Northeast Conference Preview
The Northeast Conference featured one of the best title races in all of college basketball last season. Three teams finished within three games of each other at the top, and Robert Morris knocked off both Sacred Heart and Wagner in the final three games of the season in order to hang on for the championship. Sacred Heart had the early lead in the race, but it lost three of its final five games to drop to third. Overall, five teams finished at least 11-7, while four teams were 4-14. The conference tournament featured even more surprises, as fourth-place Mount St. Mary’s made a run to the NCAA Tournament by beating Sacred Heart in the title game after knocking off top-seeded Robert Morris in the semifinals. The Mountaineers won the play-in game against Coppin State before falling to North Carolina in the first-round. Can MSM repeat and get back to the Big Dance?
Favorite: Despite finishing fourth last season and losing one of its best players, Mount St. Mary’s seems like the consensus favorite to win the Northeast this season. Jeremy Goode leads the way; he is arguably the best player in the league. He is joined in the backcourt by Will Holland and Jean Cajou, who came on strong late in the year. Sam Atupem and Markus Mitchell are returning starters up front.
Contenders: Central Connecticut State will be on MSM’s heels all season long. The Blue Devils have a great sophomore duo in guard Shemik Thompson and center Ken Horton, both all-conference candidates. Joe Seymore and Marcus Palmer are also double-figure scorers for CCSU. Robert Morris loses a lot of talent, but still returns guard Jeremy Chappell, one of the top players in the conference. Guards Bateko Francisco and Jimmy Langhurst will flank Chappell on the perimeter. The Colonials need help up front, though. Sacred Heart could make some noise as the Pioneers go for their third straight 18-win campaign. Guards Chauncey Hardy and Ryan Litke both return in the backcourt, while Corey Hassan can score on the perimeter. Up front, Joey Henley is an all-conference candidate when healthy, while Ryon Howard has talent at forward.
Sleepers: Fairleigh Dickinson won only four NEC games last season, but the Knights could be vastly improved this year. Sean Baptiste is a big-time scorer at guard, while Cameron Tyler returns from injury at the point guard position. Buffalo transfer Eric Moore will make an immediate impact. John Galvin and DeJuan Pursley lead the way up front. Wagner fell short of the NCAA Tournament last season, and will fall back to pack this year. Two starters return in guard Joey Mundweiler and forward Jamal Smith, an all-conference candidate. Llewchean Radford could be poised for a bigger role this season. Long Island returns four starters from last year’s .500 campaign. Jaytornah Wisseh is an all-conference guard in the backcourt, while Kyle Johnson can shoot the ball. David Hicks and Tyrone Mattison are also solid perimeter players. Aurimas Adomaitis needs a bigger season up front. Quinnipiac was another team that went .500 last season, and will look to improve. The key could be Evan Baker, who had knee surgery in the offseason and is questionable for the start of the year. If he returns, this team could be decent. Brian Geffen and James Feldeine form a solid backcourt duo, while Justin Rutty and Louis Brookins will start in the frontcourt.
Rounding out the Pack: Monmouth does return four starters from last season, but the Hawks went just 7-24 overall. They do have a deep backcourt though, with all-conference candidate Whitney Coleman leading the way. Yaniv Simpson, James Hett and Alex Nunner also return on the perimeter. Nick DelTufo is the leader up front. St. Francis (N.Y.) will also count on its backcourt with 5-8 Jamaal Womack and Ricky Cadell headlining the Terriers. Kayode Ayeni and Croatian forward Stefan Perunicic will be the main contributors in the frontcourt. St. Francis (Pa.), yet another team that went 4-14 in the conference last season, returns three starters. Devin Sweetney is an all-conference candidate, while Marquis Ford and double-figure scorer Cale Nelson form a solid backcourt tandem.
Prediction: Can Mount St. Mary’s carry the momentum it gained from its hot finish last season over to this year? That will be the biggest question for the conference favorites. Jeremy Goode might be the best player in the conference, and the Mountaineers have plenty of scoring and talent in the starting lineup. There are a plethora of teams competing with MSM, though, including Central Connecticut State, Sacred Heart and Fairleigh Dickinson. If CCSU’s young guns develop, Sacred Heart stays healthy and FDU plays to its potential, this will be a great league race. In the end, though, Mount St. Mary’s has the scoring versatility and experience to get the league title.
Player of the Year: Jeremy Goode, G, Mount St. Mary’s
G- Jeremy Goode, Mount St. Mary’s
G- Jeremy Chappell, Robert Morris
G- Jaytornah Wisseh, Long Island
G- Sean Baptiste, Fairleigh Dickinson
C- Ken Horton, Central Connecticut State
G- Cameron Tyler, Fairleigh Dickinson
G- Shemik Thompson, Central Connecticut State
G- Whitney Coleman, Monmouth
F- Joey Henley, Sacred Heart
F- Jean Cajou, Mount St. Mary’s