Sunday, February 17, 2013

NEC Stretch Run

Does Frankie Dobbs and Bryant have any gas
left in the tank?
Velton Jones health will have a huge
say in how far RMU goes.
As we come down the stretch, the Colonials are in a battle for the all important number one seed as they try to get healthy for the all important NEC tournament. The battle at the bottom of the conference will be just as intriguing as teams battle for the last spot in the NEC tournament. Here is where things stand in the NEC with just four games left. 

RMU and LIU sit at the top of the conference at 10-4. RMU owns the tie breaker because of that head to head win. Bryant is just behind the two at 9-4. Wagner is 9-5 (the Colonials have the tie breaker over Wagner as well) and plays LIU at home Sunday on espnU @ 8pm (huge game). QU is coming up fast at 8-5. They got that huge win over RMU and are still in the hunt to get a home game in the NEC tournament. 

Sacred Heart in 7-6 and fading fast, losers of 4 of 5 and the lone win over last place FDU. Mount, like QU, is coming on strong at the right time. They have a huge home stand this weekend against SFNY and LIU. If they win both, they could sneak into the top four (though its doubtful). CCSU is slipping but still 6-7. SFNY is 6-8 and has fallen apart since their big win over RMU. Monmouth is holding onto hope they can get hot and get in. They are 5-9. Two of those five won't make it. Monmouth will likely be one team out. 

Now that we have the completely confusing and jumbled standings laid out (and of course they will change drastically over the next week). Here are some thoughts. 

I think Bryant is running out of gas: Four guys are averaging 30+ minutes a game.. and they only play 6-7 guys a game. That's got to wear down a team. Not to mention they play three games in five days coming up... If there is one positive, out of their last five games, four are at home. With that said, only the last game, home vs SFPA is a gimme. I could easily see RMU, Wagner, and LIU, three teams that have depth and experience, finish ahead of Bryant.

As Andrew Chiappazzi noted on Colonials Corner, RMU could take hold of the conference this weekend: "
Thursday begins a set of crucial five days for Robert Morris. It begins with them having to take of business while trying to get guys like Velton Jones healthy (or at least some close approximation to being healthy).

Provided Robert Morris takes of business and wins as expected against Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickinson, they're in prime position to get some help.

Mount St. Mary's plays LIU fresh off of taking down Bryant. Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart play each other. And Bryant has to play Central Connecticut State. Though CCSU is slumping, they can match Bryant point-for-point. 

That's all just Thursday night. Bryant has to turn around and play Quinnipiac on the road on Saturday, while Wagner and LIU face off on Sunday.

Kenny Ortiz and Wagner are getting
hot at the right time.
Oh, and Monday, Bryant hosts Sacred Heart, which the Bulldogs lost to earlier in the year."

The Colonials could find themselves a game up (and tiebreakers over LIU and Wagner) on everybody Monday morning.

Sacred Heart is in loads of trouble: Losers of four of five, Sacred Heart went from battling for home court, to battling just to stay in the NEC tournament. They have a tough stretch to end the year, and are continuing to battle injuries. They get QU at home Thursday, and then CCSU. The game against the Blue Devils is a must win (for both). After that, three straight road games, starting with Bryant and then LIU. Their final game at SFNY could basically be a NEC tournament play in game.

I'll take a stab at predicting the final standings, but my guess is it will be like throwing darts at a dartboard blindfolded based of the way things have played out this season...

1) RMU-- Even without Velton , RMU could win all four remaining games, but I think the senior will play a major role in the final road trip at Bryant and CCSU.
2) WAG-- The Seahawks have finally found some offense, and it looks like it has came at just the right time. Three of their final four are on the road, but they are all against teams outside the top eight. Their final home game, senior night Sunday vs LIU on espnU.
3) LIU-- Blackbirds have a tough road trip this weekend, and I think they get a split. If they lose the game to Wagner, they will not have the tie breaker. The way Mount is playing, I don't see LIU grabbing both of those games. With that said, these are the two time defending champs, and I wouldn't be surprised if they sneak into the one seed.
4) Bryant-- The lack of depth and experience really worries me. They haven't been in this position like the teams around them. I think they lose to QU, and RMU.
5) QU-- Here is where things get real fun. I'm all but certain that the above four will finish in some order. Five through 10 will be crazy. The Bobcats are playing well. I think they can get the five seed. Last year they won in the first round as the five seed.
6) MSM-- The Mount is playing really well right now, and their havoc style seems to be wearing teams down at a higher rate as the season drags on. Their final two games are at the jersey schools but first a huge home stand vs LIU and SFNY.
7) Sacred Heart-- No way Shane Gibson lets the Pioneers miss the NEC tournament, I have them finishing 2-3, and that should get them in.
8) CCSU--The Blue Devils can score with anyone in the NEC, but have really struggled on defense lately. They probably need at least two more wins to get in. SFPA should provide one win. I think they beat QU at home and squeak in.

Out) SFNY-- They aren't playing well at all, and will really regret those losses to SFPA (at home) and Monmouth. Three of the final four are at home but none are easy games. They beat Wagner on the road earlier this year, but this is a different Seahawk team. They also do not have the tiebreaker over CCSU, and have already lost to Sacred Heart.

Now that I have this out here, SFNY will win out, Bryant will get the one seed, and Wagner will end the year 1-3! Enjoy the final 4-5 games! Hope to see everyone out at the Chuck this weekend!

--Lee Kunkel

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