The Northeast Conference features six teams that have won 11 or more conference games. Safe to say, several teams have a shot at the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Robert Morris took the regular season title and the Colonials are looking for their third tourney title since 2009.
Robert Morris is atop the league, but LIU Brooklyn has been the best team in the NEC over the last two seasons. Robert Morris and LIU Brooklyn, for all their recent success, may not be dancing when it’s all said and done. Wagner and Bryant are two teams that have improved over the years and are ready to make a run at the NCAA tournament.
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Where: Campus sites (higher seeds)
When: March 6, 9, 12
Final: March 12, 7:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Favorite: Robert Morris
The Colonials were the best team in the NEC this year with a 14-4 conference record. Velton Jones leds a balanced scoring attack for the Colonials. The senior guard is averaging 11.3 points and more than five assists per game. Robert Morris dropped the first two conference games before rallying off six straight. The Colonials could make their way to the tournament behind their shooting from behind the arc, shooting 39 percent as a team on the season.
And if they lose?: Good chance this happens in the semifinals. Robert Morris has a potential matchup with Bryant — having its best season since joining the Division I ranks. The Bulldogs and Colonials have split the season series by a total of nine points (Butler won by seven, Robert Morris won by two). Wagner also could be in the mix, falling to Robert Morris by only four and going 1-1 against Bryant this season.
Sleepers: Mount St. Mary’s is playing its best basketball heading into the tourney. The Mountaineers have won seven straight and nine of their last 10. Quinnipiac is the last team to take down top-seeded Robert Morris. LIU Brooklyn, winners of the last two NEC tournaments tied for second place in the NEC with Wagner and Bryant.
– Jamal Olasewere, LIU Brooklyn: The senior forward is the third leading scorer in the league with 19.2 per game while pulling down more than eight rebounds per game.
– Velton Jones, Robert Morris: Experienced guard has led the Colonials to the top of the NEC. One of the NEC’s top floor generals knows what it takes to go dancing and has led the versatile Colonials’ offensive, leading the team with 5.2 assists and scoring 11.3 per night — good for third on the team.
– Dyami Starks, Bryant: The redshirt sophomore averaging a team-high 17.7, barely ahead of Alex Francis (17.1). Bryant is on the rise and Starks, the transfer from Columbia, is a big reason why.
CBT Prediction: Top-seeded Robert Morris advances past No. 3 LIU Brooklyn.
Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne