NEC NOTES AND RAMBLINGS
-The conference champion has been seeded #16th every year since 2004. However, the league appears to have more experience than it has in recent years, and that could generate into more success. At the same time there is also quite a bit of parity, which could mean that the league will beat up on itself during the regular season and do some damage to the conference champions tournament resume. NEC TEAMS
-Last year was SACRED HEARTs best season since making the jump to div1. They finished second in the league, managed their first winning record in eight seasons, and advanced to the championship game where they lost to Central Connecticut by just four points. They had a strong offense and shot the ball very well last year. With three key players along with a very deep bench, Sacred Hearts offense shouldnt miss a beat. Two players came off the bench last year and averaged double figures. If they have a weakness it is on the defensive end. If they could step that up then they have what it takes to win the league and make their first ever NCAA Tournament.
-ROBERT MORRIS got off to an incredible start last season. They began the year 8-1, and actually took Pittsburgh to the wall during that stretch. They had a lead with 13 minutes to play, but just couldnt hold on. They didnt look as impressive once conference play began, though, and went just 9-9. Head coach Mark Schmidt also left to take the job at Saint Bonaventure. Still, four starters are back, including forward A.J. Jackson and guard Tony Lee, both of whom averaged over 15ppg and are two of the better players in the conference. Jackson also did a great job on the glass last season.
-QUINNIPIAC has created quite a buzz, but it has more to do with whats going on off the court rather than on it. The Bobcats finished third in the league last year, but still opted to replace head coach Joe Desantis with former Connecticut assistant Tom Moore. They also opted to pay Moore more than double the salary that any other head coach in the league is making. The spending doesnt stop there, as Quinnipiac will be opening a new arena this season. As far as what will happen on the court, its hard to say. Nine players from last years third place team are gone, but guard Demario Anderson is back, who averaged over 15ppg last year. They are beginning to take basketball very seriously and the financial commitments they have made are a testament to that. At the very least it should help them with their recruiting.
-CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE won the regular season and tournament championship last season. That earned them the distinct honor of being the only team from the state of Connecticut to make the NCAA Tournament. With three starters gone, including Javier Mojica who was the conference player of the year, repeating wont be so easy. They still have guard Tristan Blackwood, who led the team in scoring a season ago, but other than that this is a team that does not have a lot of experience. They barely used their bench last season with all the starters averaging over 32 minutes a game and only two are back.
-WAGNER appears to have talent and experience, especially with four starters returning, but they were just 8-10 in league play a year ago and didnt exactly finish the season all that impressively. They do have very strong guard play in Mark Porter and Jamal Smith
. This is a team that likes to push the pace, and all four returning starters averaged double figures a season ago. They didnt have much in the way of size last year, but they do have 611 Brian Szczepanski coming in as a freshman, and if he can step it up it would really help them out.
-After winning the NEC Championship two years ago, MONMOUTH didnt even finish in the top eight and qualify for the conference tournament last season. This is a team that has had quite a bit of success in this conference, but they really struggled last season and it might be more of the same this season. Two starters are back, but they also have six new freshman on the team and head coach Dave Calloway has stated that as many as three could end up in the starting lineup.
-FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON had a strong backcourt last season, and guards Cameron Tyler and Manny Ubilla are back this year. They really struggled on the defensive end, particularly underneath the basket. FDU lost five of their last six last season and will need the newcomers to step up in the post if they want to improve upon that this year.
-MOUNT SAINT MARYS has always been a tough defensive team, but defense alone isnt enough to finish at the top of the standings. They were a modest 9-9 in league play last year. They do have a fairly strong backcourt with two starters coming back and are hoping to continue to improve the program. They advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament last year, which was the first time in seven years theyd made it that far.
-Devin Sweetney is a huge player for SAINT FRANCIS, PA. He averaged 13ppg and 8rpg last year. This is a team that ended last season with a ton of momentum and have all five starters coming back so there is reason to hope. They really didnt get hot until the end, though. Prior to winning four of their last five, SFPA was just 4-20 on the season.
-SAINT FRANCIS, NY has a good player in post player Robert Hines. He averaged over 16ppg last year and pulled down quite a few rebounds as well. Unfortunately, none of his teammates are anywhere close to being as good as he is. Four starters are back, so they do have experience. They also managed to win their last three regular season games to earn the eighth and final spot in the conference tournament. Still, for a team that was just 9-22 a season ago its hard to see them finishing near the top.
-LONG ISLAND was just 9-19 last season. They do have three starters coming back, but lost their two leading scorers. It looks as though they will struggle to make it to the NEC Tournament, much less challenge to win the league championship.