By Jack Knowlton
The Northeast Conference will feature just four teams this season. The typical 8-team format was scrapped for a four team tournament due to COVID-19. However, that does not mean the four teams vying for a chance to dance won’t contribute to the madness of conference tournaments. COVID has had a great impact on the conference with teams playing different numbers of games, which has also seen impact on the final positions of each team.
The four team tournament features two semi finals on March 6 with the Championship game for a place in the tournament on Tuesday March 9. The two semi-finals see 1 seed Wagner taking on 4 seed Mount St. Marys and 2 seed Bryant against 3 seed Sacred Heart.
Bryant has yet to win a NEC tournament, but the Bulldogs should see this as their year. The Bulldogs lost their one non-con game to Syracuse by one. Wagner may hold the number one seed, but has played four more games in this chaotic season. Bryant scored the most points per game in the NEC and shot at a 38% clip from downtown. The Bulldogs starters carry the load with all five averaging double figures in scoring, led by Junior guard Peter Kiss. This impressive offensive resume gives the best
Sleeper team: Mount St. Mary’s
In a tournament with just four teams a sleeper team may seem hard to come by. But fourth seed Mount St. Mary’s is that team in the NEC. the 10-10 side lost star player Josh Gibbs in December but have relied on a defense that has held opponents to just 60.8 points per game this season. In Gibbs absence the Mountaineers have relied on Damian Chong Qui to carry the scoring load. Chong Qui 14.9 points 4.1 boards and 5.6 assists per game and will have to be on his a game if Mount St. Mary wants to play spoiler to Wagner’s hopes of making the championship game. In their last matchup against Wagner who they face Saturday, the Mountaineers lost by just two points and are capable of going the distance when they faceoff in the tourney.
Players to watch: Tyler Thomas, Sacred Heart
The three seed in this four team tournament may have a tough matchup against Braynt, but one player that could very well give them a chance against the Bulldogs is Tyler Thomas. Sacred Heart have only played 17 games this season but that hasn’t stopped Thomas from boasting a league best 18.8 points per game to go along with five boards per game. Thomas is also an 81% free throw shooter so getting to the charity stripe will be crucial for them to put points on the board against Bryant. Overall, Thomas has been one of the most productive players on offense in the NEC and will certainly have to play like such if Sacred Heart wishes to knock of the tournament favorites
Edited by Tyler Kading