Northeast Conference tournament preview


The most commonly used saying when talking about basketball during the month of March is “if seeding holds”.

Its how we predict what the best matchups will be. Its how us media folks try and build our schedules during the month. Its how ESPN tries to predict which games it will broadcast. Think about it like this: if seeding holds, than I am going to have a great time covering the Final Four for the CAA Tournament.

I got a feeling that in the NEC Tournament, seeding is not going to hold. One reason? The conference is deep. Seven teams finished with double figures wins. They had three teams finish the regular season with more than 20 wins. That’s rare when you play in a league where guarantee games make up a large portion of the regular season. Another reason? The computers don’t love favorite LIU. John Templon of NYC Buckets has been running tournament projections for a number of conferences, and LIU only made the finals in just over half of his projections. Wagner, his computer suggests, in the favorite while three-seed Robert Morris won the tournament almost a third of the time.

Games aren’t played in a calculator, but if the numbers are right — and, quite often, they are — this is going to be en exciting tournament to follow.

The Bracket

Where: Campus sites

When: March 1st-March 7th

Final: March 7th, 7:00 p.m., ESPN

Favorite: Long Island

LIU is the reigning tournament champion. They won the conference this season. They have the league player of the year on their roster. This group can play, and they proved over and over again during the year. There is also adequate reason for impartial fans to root for the Blackbirds: this team plays at the third-fastest pace in the country. They get up and down the floor, and is there anything better than watching a talented basketball team let its athletes get out in the open court and make plays?

And if they lose?: Wagner

The sentimental pick is an easy one. In 2010, Wagner won just five games. Now? They are 24-5 after finishing second in the NEC with a league record of 15-3. Their head coach is Danny Hurley, the brother of Duke legend Bobby Hurley and the son of famed New Jersey high school coach Bob Hurley, who has built St. Anthony into a powerhouse. Wagner is an aggressive defensive team that thrives on forcing turnovers. Two things to consider: the Seahawks won at Pitt this year, but they went 0-2 against LIU.

Sleepers: Robert Morris finished the season in third and, like Wagner, they are a stalwart defensive team. They are also the best rebounding team in the conference. Most telling, however, is that Bobby Mo has been the NEC’s tournament representative a handful of times recently. This group won’t be intimidated by the pressure of a knockout tournament. Quinnipiac and St. Francis (NY) are also worth keeping an eye on.


Julian Boyd, LIU: The NEC’s POY this season, Boyd is a versatile and strong 6’7″ forward that will remind some folks of Rob Jones of St. Mary’s.

Kyle Vinales, Ken Horton and Bobby Ptacek, CCSU: These three all average more than 17.6 ppg and sit in the league’s top four in scoring. How often do you see that at the Division I level?

Shane Gibson, Sacred Heart: Playing on a team without many offensive options, Gibson averaged 22.0 ppg without turning into a gunner. He shot 43.6% from three and had the ninth-highest efficiency rating of any player in the country that used at least 28% of his team’s possessions.

Velton Jones, RMU: Jones is the engine that makes Bobby Mo go. He’s a terrific on-ball defender and a dangerous penetrator and creator.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

VIDEOS: Rhode Island, Maryland exchange heated words in Cancun

Dan Hurley
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No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.

Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.

But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.

It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:

After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”:

Wayne Selden stars as Kansas wins the title in Maui

Wayne Selden Jr., Jeff Roberson
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The last time we wrote about Wayne Selden in this space, it was my colleague Scott Phillips who questioned, after a poor performance in the Champions Classic, whether or not Selden is capable of bring a primary scorer for a team with NCAA title aspirations.

At the time, it wasn’t an unfair question to ask.

Selden is a former top 15 recruit. He is a guy who was expected to go one-and-done that played poorly in the first big game of his third year on campus. But after three days it Maui, it appears that the old Wayne Selden is gone.

[MORE: Kansas got Cheick Diallo news today]

He capped an MVP performance in the Maui Invitational with 25 points and seven boards on 8-for-11 shooting as the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks knocked off No. 19 Vanderbilt, 70-63, in the title game. Selden was terrific for the entire weekend, averaging 21.5 points in the two games against Division I competition and shooting 12-for-17 from beyond the arc in the three game tournament.

It was the best that we’ve seen Selden play during his Jayhawk career, and it came in a game the Jayhawks desperately needed it. Vanderbilt is a damn good team. They’re ranked 19th, which may actually be too low, and they seem to clearly be the biggest challenger to Kentucky in the SEC. They jumped out to a double-digit lead on Kansas in the first half as the Jayhawks seemed to be sleep-walking early in the game.

Enter Selden. He drilled three threes in the first half and scored 13 of the 26 Jayhawk points to keep them close. In other words, he played like a star on a night Kansas desperately needed someone to step up and play like a star. Remember: this is a dude that had enough talent and potential in high school to be considered a McDonald’s All-American and a potential lottery pick. The ability is there:

(That move is filthy.)

The question has always been whether or not he is capable of putting it all together, of being the guy that can be relied upon to make the big play in the big moment, to carry a team with title aspirations.

And to be fair, the jury is still out in that regard. Are we just going to ignore those four free throws he clanged down the stretch?

But seeing Selden have this kind of performance in a game like this against a team that is this good is unquestionably a positive for Kansas moving forward.