pay tribute to those early players and the teams St. Francis produced is long overdue.”
  • Hurley Hunkers Down: Wagner head coach Danny Hurley is getting his teams exposed to the highest level and toughened up for league play. His Wagner club will visit 2011 NCAA Tournament representatives Princeton, UConn and Pittsburgh on the road.  The Seahawks will also travel to the Cable Car Classic out west in December. Wagner opens that tournament with Air Force before facing Santa Clara or Eastern Michigan in the next round.
  • More of Moore: Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore was awarded a well-deserved extension through the 2015-16 season. Terms of the pact were not disclosed. Moore led Quinnipiac to 23 victories and a NEC regular season title in 2010.

CCSU's Ken Horton Leads The Charge For The Blue Devils. (

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O26 Primers: America East, Missouri Valley, and Northeast Conference Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 3rd, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

Three more conferences get underway this evening with teams in the America East and NEC all gunning for the coveted automatic-bid to the Tournament, while the Missouri Valley is vying to send two teams to the Dance. Boston University is all of a sudden the favorite to win the America East with the uncertainty of Evan Fjeld‘s ankle, while Missouri State and Long Island are the favorites in their respective leagues. Something tells me though that the Wichita State Shockers will be looking for vengeance following their two losses to the Bears earlier this year.

America East

The Favorite: Vermont appears to be the favorite, but a lot depends on the status of Evan Fjeld’s ankle that he injured in UVM’s final regular season game against Boston University. In what very well could be the America East championship game, BU went on to defeat the Catamounts in overtime. Allison Shepherd told John Fantino of the Burlington Free Press Blog that: “[Fjeld] is receiving daily care and treatment for the injury. We will have a better idea regarding his playing status for the upcoming America East tournament as the weekend approaches.” Something tells me that even if Fjeld and his ‘Stache are able to go, he will not be at 100%. I like Boston University.

Dark Horse: Behind senior Tim Ambrose, Albany is a team that has come on strong as of late and is capable of making a run in the A-East tournament. The Great Danes have won four straight to end the regular season, but getting by Stony Brook will be no easy task in the first round.

Who’s Hot: Boston University has not lost in February and is 8-0 during the month. They defeated Vermont to conclude the regular season and are flying high with John Holland—arguably the league’s best player—leading the way.

Player to Watch: John Holland has been a staple in BU’s rotation since the day he stepped on campus. The senior has averaged double-figures in scoring for all four years, and his 19.2 points a game this year is tops in the league.

First-Round Upset: Hartford over Maine. The Black Bears were an intriguing team and story to follow early on in the season. They beat a solid Penn State team and began league play with an 8-1 record, but since then they have fallen flat on their faces. Although their date with Hartford is technically not in the first round—the America East essentially has a play-in game between the #8 and #9 seeds to begin the tournament—fourth seeded Maine will have their hands full with Hartford who has already beaten them twice.

How’d They Fare? As a 16 seed last year, Vermont could not handle the athleticism or shooting ability of Syracuse as they lost 79-56.

Interesting Fact: Not an interesting fact, but simply one of my favorite NCAA Tournament highlights of all-time:

Easily the best part of the clip is Tom Brennan’s reaction after T.J. Sorrentine swishes home the three from about 35 feet away, and if you look even further past Brennan the reaction of the guys sitting on press row are priceless too. This is what makes March so Mad!

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NEC Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 3rd, 2011


Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC conferences. With the tournament set to tip Thursday, get up to speed on the NEC with the following wrap-up and postseason preview.

The Northeast Conference postseason tournament tips off Thursday with four quarterfinal games. In the NEC, only the top eight finishers qualify for postseason play, and each game is played on the home court of the higher seed. On Sunday there will be two semifinals and the final will be aired on ESPN the following Wednesday.

Postseason Prospects

Aside from St. John’s recapturing New York City, LIU might be getting headlines as the New York area’s best shot at getting into the Big Dance. The Blackbirds are “flying” under the radar, but that’s fine with coach Jim Ferry. They just go out and win.  The first order of business is to win the conference tournament. The NEC is a one-bid league and even their 24 win season, impressive as it is, would not earn an at-large invite.  LIU is an uptempo 75 possession team. Their TO rate is 21%, but they only force opponents into a 20% on the defensive end. Don’t be fooled by that defensive number regarding turnovers. The Blackbirds play solid defense as shown by their 98 defensive efficiency. On the offensive end, their efficiency is a 109. The margin, offense minus defense, a very healthy +11 for all games. Another of the Four Factors that stands out is free throw rate. LIU checks in at 51% while opponents are 26%. Simply, Ferry’s club does not allow their opponents to get to the line. Looking at individual pace, LIU dictates as a number of their games have been contested at a rapid 70 possession or more tempo.

Last year, the nation found out about the NEC as Robert Morris took second-seed Villanova to OT before losing in the NCAAs. Historically, teams representing the conference haven’t been the easiest out for highly regarded opposition. LIU fits that mold perfectly.

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The Other 26: Week 15

Posted by KDoyle on February 26th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.


