Written for your enjoyment by: Raff
In most conferences all you have to do is pay your dues to get in the conference tournament and have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. The NEC isn't most conferences. Instead, the NEC limits the conference tourney field to the top eight finishers from the regular season.
So with three weeks left in the regular season, six games for all, it is becoming more and more apparent how the whole Race To Dayton might shape up.
AT THE TOP: Based on current record and performance, I'm willing to concede the top slot to either Robert Morris or Quinnipiac. The Colonials are trying to win their third straight regular season crown and have to be the favorite from here on out. With a one game lead it only makes sense. But Quinnipiac will have the opportunity to tie it on their own - they visit Pittsburgh in two weeks. In addition, Robert Morris finishes its regular season at preseason pick Mt. St. Mary's which has won four in a row.
PROBABLY SAFE, FIGHTING FOR A HOME GAME: The conference standings show three teams at 7-5, so those are the most logical three as far as this group goes. But I'm going to agree with Ken Pomeroy's projections and say that the middle three is really Long Island, St. Francis (NY) and Mt. St. Mary's. The Mount has won four in a row, and has four of six down the stretch at home. A record of 11-7 likely might be good enough to get the third seed. The Mount may end up there as they are likely to be considered favorites in everything the rest of the way. But an upcoming NJ road trip will be extremely telling. LIU and St. Francis have both struggled a little bit of late and must play four of six on the road. As travel partners in the conference they'll play 3 in Connecticut and 1 at Bryant - as well as two home games against the Jersey schools. LIU has lost five of seven. NY 3 of 4.
LEAVES 3 SPOTS FOR 4 TEAMS: If you believe Pomeroy's projections - and I think they are relatively accurate 9-9 will not be enough for one conference team to get in the tourney. FDU put itself in a position nobody expected earlier with a 7-5 start, two wins over Monmouth over the weekend has really helped the cause. After starting the season 1-12, the Knights have won 7 of 11. The two Jersey schools along with Sacred Heart - play three at home and three on the road. Sacred Heart finishes with a road game at Monmouth - that could be a deciding factor. Central has played its way back into contention with a four game win streak - and also has four at home the rest of the way. They can't let the game with PA this week get away.
LOOKING TO NEXT YEAR - Truth is, St. Francis PA and its youth will have to earn its spot in the field and still has the opportunity to do that. But with four games on the road and a trip into Loretto from the Connecticut teams it seems too much to overcome. Of course, if the Flash steals one on the road from CCSU, everything could change. Wagner and Bryant are all but eliminated. Bryant is still looking for win number one. Wagner has a possible chance with four of six at home - but if we've drawn the line at 9-9 - Wagner can't go 6-0 and get there.