by Patrick Gustavson
The halfway point has been reached in the Northeast Conference men’s basketball season. As the season has gone on, things have only gotten closer between the ten schools.
The marquee match-up of the week took place on Sunday when Robert Morris and Wagner — the two teams tied atop the standings — met in Pittsburgh. The game was a tale of two halves. The Colonials controlled the first half, leading by ten at the break. However, the Seahawks stormed back and dominated in the second half, outscoring the Colonials 45-22, leading to their 77-64 victory. The win puts the Seahawks alone atop the standings with an 8-2 record, with the important tie-breaker over the Colonials.
Following a 3-2 start, the Seahawks have gone on a five-game winning streak and have yet to lose at home on the season. Should the team obtain home-court advantage throughout the tournament, it appears they would be destined to reach to NCAA tournament.
Robert Morris is still hanging tough, just one game behind the Seahawks. The Colonials will look to keep pace this week when they play host to Mount St. Mary’s and Fairleigh Dickinson.
Three teams sit tied for third: Saint Francis (PA), Mount St. Mary’s and Saint Francis (BKN). SFU – who just barely escaped an upset at home against Sacred Heart on Sunday – will have a chance to separate themselves when they travel to the Mount on Saturday, facing a tall task in beating the Mountaineers at home.
Mount St. Mary’s won two crucial games this week, taking down SFBK, as well as LIU Brooklyn, both at home. Much like Wagner, the Mountaineers have proven to be tough at home, losing just one game the entire season. It will be key for the team to finish in the top half of the standings, giving themselves a home playoff game. If they are forced to play on the road, chances of them advancing are unlikely.
The Terriers of SFBK have continued to be the biggest surprise in the conference. The team also struggles on the road, but are headed to Bryant on Thursday, in what should be an easy victory. Next they head to Wagner where a victory is improbable.
Tied for sixth currently is Central Connecticut and LIU Brooklyn, teams have met twice in the past two weeks. CCSU won the first match-up on their home floor, but the Blackbirds took the second game on Saturday in an overtime thriller that was arguably one of the most exciting games in-conference all season.
Things are looking bright for the Blackbirds, who take on Sacred Heart and Bryant in their next two, the two worst teams in the conference. Should they take care of business, they would be at 7-5, with a greater chance of a home playoff game.
As for CCSU, they have the unflattering task of trying to take down Wagner at home before heading to Sacred Heart. Though the Blue Devils are also better at home, it appears the concern of the team is to simply make the tournament, something they have not done since the 2013-2014 season.
Fairleigh Dickinson currently holds the coveted final postseason spot. However, they are just one win behind sixth place. Unfortunately for the Knights, they take on SFU and RMU in their next two games, which could put their postseason hopes in jeopardy.
The two teams currently on the outside looking in are Sacred Heart and Bryant. The Pioneers, who nearly upset SFU, have just two wins on the season. The Pioneers will need to take down LIU or CCSU at home to get back in the conversation.
Bryant sits three games out of eighth place, and things are not looking good for the Bulldogs. The team has won just one game in conference and two all season and has not won at home. They will need a massive turnaround to simply have a shot at a playoff spot, though even then, it seems unlikely.
Though things are starting to take shape, each team still has eight games left to play, leaving plenty of room for movement up and down the standings.