A few sources have assistant coach Andrew Toole possibly being promoted in the coming days, which would likely help in that department. But with the position still being open, Robert Morris is fourth in my ridiculously early prediction. The top team: Quinnipiac, who has to replace James Feldeine but with Justin Rutty and more than a few contributors due back Tom Moore's team has the ability to take that next step. Tied with Robert Morris for the regular season title, the Bobcats lost a heartbreaker to RMU at home in the NEC Tournament final.
Who are the other likely contenders? Look no further than LIU, Monmouth and even CCSU. Jim Ferry's Blackbirds lose Jaytornah Wisseh but the experience gained this season by Kenny Onyechi and Jamal Olasewere will pay dividends next season and Kyle Johnson returns as well. And if Julian Boyd, who missed all of this season due to a heart ailment, is cleared to play next year LIU becomes a team that should challenge for league supremacy. Monmouth and CCSU may be wild cards for the title, with both teams returning a number of key contributors.
Shemik Thompson (CCSU) is a likely Preseason All-NEC selection on either of the two teams announced, and the Blue Devils will also welcome back forward Ken Horton who missed the entire season due to injury. And just like LIU, a freshman forward received ample opportunities to improve as Joe Efese improved by leaps and bounds as conference play progressed. These two teams have the ability to at least earn a first round home game, as does Mount St. Mary's.
The Mountaineers also welcome a new head coach in Robert Burke, who has 22 years of collegiate coaching experience. Jean Cajou and Shawn Atupem will need to lead the way if The Mount is to remain a contender in the NEC next season. Wagner may be the one program to watch in regards to making a significant jump in the standings thanks to the hiring of Danny Hurley as head coach. And with his brother Bobby and former Drexel point guard Bashir Mason as two of his assistants, Coach Hurley has gotten the program headed in the right direction already given their recruiting haul.
The only other coaching move in the conference was St. Francis (NY) hiring Glen Braica as head coach following the resignation of Brian Nash. Akeem Bennett has the ability to be an all-conference player next season, and the addition of one-time Seton Hall commit Michael Glover should make the Terriers a more talented team. But will that translate into more wins for SFNY? It's not like they lacked talent under Nash; for some reason they simply were unable to put anything of consequence together during his time in Brooklyn. FDU loses their two most productive players in Sean Baptiste and Alvin Mofunanya, meaning that head coach Greg Vetrone will need to count on some key returnees for additional contributions.
Below is an insanely early projection of the NEC going into next season, and depending on late recruiting moves and possible defections things could change multiple times before mid-October. As more additions (and subtractions) occur they'll be updated here (verbal commitments in italics).
Personnel losses: G James Feldeine, G Steve Robinson, G Ryan Bogdan (transfer)
Personnel additions: F Ike Azotam (Boston, MA), G Dominique Langston (Bridgeport, CT), G/F William Harrison (Bronx, NY/Western Texas College), G Lance Brown (Fordham transfer; will be eligible 2011-12)
Personnel losses: G Jaytornah Wisseh, F Miguel Bocachica (transfer)
Personnel additions: F Joel Gierbolini (Carolina, PR/Lon Morris JC), G Jason Brickman (San Antonio, TX), Taquann Zimmerman (Waterbury, CT)
Personnel losses: F George Barbour, F Dutch Gaitley, G Whitney Coleman, G Yaniv Simpson, F Travis Taylor (transfer)
Personnel additions: G Jordan Davis (Tampa, FL), G/F Daniel James (Sheffield, England), G Matt Pritchett (Norwalk, CT/Eastern Wyoming College), G Dion Nesmith (Union,NJ/Northeastern; eligible immediately)
4. Robert Morris
Personnel losses: G Jimmy Langhurst, G Mezie Newigwe, F Dallas Green, F Rob Robinson, F Josiah Whitehead, G Khalif Foster (transfer), F Brad Piehl (transfer)
Personnel additions: G/F Yann Charles (Longueil, QC), F Lawrence Bridges (Detroit, MI/ Columbus State CC), G Antony Myers (Washington, D.C.), G Elton Roy (Houston, TX), F Bernard Webb (Bridgeport, CT/Barton CC)
5. Central Connecticut State
Personnel losses: G Joe Seymore
Personnel additions: G Daquan Brickhouse (Peekskill, NY), C Justin Alexander (San Antonio, TX), F Terrell Allen (Norfolk, VA), G/F DeAngelo Speech (Oak Park, IL/Lee (Maine) Academy)
6. Mount St. Mary's
Personnel losses: G Jeremy Goode, F Will Holland, F Kelly Beidler, G Kevin Jones
Personnel additions: G Jeff James (Bowie, MD), G John Castellanos (Orlando, FL), G Julian Norfleet (Virginia Beach, VA)
Personnel losses: G T.J. Czeski, C Clifton Spiller
Personnel additions: G Latif Rivers (Elizabeth, NJ), F Orlando Parker (Orlando, FL), C Ming Folahan (Benin Republic), G Evan Pierce (Pittsburgh, PA), F Josh Daniell (Old Bridge, NJ), G Kenneth Ortiz (Southern Miss; will sit out 2010-11 per NCAA transfer rules)
8. Saint Francis (PA)
Personnel losses: G/F Devin Sweetney, F Kurt Hoffman, F Mislav Jukic, G Chris McFarland, F Ron Johnson (transfer), G Curtis Keys (transfer), F Cedric Latimer (transfer)
Personnel additions: G Kameron Ritter (Albany, NY), F Jon Taylor (Germantown, MD/Montgomery College-Germantown), G Anthony Goode (Randallstown, MD), C Scott Eatherton (Hershey, PA), C Storm Stanley (Lambertville, MI), G Kyheim Hall (Tobyhanna, PA)
9. Sacred Heart
Personnel losses: G Corey Hassan, G Ryan Litke, G Chauncey Hardy, G/F Josh Marshall, C Liam Potter
Personnel additions: F Chris Evans (Stamford, CT), G Steve Glowiak (New Britain, CT), G Evan Kelley (Norwalk, CT)
10. Fairleigh Dickinson
Personnel losses: G Sean Baptiste, F Alvin Mofunanya, C Lawrence Brown
Personnel additions: G Tyler Reynolds (Sheldon, OR), G Brianh Smith (Detroit, MI), F Nate Gibbs (Dallas, TX/Saddleback (CA) JC), F Mathias Seilund (Dragoer, Denmark), G Melquan Bolding (Duquesne; will sit out 2010-11 per NCAA transfer rules)
11. St. Francis (NY)
Personnel losses: G Tyri Coerbell, F Nigel Byam, G/F Kayode Ayeni, F Herman Wrice
Personnel additions: F Kenny Moore (Philadelphia, PA/Midland (TX) College), F Lowell Ulmer (Staten Island, NY), G Dre Calloway (Sterling, CO/Northeastern (CO) JC)
Personnel losses: G Chris Birrell, G Anthony Thomas, C/F Nick Pontes, F Don Smith, G/F Cecil Gresham, G Adam Parzych, G Sam Leclerc (transfer)
Personnel additions: F Alex Francis (New York, NY), G Corey Maynard (Adelaide, Australia), F Troy Robinson (Roslindale, MA), G Matthew Lee (Bloomfield, NJ)