With the top four seeds all moving into the NEC Tournament semifinals we should have two very good matchups on Sunday. The headliner: Mount St. Mary's visiting Robert Morris (7 PM, NortheastConference.TV) in the third meeting between the two this season. This also marks the fifth consecutive NEC Tournament in which the Mountaineers and Colonials play each other, with RMU winning last year's NEC final in Moon Township. The two teams split their regular season meetings with the home team winning both. For Milan Brown's Mountaineers veterans Jeremy Goode, Jean Cajou and Kelly Beidler are the primary scorers for a team that's won eleven straight games. But it's been their defense that's pushed them on their current run.
The Mount leads the NEC in points per game allowed, field goal percentage defense and three-point percentage defense. Also, their last seventeen opponents have all scored seventy points or fewer. This will come in handy going up against RMU's backcourt, which is led by freshmen Karon Abraham and Velton Jones along with senior Mezie Newigwe. But while it's like the sound of a broken record, whether or not RMU wins will depend upon Rob Robinson, Dallas Green and Russell Johnson up front. Johnson's been the most consistent of the three, which is saying something given the fact that he's a sophomore while the other two are seniors. That can't be the case tonight; Robinson must stay out of foul trouble and win the battle up front.
The two teams are pretty similar offensively when it comes to the numbers but RMU is a slightly more efficient team. But they're also a better rebounding team than the Mountaineers, who will need a good night on the glass from Beidler, Shawn Atupem and Will Holland on the road. The Mountaineers tend to get a higher percentage of their points from behind the arc while RMU will look inside more. Turnovers and points off them will determine this game; the Colonials have a turnover rate of 21.9% and if the Mountaineers have the experience and defensive ability to force miscues. Look for this one to go down to the wire similar to their second meeting, which was won by the Mount.
#4 Long Island at #1 Quinnipiac (2 PM; MSG/FCS)
The top-seeded Bobcats continue their quest for the school's first-ever NCAA Tournament bid this afternoon, taking on LIU in Hamden for the second time this season (the lone meeting was an 80-72 QU win on February 13th). These are two of the best rebounding teams in the NEC with Quinnipiac leading the conference in rebounding margin, but it was turnovers that decided the regular season meeting. LIU turned the ball over seventeen times in that loss and the margin of minus-6 resulted in the Bobcats taking six more shots (making five) from the field. Jaytornah Wisseh, Kyle Johnson and the rest of the major contributors can ill-afford to do that again.
And while NEC Player of the Year Justin Rutty scored just eight points in that game James Johnson was the man who stepped up to sting the Blackbirds. He led all scorers with 23 points while James Feldeine added seventeen. Wisseh and Johnson can score and LIU also has Kenny Onyechi and Jamal Olasewere up front but if this turns into an up-and-down game that stresses offensive execution they're going to be in trouble. Quinnipiac a more efficient team both offensively and defensively, and they do a very good job of getting the ball inside. If LIU can make their three pointers (32% of their points come from behind the arc) they've got a shot, but this is an uphill battle to say the least.
Quinnipiac over LIU
Mount St. Mary's over Robert Morris