by Daniel Fappiano
As the Northeast Conference regular season comes to an end, teams are beginning to mark their territory and earn their seeding in the postseason tournament. With just two weeks to go, we’re starting to see a bigger picture of exactly who will and will not make the eight-team field.
The Colonials of Robert Morris and the Red Flash of St. Francis (PA) remain atop the conference, sitting at the first and second seeds, respectively. The two frontrunners are the only teams to have already clinched their spot in the postseason tournament.
While both teams continue to lead the way in conference play, each suffered a surprising loss during the week. Neither team had fallen to a conference opponent outside of each other prior to this week.
For Robert Morris, the Colonials suffered a 49-47 loss to the Terriers of St. Francis Brooklyn.
The Terriers now sit in a two-way tie with Farleigh Dickinson for the crucial fourth seed in the conference at 7-7. Currently, the Knights hold the slight advantage over St. Francis (BKN) following their late January win. However, the two teams match up in the final week of the season in a game that could determine the final team earning home court advantage in the playoffs.
Slightly above both St. Francis (BKN) and FDU is Bryant at 7-6. The Bulldogs won their only game of the week 67-64 against Mount St. Mary’s. Bryant may be the three seed for now, but they have been shaky, losing four of their last six. The Bulldogs must use their latest win for momentum to remain in the top four.
As for the Red Flash, St. Francis (PA) dropped one of the most shocking games of the NEC season, losing 69-68 to the Pioneers of Sacred Heart.
SHU now sits in sole possession of seventh place at 6-8. The Pioneers are on a three-game win streak, putting them in a strong position to make the tournament. However, they still have tough matchups in Robert Morris, St. Francis (BKN) and Farleigh Dickinson.
One spot above Sacred Heart is Central Connecticut at 6-7. The Blue Devils are currently on a four-game win streak with impressive victories over both Bryant and Farleigh Dickinson. Central is just one game out of a top-four seed, but must go through both Robert Morris and St. Francis (PA) to continue their winning ways.
The bottom of the conference is rounded out by Mount St. Mary’s and LIU Brooklyn at 5-9 and Wagner at 3-11.
The Mountaineers and Blackbirds are currently tied for the pivotal eighth seed. LIU Brooklyn swept the regular season series, meaning that they would be the last team in the tournament if the season ended today.
Wagner has lost 10 of their last 12 and look to be slipping out of tournament contention.
Currently, the NEC is split up into three tiers. The top tier is Robert Morris and St. Francis (PA) who have the top two seeds locked up and have been the overall best two teams of the season. The second tier is the largest, with Bryant, Farleigh Dickinson, St. Francis (BKN) and Central Connecticut State, all one game within each other. Sacred Heart, LIU Brooklyn and Mount St. Mary’s make the third tier and are battling for the final two spots.
As of Feb. 17, the first round of the tournament would be LIU Brooklyn at Robert Morris, Sacred Heart at St. Francis (PA), CCSU at Bryant and St. Francis (BKN) at Farleigh Dickinson.
While there may just be two weeks left, the action is heating up in the Northeast Conference. This first round is likely to change multiple times as teams fight to earn their spot in the tournament with hopes of winning a championship.