NEC Weekend Preview: Showdown in Moon Township Highlights Weekend

February 18th, 2010

Weekly Honors (announced on Monday)

Choice Hotels Co-Players of the Week: F Kelly Beidler (Mount St. Mary's) and G James Johnson (Quinnipiac)
Beidler averaged 15.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.5 rebounds in wins over Monmouth and FDU last week, helping the Mountaineers move their win streak to six games. Johnson averaged 20 ppg last week as the Bobcats locked up at least one NEC Tournament home game with wins over SFNY and LIU. 

Choice Hotels Rookie of the Week: F Will Felder (Saint Francis-PA) 
Felder averaged 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in a pair of road victories for the Red Flash, moving them into a three-way tie for sixth place. 

Game of the Week: Quinnipiac at Robert Morris (Saturday, 7PM)

The NEC regular season title will likely be decided when the Bobcats and Colonials get together in Moon Township Saturday night. This is their sole regular season meeting and if anyone's equipped to knock off RMU on the road it would be Quinnipiac, who has won four straight games and leads the NEC in scoring offense (74.6 ppg), rebounding margin (+7.9), turnover margin (+2.21) and assist-to-turnover ratio (0.98) in conference games. Outside of road losses to Monmouth (January 2nd) and red-hot Mount St. Mary's (January 30th) Tom Moore's team has played the most consistent basketball of anyone in the NEC this season.

RMU is the most talented team when looking at entire rotations but they tend to alternate stretches of looking like the clear favorite and simply looking like a mediocre basketball team. Saturday night offers the first game since their loss at LIU (January 7th) in which the Colonials can be punished severely for such lapses. Karon Abraham and Velton Jones are two of the youngsters who have played well for Mike Rice's squad, making up for the loss of senior guard Jimmy Langhurst due to injury early in the season. But they need senior Rob Robinson to bring his A-game if they're to both win on Saturday and make their way back to the NCAA Tournament. When he plays well RMU is tough to beat; when he doesn't they've been successful but their chances of losing increase substantially. 

What's going to be key on Saturday? Rebounding. The Bobcats, led by Justin Rutty, are the best rebounding team in the NEC while Robinson and Dallas Green lead a group (also including freshman Russell Johnson) that ranks third in the conference in rebounding margin. In addition to Rutty, however, Quinnipiac's perimeter players can hit the boards as well. Leading scorer James Feldeine and glue-guy Jeremy Baker do a good job of helping out in that department and James Johnson is no slouch either. If the Bobcats win the rebounding battle they likely win this one going away. Robert Morris has been the better defensive team as conference play has progressed and they'll have to bring a similar performance to slow down Feldeine, Johnson and Rutty.

While a Quinnipiac win would open things up going into the final weekend RMU would clinch the top seed with a victory. If the game's in the sixties give the edge to the Colonials while a higher-scoring contest would favor Quinnipiac.

Thursday's Games

7p Bryant at Wagner
7p CCSU at Mount St. Mary's (MSG)
7p Sacred Heart at Robert Morris
7:30p FDU at LIU
7:30p Monmouth at St. Francis (NY)
7:30p Quinnipiac at Saint Francis (PA)
 

Bryant remains winless on the season and their game at Wagner could represent their best shot at getting a victory this season. The Seahawks have lost four straight and six of their last seven...the Mountaineers of Mount St. Mary's have been the hottest team in the NEC, having won six straight to go from struggling for an NEC Tournament berth to fighting to host a quarterfinal game. While Kelly Beidler was outstanding last weekend Will Holland (14.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Jeremy Goode (13.0 ppg, 7.0 apg) also played well in two wins for the Mount. They host CCSU, who if the season ended today would not qualify for the NEC Tournament. Losers of two straight the Blue Devils have won just two NEC road games this season: SFNY on December 3rd and Bryant two weeks ago.

Tied with CCSU on the outside looking in is Sacred Heart, who needs more consistency on offense from players not named Corey Hassan. The Pioneers ended a five-game losing skid with a win over SFNY on Saturday, but their bigger issue has been defense. SHU ranks dead last in the NEC in scoring and field goal percentage defense. Saint Francis (PA) won a pair of road games last week and will need solid output from forwards Devin Sweetney and Will Felder if they're to build upon those wins. FDU visits LIU in a key game for both in regards to NEC Tournament seeding (and whether or not they qualify) and the same goes for Monmouth visiting St. Francis (NY).     

Saturday's Games

4p Sacred Heart at Saint Francis (PA)
4:30p FDU at St. Francis (NY)
4:30p Monmouth at LIU
7p Bryant at Mount St. Mary's
7p CCSU at Wagner
7p Quinnipiac at Robert Morris