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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 played the best basketball in the league down the stretch, winning 10 in a row after starting 2-6. The conference tournament was a battle between first and second, with Robert Morris emerging as the champ after beating Quinnipiac by two on the Bobcats’ home floor. In the NCAA Tournament, Robert Morris took Villanova to the wire and nearly pulled the upset, but ended up falling short. Can the Colonials take the next step, or will someone else step up?
- 1. Quinnipiac: Justin Rutty is one of the most underrated players in the country; he and James Johnson will carry the Bobcats to the Dance.
- 2. Long Island: Kyle Johnson and three other starters return, but the key will be Julian Boyd, who missed last season with a heart condition.
- 3. Central Connecticut State: Ken Horton’s return to health will be a difference-maker for the Blue Devils; Shemik Thompson is a very good guard.
- 4. Robert Morris: Head coach Mike Rice and three starters are gone, but Karon Abraham, one of the best players in the NEC, returns at guard.
- 5. St. Francis (N.Y.): The Terriers will be carried by their explosive backcourt duo of Ricky Cadell and Akeem Bennett. The offense has to improve.
- 6. Fairleigh Dickinson: The Knights played well in NEC competition last season, but lose Sean Baptiste. Mike Scott and Terence Grier return.
- 7. St. Francis (Pa.): This team could be a sleeper, as the Red Flash bring in JC transfer Jon Taylor and bring back Mislav Jukic, who was injured last season.
- 8. Wagner: New head coach Dan Hurley built a powerhouse at St. Benedict’s Prep (N.J.) and brings in a very good recruiting class. They will improve.
- 9. Mount St. Mary’s: Expect the streak of NEC title game appearances in three of the last four years to end. Shawn Atupem and Jean Cajou (if he returns) are bright spots.
- 10. Monmouth: If Travis Taylor stayed, the Hawks would be much higher. Instead, Will Campbell will need a lot of help on the offensive end.
- 11. Sacred Heart: This team will be built around a deep perimeter group that includes sophomore Shane Gibson and senior Jerrell Thompson.
- 12. Bryant: The Bulldogs only won one game a season ago and averaged fewer than 52 points per game. Cecil Gresham is the main cog in the attack.
Player of the Year: Justin Rutty, F, Quinnipiac
- G- Karon Abraham, Robert Morris
- G- Akeem Bennett, St. Francis (N.Y.)
- G- Mike Scott, Fairleigh Dickinson
- F- Justin Rutty, Quinnipiac
- F- Ken Horton, Central Connecticut State
- G- Ricky Cadell, St. Francis (N.Y.)
- G- Shemik Thompson, Central Connecticut State
- G- James Johnson, Quinnipiac
- G- Kyle Johnson, Long Island
- F- Shawn Atupem, Mount St. Mary’s