Northeast Conference Tournament Preview and Predictions

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Northeast Conference Tournament
Photo Credit: Dan Fritz / Basketball Society

March Madness is here! As some of the power 5 conference teams finish up their regular season, postseason play begins for some of the mid-majors. Today, a few of our writers will be giving their thoughts on the Northeast Conference Tournament.

Writers:

Aram Cannuscio

Pat McMahon

TJ Oxley

 

Full Bracket:

#1 Robert Morris vs. #8 St. Francis-NY

#4 LIU vs. #5 Fairleigh Dickinson

#3 Sacred Heart vs. #6 Mount Saint Mary’s

#2 St. Francis-PA vs. #7 Bryant

Who will win the Northeast Conference Tournament?

Aram: #2 St. Francis-PA (20-9, 13-5 in the Northeast Conference)

There are a few names we will be listing that NBA teams should keep an eye on, but St. Francis-PA, in my eyes at least, are the clear favorites to win the title with Merrimack not being allowed to play.

Pat: #1 Robert Morris (17-14, 13-5 in the Northeast Conference)

I’m going with #1 seed Robert Morris to grab the NEC automatic bid. The Colonials played a tough non conference schedule that resulted in a lot of losses, but ultimately paid dividends as they’re battle tested and won’t back down from anyone in this tournament.

TJ: #2 St. Francis-PA (20-9, 13-5 in the Northeast Conference)

The NEC tournament could be one of the most exciting tournaments to watch this year. The conference has four teams all within two games of each other, but the conference leader Merrimack isn’t eligible for postseason play, creating an interesting scenario. However, I’m rolling with St. Francis (PA) in this thanks to the one-two punch of Isaiah Blackmon and Keith Braxton. The two have combined for 36 PPG this year as the Red Flashes look to return to the NCAA tournament for only the second time in school history. The team boasts a 20-9 record and have won 7 of their last 8.

Which team is a Dark Horse Candidate to take home the title?

Aram: #3 Sacred Heart (19-12, 12-6 in the Northeast Conference)

Sacred Heart has two close losses to both Robert Morris and St. Francis-PA. Four of their starters average over 10 PPG led by junior EJ Anosike. Deep teams can cause havoc in conference tournaments and I see Sacred Heart doing just that this year.

Sacred Heart Basketball
Photo Credit: Dan Fritz / Basketball Society

Pat: #4 LIU (14-17, 9-9 in the Northeast Conference)

The fourth seeded Sharks are a dangerous bunch thanks to the inside/outside duo of Raiquan Clark and Tryn Flowers. They let a lot of close games get away in conference play, but if they have learned from their mistakes from those losses, they’re good enough to knock off anyone.

TJ: #8 St. Francis-NY (13-17, 7-11 in the Northeast Conference)

Let’s get wild here. St. Francis Brooklyn is 13-17 in the NEC. The Terriers currently have four players averaging double figures and have been conference killers on the year. They are the current 8th seed in the tournament and are scheduled to play #1 seed Robert Morris. A 1 v 8 win is rough but let’s throw it back to January 23rd where the Terriers beat Robert Morris by 19 points which is a very convincing win. If/When SFB wins this, they are slated to play the winner of Long Island and Fairleigh Dickson. SFB beat Fairleigh Dickson by 16 and Long Island by 10 earlier this year. From there they could be in the championship where anything can happen. With some solid victories on the year, it is not unreasonable to believe that they could play their best basketball over a six day stretch and go dancing. GO TERRIERS!!!

Who is one player that NBA teams should keep an eye on?

Aram: Isaiah Blackmon, Senior G – St. Francis-PA

Isaiah Blackmon has the athleticism and shot making ability to be a great bench player in the league one day. For the NBA teams that have not had a chance to check him out this year yet, they will have their eyes opened to the potential that lives within Blackmon.

Pat: Keith Braxton, Senior G – St. Francis-PA

As TJ mentioned, Braxton is having a great season for the Red Flash and is a big reason they’re near the top of the league standings. Braxton has solid size for a guard and does a great job of rebounding and distributing the ball for the team, while also averaging 17.5 points per game.

TJ: Juvaris Hayes, Senior G – Merrimack

Although not in the tournament I think it’s fair to bring your attention to Merrimack Guard Juvaris Hayes. A senior standing at 6’0 weighing 195 pounds, Hayes recently took the record for most steals in an entire NCAA season averaging a whopping 3.9 per game. Not only is he a defensive menace, but he also puts up 10 PPG, 6.4 APG, and 4.5 RPG. His game relies on his prowess on the defensive end, coupled with a quick first step, and whipping laser-like passes off the dribble. Hayes has been a do it all guard for Merrimack and led the Warriors to a 20 win season in their first season in Division I play and hopefully that translates to us seeing him get a summer league opportunity.

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