Tempo-Free NEC: Predicting the Postseason

It’s been a fun 16 games! Now it seems almost sad that we’ll play just seven more NEC games this season in order to get to a conference champion. Before all of that fun starts let’s take a look at the final efficiency standings for conference play.

Efficiency Margin Standings:

  1. Wagner: +0.11 points per possession
  2. Robert Morris: +0.10
  3. St. Francis Brooklyn: +0.07
  4. Bryant: +0.06
  5. Mount St. Mary’s: +0.04
  6. Fairleigh Dickinson: -0.03
  7. Central Connecticut: -0.06
  8. Saint Francis PA: -0.07
  9. Sacred Heart: -0.10
  10. LIU Brooklyn: -0.12

How the mighty have fallen. The three-time defending champion Blackbirds slid all the way to the bottom of the conference in terms of efficiency margin this season. Also, Wagner with its victory over Robert Morris at the Spiro Sports Center last night actually moved ahead of the Colonials in the efficiency margin standings. Of course RMU still has that all important No. 1 seed and home court advantage as long as they’re in the NEC tourney. Going into this postseason it’s worth noting that the league looks more wide open than normal. This is the lowest efficiency margin for a conference winner in the three years I’ve been tracking the statistics and also the best performance by a last place team during the same time period. In the past the NEC always seemed to have at least one huge weak link, but even 2-14 Sacred Heart was actually much better than their overall record suggests. No one was getting blown out.

What does this mean for the tournament? Well, expectations are that Robert Morris and Bryant are going to roll in their quarterfinal match ups against Fairleigh Dickinson and Saint Francis U. respectively. I wouldn’t be so sure. The top five are extremely evenly matched and FDU and CCSU aren’t far behind. SFU might have struggled against elite teams this season, but one hot shooting night from three (which is possible against the Bulldogs) and they could pull off the upset of the quarters. Keep an eye out.

How might the NEC tournament go down? I simulated the full thing 10,000 times using both KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies and my in-conference efficiency margins. Here are the results:

Tourney Simulation With KenPom:

Name Finals Titles
Robert Morris 6525 4510
Wagner 6050 2900
Bryant 3736 1471
Mount St. Mary’s 1807 568
St. Francis Brooklyn 1223 412
Fairleigh Dickinson 273 62
Central Connecticut State 221 48
Saint Francis PA 165 29

Tourney Simulations With In-Conference Efficiency Margins:

Name Finals Titles
Robert Morris 6949 4518
Wagner 7301 3783
Bryant 2650 873
Mount St. Mary’s 1486 390
St. Francis Brooklyn 1287 376
Fairleigh Dickinson 122 29
Saint Francis PA 116 16
Central Connecticut State 89 15

In both scenarios Robert Morris wins the title around 45% of the time. The NEC’s reseeding policy actually helps RMU quite a bit as does playing on their home court for the entire tournament. Notice that Wagner makes the finals almost as many times (or more) than Robert Morris in both situations, but the Seahawks end up with far fewer titles because so many of those games are played in Moon Township, PA.

Andy Toole’s team is far from a lock. Only about half the time does RMU win the NEC’s automatic bid. The rest of the time they’re using the automatic bid to the NIT and wondering what went wrong this time. Why are the probabilities so low for the final three teams? Because even if they win they’re going to get reseeded into a really difficult game! For Fairleigh Dickinson, knocking off Robert Morris would probably just mean a trip to Staten Island. It’s why seeding is so important in this tournament (and why things hold almost to seed form in both simulations).


  • Best Offense: Bryant at 1.12 points scored per possession
  • Worst Offense: Sacred Heart at 1.00 points scored per possession
  • Best Defense: Wagner at 0.93 points allowed per possession
  • Worst Defense: LIU Brooklyn at 1.14 points allowed per possession
  • Fastest: Central Connecticut at 72 possessions per game
  • Slowest: Saint Francis U. at 65 possessions per game
  • Luckiest: Saint Francis U. at 2 wins above expected (narrowly edging RMU)
  • Unluckiest: St. Francis Brooklyn at wins below expected (narrowly edging SHU)
  • Most Consistent Offense: Central Connecticut
  • Least Consistent Offense: Saint Francis U.
  • Most Consistent Defense: Central Connecticut
  • Least Consistent Defense: St. Francis Brooklyn
  • Most Consistent Team: Central Connecticut
  • Least Consistent Team: Saint Francis U.

Consistency can be a good or bad thing going into these tournaments. Unfortunately, most of Saint Francis’ consistency issues comes from the fact that they were able to dominate the bottom of the NEC and struggled against the top half. The Red Flash probably won’t have the answers for Bryant on Wednesday and even they beat the Bulldogs they’d have to take down at least two top five teams to reach the championship and that seems highly unlikely. In the case of Central Connecticut, consistency isn’t the worst thing. You know what you’re going to get from the Blue Devils, but will that really be enough? We’ll find out Wednesday when the games start! There are just seven more to go.

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