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NEC Update: Wagner Jumps To The Top

by Patrick Gustavson

Following a week of action, the Northeast Conference standings are closer than ever. With just over a month remaining in the season, the top seven teams are all within two games of each other.

The big winner of this week’s games was Wagner. Entering the week, the Seahawks were 4-2 in the conference, chasing both Robert Morris and Saint Francis (PA). Wagner welcomed both to their home court, where they have proven they are unbeatable, and soundly defeated both of their foes. The pair of wins has put the Seahawks tied atop the standings with RMU, though they now hold the tie-breaker over the Colonials. They will now embark on a two-game road stand, where they’ll have rematches against SFU and RMU. The team will have to prove that they can win on the road in order to stay atop the conference.

As for RMU, they handled Sacred Heart on Thursday, before putting up a measly 49 points against Wagner on Saturday. The aforementioned match-up against Wagner is a must-win for the Colonials, who will look to avoid handing over the tie-breaker to the Seahawks.

SFU, at 5-3, is joined by Saint Francis (BKN), who continues to be the biggest surprise team in the conference. The Terriers have also shown their ability to win at home, having won all but one conference game there. They impressively defeated Mount St. Mary’s 81-73.

Behind the top four teams, things get a bit more complicated. Central Connecticut State University, Mount St. Mary’s and LIU Brooklyn all sit at 4-4. Following a four-game losing streak, CCSU has gotten back on track, winning three in a row against Bryant, Fairleigh Dickinson and LIU Brooklyn. The Blue Devils will travel to Bryant and LIU, looking to gain the definitive tie-breaker over both teams.

The Mountaineers had the worst week of any NEC contender, losing two contests to SFBK and FDU—two teams they should be beating in order to contend. Guard Junior Robinson has continued to impress, leading the conference in scoring, but the Mountaineers were unable to break through against FDU. They will take on LIU Brooklyn in a crucial match-up on Thursday.

FDU is still clinging to the picture, with a 3-6 record. Following a loss against CCSU, the Knights picked up an impressive win against the Mount. The team will need some big wins in order to get towards the top of the conference, but also need to worry about making the conference tournament.

The two teams currently on the outside looking in of the playoff picture are Sacred Heart and Bryant. Things don’t get any easier for the Pioneers, who have to travel to RMU and SFU in their next two games. They will need to pull off an upset in order to remain in contention for a coveted playoff spot.

Even at 1-7, Bryant remains just two games out of a playoff spot. The only team the Bulldogs have managed a win against was Sacred Heart on Jan. 6. They will look to get revenge on CCSU on Thursday, before taking on FDU for the first time this season.

The biggest game of the week will be a rematch between Wagner and Robert Morris, which will prove whether the Seahawks can win a big game on the road. It could determine who holds the tie-breaker down the road.