And down the stretch they come! Just like a commentator of a competitive horse race fervently belches when the horses make the final turn, college basketball commentators, analysts, and enthusiasts alike all speak of the game with greater eagerness and zeal at this time of the year. Judgment Week—still am not sure what ESPN is trying to do with this—has passed us, Championship Week is nearly upon us, and we all know what comes after that: the Madness!

While the majority of Other 26 teams around the country still have one or two remaining games left in the regular season, there are a handful of teams out there who have completed the second part of their season. Many coaches, especially those coaching in perennial single bid leagues, break down their year into three seasons: 1) the non-conference, 2) conference play, 3) the postseason. The opportunity is presented for many teams that have struggled during much of the season to get hot at the right time and advance onto the greatest postseason tournament in all of sports.

At the beginning of conference play, I wrote in a previous article the concept of “three games in March” which is often the mentality of teams from smaller conferences who have to win three games, or four in some cases, to advance to the Dance—it is their only way in. Well, here is that opportunity.

The conference tournaments will officially begin in the middle of next week with a few of the smaller conferences going at it. If one really wants to get technical though, the argument can be made that the Ivy League has a season-long conference tournament that commences at the beginning of league play.

The Other 26 Rankings

Tidbits from the Rankings

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Checking in on… the NEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 23rd, 2011


Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the Northeast Conference.

A Look Back

The top spot is decided, as Long Island clinched the regular season title on the road last week. In the NEC, the top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament. The individual games are at the home court of the higher seed, and this week’s action will have bearing on that all important seeding.  Heading into the final week, three teams are battling for the number four spot. Another three are in the hunt for the eighth and final seed. Wagner could finish anywhere from the second to seventh seed, depending on how the week plays out.  Two days of action are left, and scoreboard-watching will be very much in vogue in the NEC.

Power Rankings

1. LIU (22-5, 14-2) The Blackbirds won twice away from home to wrap up the conference, edging Wagner 83-79 before an ‘easier’ win at Mount St. Mary’s, 84-64. The Blackbirds are averaging 75 possessions per game and were over 70 in both games the past week. Efficiency margin was modest, +5 (109-104) at Wagner. The EM at the Mount was outstanding, +27 with a 115-88 difference. Despite the ‘NASCAR’ pace, the offensive TO rate is a vanilla 21% on the season.

Notable: Freshman point guard Jason Brickman was selected NEC Rookie of the Week. Brickman averaged 8.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2 steals and had only three turnovers in 63 minutes for the Blackbirds.

2. Quinnipiac (19-8, 11-5 overall) A clean sweep on the road. The Bobcats defeated Bryant 80-60 before getting a nailbiter, 68-67 , at CCSU. Efficiency margin was an outstanding +31 (125-94) in the win at Bryant. At Central Connecticut, the margin was more down to earth at +1 (106-105). The Bobcats had a 23% TO rate in the Bryant win, but that was offset by an outstanding 61% eFG percentage. The Offensive rebounding percentage in that game was 40-24% in Quinnipiac’s favor.

Notable: James Johnson averaged 17 points for the week. The senior guard scored 24 points against Bryant, going 7-11 from three point range. Johnson has the Quinnipiac Division-I record with 91 consecutive games started.

3. Central Connecticut (18-9, 11-5). If nail-biters are your specialty, Central was the team to watch. The Blue Devils split at home, edging  Sacred Heart 57-56 before falling 68-67 to Quinnipiac. The efficiencies mirrored the closeness of the scores. CCSU enjoyed an 86-85 advantage against Sacred Heart and was on the short end of a 106-105 offensive efficiency against Quinnipiac. The Blue Devils forced Sacred heart into a 32% TO rate.

Notable: Ken Horton, the NEC Co-Player of the Week, averaged 26.5 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. The junior forward scored a career high 35 points against Quinnipiac.

4. Robert Morris (14-13, 10-6). A good road weekend was had by RMU with victories at Fairleigh Dickinson (74-50) and Monmouth (62-60). The Colonials enjoyed a +38 (117-79) efficiency margin in the win at FDU. The TO rate in that game was an outstanding 6%. The Monmouth game was a tougher go as the Colonial TO rate increased to 26% and the host Hawks enjoyed a 56% eFG showing.

Notable: Russell Johnson, a redshirt sophomore, hit a jumper with 3.3 seconds left to defeat Monmouth. Johnson finished with 13 points, 9 rebounds and three assists. Sophomore forward Lijah Thompson averaged 13.5 points, 5 rebounds on the week.

5. Wagner (13-14, 9-7) The Seahawks lost two at the friendly confines of the Spiro Center. LIU defeated Wagner 83-79 before St. Francis (NY) emerged a 77-73 victor. Averaging 69 possessions per game, both outings were faster than the norm. The Pace was 76 and 71 possessions in the respective meetings. Wagner shot a gaudy 61% eFG mark against St. Francis but were guilty of a 28% TO rate, six percentage points above the season‘s average.

Notable: A three-pointer with three seconds remaining by Chris Martin forced overtime against LIU. Martin finished with 16 points, 14 after halftime. Latif Rivers, a freshman guard, enjoyed an 18 point, six-rebound, five-assist day against the Blackbirds.

6. St. Francis (NY) (13-14, 8-8). The flair for the dramatic. The Terriers captured road games over Mount St. Mary’s, 63-60 and Wagner 77-73. St. Francis averages 98 in offensive efficiency and was over 100, highlighted by the 108 at Wagner, both games. On the defensive end, they allowed a 99 efficiency. The TO rate was only 15% at the Mount. On defense, the Terriers force opponents into a 25% To rate. At Wagner that defensive number was  above average at 28%.

Notable: Senior guard Ricky Cadell earned NEC Co-Player of the Week accolades averaging 22 PPG for the two games. The Terriers clinched an NEC tournament berth and Cadell scored 13 points the final three minutes in the win at Wagner.

7. Mount St. Mary’s (10-19, 8-8) missed a chance to move up. The Mount suffered two home losses, to St. Francis (NY) 63-60 and LIU 84-64. The efficiency margin was a -5 against St. Francis but a whopping -27 (88-115) in the LIU meeting. The Mount had an impressive 57% eFG showing in the St. Francis game. Both contests, though, saw the Mount post a high 23% TO rate.

Notable: Senior forward Shawn Atupem scored 23 points against LIU on Senior Day. Atupem is coming on strong of late. Over the last five games he is averaging 15.2 points and shooting 73% from the floor.

8. Bryant (9-19, 7-9). Two games dropped at home. Quinnipiac defeated Bryant 80-60 before Sacred Heart squeaked by 83-77. Bryant averages 99 in offensive efficiency and exploded for a 126 against Sacred Heart. Bulldogs TO rate has been under 20% the last three games. Despite a one-sided loss to Quinnipiac, the Bulldogs did force a 23% defensive TO rate in that meeting. Both recent opponents also shot over 60% eFG percentage against Bryant.

Notable: Senior swingman Cecil Gresham averaged 20 points for the two games. Gresham scored a season-high 29 points against Sacred Heart on Bryant’s Senior Day.

9. St. Francis (PA) (8-19, 6-10) came up short, 57-51 at Monmouth but bounced back for a 77-65 victory at FDU. The EM (efficiency margin) was -11 at Monmouth, but a few days later, it improved dramatically to +19 (122-103) in the victory at FDU. The Red Flash were strapped with a 25% TO rate at Monmouth. Against FDU, the offense was in better synch. St. Francis To rate was only 19% and their eFG percentage, a sparking 67%.

Notable: A deadly three point shooter, sophomore guard Umar Shannon exploded for 25 points on 7-10 from beyond the arc. In the win at FDU. Shannon added 5 rebounds and two assists.

10. Sacred Heart (10-17, 5-11) – The Pioneers were one for two on the road. They dropped a close one, 57-56 at Central Connecticut. Sacred Heart rebounded to defeat Bryant 83-77. After posting an 85 offensive efficiency at CCSU, Sacred Heart had a season high 136 at Bryant. A 65% eFG percentage and a fine 18% TO rate helped the offensive cause. The defense was a season high in opposition efficiency as Bryant rang up a 126 in that contest.

Notable: Inserted as a starter four games ago, freshman forward Louis Montes has made an impact. Montes is averaging 12.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and shooting 62% from the field during that stretch.

11. Monmouth (9-19, 5-11) Took a home split. The Hawks downed St. Francis (PA) 57-51 and were nosed out by Robert Morris 62-60. Monmouth had an outstanding 86 defensive efficiency against St. Francis. That contest was a deliberate, even by Monmouth’s 65 average standard,   59 possession affair. Hawks’ defense gave up a 102 efficiency mark to Robert Morris, but hung close, as the Colonials were guilty of a 26% TO rate.

Notable: Jesse Steele came off the bench to score a game-high 20 points against St. Francis (PA). The sophomore guard averaged 16 points, 3.5 assists and had no turnovers in the two games.

12. FDU (2-14, 4-23) Two home losses, to Robert Morris 74-50 and St. Francis (PA) 77-65. The Knights have lost ten straight and 20 of 21. Defensive woes continued as the last two opponents were over 50% eFG and under 20% in TO rate. FDU had a -38 (79-117) efficiency margin against Robert Morris and -19 (103-122) in the St. Francis (PA) contest.

Notable: John Galvin scored his 600th point and Terence Grier his 800th in a senior day loss to St. Francis (PA). Galvin had his fourth double-double of the season in that game with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

A Look Ahead

February 24:

  • Mount St. Mary’s at Robert Morris
  • FDU at Sacred Heart
  • Bryant at LIU
  • Wagner at St. Francis (PA)
  • Central Connecticut at St. Francis (NY)
  • Monmouth at Quinnipiac

February 26:

  • Central Connecticut at LIU
  • FDU at Quinnipiac
  • Monmouth at Sacred Heart
  • Bryant at St. Francis (NY)
  • Monmouth at St. Francis (PA)
  • Wagner at Robert Morris
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