Thursday, March 1, 2007

Northeast Conference Tournament Preview

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The Northeast Conference was another league that didn’t feature an exciting race for the regular-season championship. Central Connecticut State went 16-2, winning the NEC by four games over Sacred Heart. They had the championship clinched with several games left in the season. Outside of Sacred Heart and 11-7 Quinnipiac, no team finished above .500 in conference play.

Favorite: There’s not really much of a choice here. CCSU ran away with the conference championship, winning fourteen of their last fifteen games in NEC play. They are very efficient on both sides of the ball, and shoot the ball well from long-range. Their backcourt duo of Tristan Blackwood and Javier Mojica is the best in the league. Blackwood is a terrific three-point shooter, while Mojica is a very good scorer and rebounder. Odie Nwadike is a double-double lock every night, dominating the paint.

Contenders: Sacred Heart started off 6-1 in league play, but lost five of their next seven before winning their last four. That sort of inconsistency makes them a tough team to predict. The Pioneers have six guys that average at least 9.5 points per game. Jarrid Frye is a very good all-around player, providing a little bit of everything on offense. He is also a terrific defender. Brice Books and Joey Henley lead the way inside. Robert Morris may have been a big disappointment for much of the league season, but they haven’t lost a game by double-figures since mid-December and are playing well lately. A.J. Jackson might be the best big man in the conference, and Tony Lee is one of the better all-around players in the Northeast. Derek Coleman is a terrific passer. If RMU plays better defense, they could pull a few upsets. Quinnipiac struggled down the stretch, but still finished 11-7 to get the third seed. They are carried by their backcourt duo of DeMario Anderson and Adam Gonzalez.

Sleeper: Fairleigh Dickinson lost the final three games of the season to finish only 9-9, but they won five of seven before that, and has the ability to knock off anyone in the conference. Andre Harris is a Player of the Year candidate in the frontcourt, while guards Cameron Tyler and Manny Ubilla provide excellent balance from the perimeter.

Prediction: The Northeast Conference will have one of the better conference tournaments around. There are several teams capable of winning the automatic bid, but with the higher seed hosting every game, I don’t see Central Connecticut State losing on their home-court. They have the inside-outside balance to beat most teams, and are very good both offensively and defensively. Look for the Blue Devils to complete the championship sweep.

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