NEC Weekly Roundup

January 19th, 2010
Saturday's games offered little in the way of clarity when it comes to who should be considered the favorite to win the Northeast Conference, instead jumbling the picture from top to (almost) bottom. Long Island showed up at Mount St. Mary's undefeated in league play and left with an 86-67 loss, dropping them into a tie for first place with Robert Morris. Primary scorers Jaytornah Wisseh and Kyle Johnson combined to shoot 5-for-21 from the field in the loss, a fatal blow to the Blackbirds' chances due to the team shooting 33.9% from the field (22.6% in the first half, resulting in a 44-23 halftime deficit).

Milan Brown's Mountaineers are a team to keep an eye on as we approach the final month of the regular season. The Mount struggled early on in conference play last season as well, only to go on a run to wrap up a quality seed in the NEC Tournament and get all the way to the final before falling to Robert Morris. With an experienced roster boasting four starters who were a part of their last NCAA Tournament appearance Mount St. Mary's has the ability to duplicate that feat. Jeremy Goode and Jean Cajou combined for 33 points in Saturday's win while Kelly Beidler added 15 points and 11 rebounds.

As for the defending NEC champion Colonials their 1-1 week was simply a microcosm of their season thus far. Head coach Mike Rice has been looking for consistency throughout the campaign, juggling his rotation in search of constant answers. One player who's stepped up is freshman guard Karon Abraham, who scored 21 points in their 78-67 win over Monmouth. He should be considered one of the favorites to win Rookie of the Year honors, and if RMU can get solid production from Rob Robinson (he played just twenty foul-plagued minutes on Saturday) they'll have a good shot at repeating as champs.

But what will make this race entertaining down the stretch is that there are more than a few teams with a credible shot at winning the league. Quinnipiac has an outstanding tandem in James Feldeine and Justin Rutty, and Jeremy Baker's not exactly a bad third option. One of the NEC's best offensive teams, Tom Moore's Bobcats are also among the best in field goal percentage defense. Their pasting of CCSU on Thursday night was one of the more impressive showings in NEC play this season and they took care of business at Bryant on Saturday.

Monmouth should also be in the conversation, especially when considering the play of sophomore forward Travis Taylor. He played all forty minutes in the Hawks' loss at RMU, accounting for 22 points and 12 rebounds. Taylor is steadily becoming a serious candidate for NEC Player of the Year and with options such as Whitney Coleman, Justin Sofman and Ed Waite Monmouth has a team that can light it up offensively. What cost them on Saturday was the fact that those three all struggled from the field as Monmouth shot 31.4% from the field in the second half and 36.1% for the game. Do not expect them to go quietly into the night when it comes to the NEC race.

And with five teams within one game of each other in spots six through ten the race for the last spots in the eight-team conference tournament could once again go down to the final day of the regular season. CCSU picked up a crucial split with their home win over Sacred Heart to remain within striking distance and the same goes for aforementioned Mount St. Mary's. The Pioneers are a game ahead of those two, tied with Saint Francis (PA) and FDU with a 3-3 league record. All three teams have dangerous players, which will make them a tough out the rest of the way. The NEC race is shaping up to be a thriller, and don't be surprised if this is the year that sees a team not seeded one or two win the automatic bid.

Standings

                  Conference Record Overall Record
Quinnipiac              5-1                  11-6
Robert Morris          5-1                  10-8
Long Island            5-1                  7-10
Monmouth              4-2                  8-10
St. Francis (NY)       4-2                   7-9
Sacred Heart          3-3                   10-7
Saint Francis (PA)    3-3                  5-12
Fairleigh Dickinson  3-3                  4-14
Central Conn. St.    2-4                  5-12
Mount St. Mary's     2-4                  5-12
Wagner                 0-6                  2-17
Bryant                   0-6                  0-18

Weekly Honors

Choice Hotels Players of the Week: G James Feldeine (Quinnipiac) and F Travis Taylor (Monmouth)
Feldeine led the Bobcats to a 3-0 week, averaging 18.3 points per game and shooting 60% from the field (61.5% 3PT) and Taylor posted averages of 21.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in the Hawks' 1-1 western Pennsylvania swing.

Choice Hotels Rookie of the Week: G Karon Abraham (Robert Morris)
Abraham averaged 20.5 points and 2.5 assists per game in the Colonials' 1-1 week, leading the way for a team that's won six of its last seven games.

The Week Ahead

Thursday's Games
7:30p Saint Francis (PA) at Monmouth
Bryant at Quinnipiac
Wagner at LIU
Robert Morris at FDU
Mount St. Mary's at St. Francis (NY)
7:45p CCSU at Sacred Heart