by Daniel Fappiano
With the Northeast Conference regular season coming to an end, the seeding for the eight-team postseason tournament is set. Robert Morris will look to fend off seven other teams to defend their NEC crown and make their way back to the NCAA Tournament.
The first match-up sees the Red Flash of St. Francis (PA) take on the Knights of Farleigh Dickinson. Since SFU earned the top seed, they’ll play host for both the quarterfinals and subsequent semifinals.
St. Francis swept the season series against FDU, winning by a combined 33 points. In both games, NEC-leading scorer Jessica Kovatch had at least 24 points, whereas the Knights as a whole didn’t have a player score over 14.
Offense has been the Red Flash’s calling card all season. In both games, SFU scored exactly 80 points whereas FDU didn’t scored over 61. If the Knights want to pull off the upset, they’ll have to limit Kovatch and the entire Red Flash offense while taking and making better shots of their own.
In the two vs. eight match-up, the defending champions RMU take on Central Connecticut. With Robert Morris locking up the two-seed they’ll also have home court advantage in the quarter and semifinals.
The Colonials swept CCSU during the regular season, winning the first match-up 66-47 and the second 67-51. Where SFU shines on offense, RMU shines on defense as the 47 points allowed is the second-lowest Central has scored all season.
In both games, Robert Morris hasn’t allowed Central to have more than three scorers in double figures. For the Blue Devils to take down the defending champions, they’ll have to do much better on the offense end and stymie the eighth-best scoring defense in the country.
In the three vs. six seed match-up, St. Francis Brooklyn will face LIU Brooklyn.
The teams split the season series, with the home team winning both games. For St. Francis (BKN), Jade Johnson shined in both games, scoring 12 points with five rebounds in the loss and scoring 23 points with four rebounds in the win. For LIU Brooklyn, DeAngelique Waithe was the star, racking up a double-double of 19 points and 15 rebounds in the win and 14 points and seven rebounds in the loss.
Free throw shooting will be a big factor; the winning team in each game made at least 12 shots from the charity stripe.
In the final match-up of the first round, four seed Bryant will take on five seed Sacred Heart.
The Bulldogs swept the season series over the Pioneers, winning two close games by a combined 12 points. In their first match-up, Bryant’s Sydney Holloway and Hannah Scanlan both came away with double-doubles, Holloway scoring 23 points in the process. In the second game, despite 26 points from Pioneer Candice Leatherwood, the Bulldogs were able to come away with a narrow four-point victory.
While Bryant swept the season series, Sacred Heart comes in as winners of six of their last seven games. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, have lost four straight.
The NEC Tournament will kick off on March 7 at SFU and RMU. All eight teams will be looking to run the gauntlet and earn their way into the NCAA Tournament.