by Patrick Gustavson
Entering this week in Northeast Conference play, the two teams to beat were Wagner and Robert Morris. Following two games, one of those teams has taken a dive, while a new contender has emerged. A major shake-up has occurred throughout the standings.
Wagner has the distinction of being the first team to clinch a spot in the tournament, following home wins against Central Connecticut and Saint Francis (BKN). The Seahawks continue to take care of business on their home court, still yet to lose there on the entire season. They will host Bryant on Thursday night before traveling to Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday.
As for Robert Morris, things are heading in the opposite direction; the Colonials were manhandled on Thursday by Mount St. Mary’s, only managing to muster up 42 points, by far their lowest of the season. They then welcomed FDU, who upset them on their own home court, 73-67. A team that once looked like the perennial favorite has now fallen into a four-way tie for third place with a 7-5 record. Things don’t get much easier, as they travel to SFBK and LIU Brooklyn next week.
The Mount has taken advantage of RMU’s struggles, winning four games in a row, and propelling to sole possession of second place in the conference. Following their signature win against the Colonials, they played host to Saint Francis (PA), where they squeaked out a three-point victory. Much like Wagner, the Mountaineers have been excellent at home, losing just one game all season. They next travel to CCSU and Bryant, looking to inch closer to first place.
The next four teams are all tied together at 7-5. Robert Morris is joined by both the Saint Francis teams, as well as LIU Brooklyn.
The Blackbirds of LIU have been another of the hottest teams in the conference, having won three straight and six of their last eight. Led by the dynamic duo of Joel Hernandez and Raiquan Clark, the team could also make some noise in the tournament, should they get a home game.
The Saint Francis schools will face off on Saturday in Brooklyn, but both face difficult tasks in the game prior. The Red Flash of SFU will head to LIU Brooklyn, while the Terriers will host Robert Morris, in what could be a signature win for the team.
Once in the thick of things, CCSU has fallen by the wayside after losing three straight. After putting up a respectable showing at Wagner, the Blue Devils suffered a double-digit loss to Sacred Heart on Saturday, leaving the team at 5-7 in the conference. They return home this week, where they have had great success, taking on the Mount, before a rematch against SHU.
FDU, the other 5-7 team, is trending in the other direction. Following a 14-point loss against SFU, the Knights traveled to Robert Morris and upset the Colonials, putting themselves back in the conversation.
Sacred Heart showed they still have signs of life, soundly defeating CCSU at home. However, they are still two games out of eighth place. Their next two games are on the road against FDU and CCSU, two winnable games that would certainly improve their chances of a postseason berth.
Unfortunately for Bryant, they would need a massive turnaround to even have a chance at the tournament. The postseason seems unlikely for the Bulldogs.
Though there is not one signature game on the schedule this week, there are many crucial games taking place between teams atop the standings that will certainly provide the opportunity for teams to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack.