By: Cameron Redler
Frankly put, the Northeast Conference is one of the worst in division one collegiate basketball. A small conference that only hosts 10 teams, only eight of which actually get to play in their own conference tournament. None would ever be given a chance in the NCAA tournament if it weren’t for the rule that every conference be represented. The winner of this tournament should be bounced in the first round by a power six conference team. Who will attempt to pull off the upset? Let’s dive in…
The easy answer is Wagner. Wagner is the only team in the entire conference more than one win over .500. They enter with a 20-9 record including 13-5 in conference. Riding a winning streak of five games, and with home court advantage throughout, because the NEC tournament games are hosted by higher seeds, this should be a cakewalk for the Seahawks. They are led by guard Corey Henson, averaging 13.5 points per game and three assist. Wagner boasts a defense only giving up 63.6 points per game, good for 17th nationally.
However, there are two legitimate threats to steal the NCAA bid from the Seahawks: Fairleigh Dickinson and St. Francis Brooklyn. Fairleigh Dickinson got the two seed due to the tiebreaker and St. Francis Brooklyn received the four seed.
The Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (15-14, 11-7) defeated Wagner on the road February 4th. They enter having won two straight, led by guard Darian Anderson, averaging nearly 15 points and four assist as well as two steals per game. A do it all guard, he could carry this team to victory if Wagner isn’t careful, though it was the supporting cast that sunk them in their earlier meeting.
St. Francis Brooklyn is the next hottest team, besides Wagner, entering the tournament. The Terriers (15-16, 11-7) had been maddeningly inconsistent for most of the season before figuring it out and winning their last four games. The Terriers have a solid post presence with forward Amdy Fall, averaging seven rebounds and two blocks per game, and forward Chris Hooper, who shoots nearly 60 percent from the field. Tyreek Jewell is a dynamic guard who leads the team in both scoring and steals.
I expect virtually nothing from the rest of the challengers this week. Robert Morris will go down in round one to Wagner, St. Francis U enters having lost five in a row after a promising start, LIU Brooklyn struggled with consistency in conference play, and Mount St. Mary’s is five games below .500.
My prediction: Wagner over Fairleigh Dickinson by double figures. GO SEACHICKENS!