Thursday, March 4, 2010

Northeast Conference Preview

Click here for a complete index of all the conference tournament previews.

The Northeast Conference had an excellent finish to the season, with Quinnipiac and Robert Morris finishing in a tie for first place. Quinnipiac made up the ground late in the year, with Robert Morris dropping two of its final three games, including a home defeat to the Bobcats. Quinnipiac started the season 1-1, but went on to win 15 of its last 17 overall. Third-place Mount St. Mary’s is playing the best basketball in the league, having won 10 in a row after starting 2-6. This should be a wide-open tournament, as only eight of the league’s 12 teams make the bracket.

Favorites: Finishing three games clear of the field, Quinnipiac and Robert Morris come into the conference tournament as co-favorites. With the way it finished, including a road win at Robert Morris, Quinnipiac is likely a notch ahead of RMU. The Bobcats push the ball effectively and crash the boards at both ends of the court. They struggle to knock down threes. Qunnipiac is led by one of the better inside-outside duos at the low-major level, guard James Feldeine and forward Justin Rutty, a 15-10 lock every night. James Johnson is an excellent playmaker and third option. Robert Morris is a deep and balanced group capable of winning the automatic bid. The Colonials play very solid defense, forcing turnovers and difficult shots. Offensively, Robert Morris is effective from three and can also get to the foul line. Freshman guard Karon Abraham can fill it up, while forward Rob Robinson is talented and versatile.

Contender: Winners of its last 10 games, Mount St. Mary’s is going to be a huge threat to win the conference tournament. Its 2-6 league start featured zero double-digit losses; they’re like the Marquette of the Northeast Conference. The Mountaineers play very good defense, forcing turnovers and limiting open shots from both inside and outside the arc. Jeremy Goode is one of the conference’s best guards, and forwards Shawn Atupem and Kelly Beidler are a solid tandem up front.

Sleeper: With only eight teams making the conference tournament, there is not much room for a sleeper. However, fourth place Long Island could be tough. The Blackbirds are inconsistent, but play everyone tough. Guard Jaytornah Wisseh is one of the best all-around players in the league, and Kyle Johnson is a very good rebounder and three-point shooter.

Prediction: This is going to be a fun tournament. No one is a clear-cut favorite, and the team playing the best basketball in the conference might be the third-place team. I think that the championship game will ultimately be Quinnipiac against Mount St. Mary’s – both teams are playing excellent right now, and have some of the best players in the conference. I think the difference will be Mount St. Mary’s defense. While Quinnipiac has a great inside-outside combo in Feldeine and Rutty, the Mountaineers’ inside duo of Atupem and Beidler should limit the paint production, and Jeremy Goode will make plays down the stretch. Mount St. Mary’s continues its winning ways all the way to the automatic bid.

No comments:

Post a Comment