NEC Weekend Preview: Two Tournament Spots Up for Grabs

February 25th, 2010

The final weekend of the regular season is here in the NEC and there are just two available spots for the NEC Tournament and four teams fighting for them. Monmouth is the one team with the ability to punch their ticket tonight but they'll have quite the task at Quinnipiac. A game behind them in the standings are CCSU and St. Francis (NY), and those two meet on Saturday in Brooklyn with the winner likely qualifying for the NEC Tournament. And Sacred Heart is the team with the most left to do at this point, sitting at 6-10 in the standings. However, they do host Monmouth on Saturday and would own a variety of tiebreakers should they go 2-0 on the weekend. 

As for who hosts the quarterfinal games next Thursday, it's already known that Robert Morris and Quinnipiac are the top two seeds. How they finish will be determined this weekend; if RMU wins out the road to the NCAA Tournament will (in theory) go through Moon Township. Should the two teams tie then the Bobcats will be the top seed in the conference tournament thanks to their 87-79 win over the Colonials last weekend. Mount St. Mary's and LIU are in the driver's seat for the remaining "host" seeds while FDU and Saint Francis (PA) sit a game behind them. And mathematically Monmouth can also get into position to host an NEC Tournament game. 

Game of the Week: St. Francis (NY) at CCSU, 1 PM Saturday 

At this point it's safe to say that an NEC Tournament berth will be on the line in New Britain when the Terriers and Blue Devils get together. And if history has anything to do with the outcome look for the game to go down to the wire. In their last thirty-two meetings the Blue Devils have won seventeen, and the average score in those games: 70 apiece. But that wasn't the story in their most recent meeting, won by Central 63-50 back on December 3rd. The Terriers shot just 28.6% from the field (31.4% 2PT, 23.8% 3PT), and while the Blue Devils weren't much better from the field (37.7%) they were far more efficient on offense. 

SFNY can, at times, resort to taking the three too often and that was the case on that December night. They attempted 21 three-pointers and made just five; CCSU finished 3-12 from deep but their refusal to settle for that shot led to them winning. The Blue Devils were also a plus-7 (43-36) on the boards, with David Simmons leading the way by grabbing 14 caroms. Rebounding will be an important factor given the teams' struggles with marksmanship (field goal percentage rankings: CCSU-10th, SFNY-8th); Central ranks 6th in rebounding margin (minus-1.9) while the Terriers go into the weekend ranked 9th (minus-2.9). 

Two of the headliners struggled in that game as well, with the shooting of Central's Robbie Ptacek (1-13 FG, 5 pts) and SFNY's Ricky Cadell (5-18 FG, 19 pts) being a microcosm of the night as a whole. But while the play of Simmons, Shemik Thompson (17 pts), Joe Seymour (10 pts) and Joe Efese (12 pts in 18 min off the bench) made up for Ptacek there wasn't the same level of "cover" for Cadell. Akeem Bennett has proven to be the best man for the role as the season has progressed and head coach Brian Nash is going to need a big weekend from the junior guard if the Terriers are to earn their second consecutive NEC Tournament berth. 

These are two of the top four teams in the NEC with regards to turnover margin but both are in the bottom half of the league when it comes to assist-to-turnover ratio, which usually means more individual work on the offensive end. Can Cadell get going against a defense that traditionally does well against primary scoring options? Can the backcourt of Ptacek and Thompson control the game and keep the Blue Devils from playing into the Terriers' hands? The answers will determine which team plays in the NEC Tournament and which one locks up the basketballs for the year. 

Thursday's Schedule

7p Robert Morris at Wagner
7:30p LIU at CCSU (MSG) Before getting to Saturday the Blue Devils need to take care of the Blackbirds at home. LIU is playing for a quarterfinal home game so Jim Ferry's bunch has something on the line as well. Jaytornah Wisseh, the reigning Choice Hotels Player of the Week, will be the man the Blue Devils look to limit due to his ability to both score and distribute.
7:30p St. Francis (NY) at Bryant
7:30p Monmouth at Quinnipiac
7:30p Saint Francis (PA) at Mount St. Mary's
7:45p FDU at Sacred Heart  

Saturday's Schedule

1p St. Francis (NY) at CCSU
3:30p LIU at Bryant
4p Robert Morris at Mount St. Mary's The two schools who have controlled the NEC in recent seasons meet in Emmittsburg in a game that could be a preview of either an NEC semifinal or final. The Mountaineers have been red-hot of late due to the improved play of guards Jeremy Goode and Jean Cajou along with forward Kelly Beidler. The Colonials have found a way to sit one win away from winning the NEC despite relying upon so many freshmen. But if they're to return to the NCAA Tournament seniors Rob Robinson and Dallas Green will likely be the guys who have to step up.
7p Sacred Heart at Monmouth
7p Saint Francis (PA) at Wagner
7:30p Quinnipiac at FDU 

Choice Hotels Weekly Honors

Player of the Week: G Jaytornah Wisseh (LIU)
Rookie of the Week: F Will Felder (Saint Francis-PA)