The final day of NEC action ended up being so far from what anyone expected that the conference has basically been flipped upside down going into the postseason tournament. All four of the teams that will be hosting games on Thursday night lost (on the road) on Saturday. Three of those losses came to teams that will be in the NEC tournament and shows the wide-open nature of the conference this season.
I wrote about St. Francis (NY)’s rough loss to Fairleigh Dickinson, but Wagner and LIU Brooklyn also went down on Saturday. The Seahawks lost 78-61 to Central Connecticut and LIU fell 106-78 at Monmouth.
The second result is stunning. King Rice has done an astounding job on the Jersey shore and the Hawks are all of a sudden a dangerous team in the NEC race. The final score makes it look like Monmouth’s offense was unstoppable, but that’s not the only crazy thing. The Hawks also forced 23 turnovers and scored 33 points off of them. They also benefitted from a cold shooting by LIU from both the three-point line (9-25) and the free throw stripe (19-34).
What’s shocking is that LIU had been the most consistent NEC team all season. The Blackbirds had put up an efficiency margin around 0.13 points per possession better than their opponents for the entire season. Then this happened. This was an 86 possession game, which means not only did Monmouth hold LIU to 0.91 points per possession, they also scored 1.26 points per possession. Both of those are NEC season worsts for LIU.
Over in Connecticut the Blue Devils thought they were playing for the possibility to move up in the conference standings and earn themselves an easier game. After Saturday’s results it turns out they just might’ve made their next opponent really mad. Wagner and CCSU will play again on Thursday and I’m sure that Dan Hurley will use today’s 78-61 thumping as motivation for the team to prepare hard for their quarterfinal. Wagner was also cold from three on Saturday, shooting 4-16 and committed 22 turnovers. No wonder they lost.
The question I have now is this: Was this just two teams mailing it in? Wagner and LIU both knew that they were going to be the #1 and #2 seeds in the conference tournament. Both teams played their typical lineups, but considering the outcomes meant absolutely nothing in the end for the Blackbirds or Seahawks there was no reason to do anything besides go through the motions. They’ll get a chance to prove that was the case on Thursday at 7 p.m. when a brand new season begins.
One thought on “What is up with the NEC?”
To put it in a nutshell, this is what I think happened. LIU & Wagner basically had nothing to play for vs. teams that were playing at all cost to avoid playing Wagner at Staten Island on Thursday. Both teams came out of the gate cold as ice which showed you that they may have been not as-ready to play today as they normally would have been had the game really meant anything. I would think both teams are going to use their dreadful losses as motivation heading into Thursday. Plus, these game were on the road, at least I can say at Monmouth, in front of loud, and eager-to-win fans and students (The Monmouth students rushing the court at the end was a bit much!). I believe both teams will come out guns blazing on Thursday. As for RMU and SFNY, RMU played hard all the way to the end, they just got beat by a team that wanted it just a little more at home. SFNY is surprising, although I was happy with the result. SFNY losing to a 2-win team when #3 seed was on the line meant they weren’t ready to go at all. As you said, Thursday starts the new season. I think you will see the cream rise to the top then.