I began my holiday vacation last Friday evening by witnessing Dan Hurley’s Wagner Seahawks surprisingly defeat the Pittsburgh Panthers, 59-54. Wagner’s tenacious defense and composed guard play from Kenneth Ortiz, Tyler Murray, and Latif Rivers proved to be the difference and set Twitter a buzz later that night. Compliments and praise galore was showered Wagner’s way, and rightfully so. There was one statement on the Twitter machine however, that had me scratching my head – “Wagner’s win tonight is the greatest win in the history of the NEC.”
Was this true? Sure, beating a Big East team on the road is a lofty achievement for almost any school, but I wanted to do some research to determine if the above statement was in fact valid. So thanks to www.bbstate.com, I was able to sift through the Northeast Conference’s 30 years of games to find you the greatest wins in the conference’s history. I know what you’re thinking, “But Ryan, how much time did you invest on this one blog post? It must have taken forever!”
Not really. In fact before I proceed with the brief history lesson (don’t worry this isn’t a history lesson on the Renaissance or the Roman Empire you dreaded in 8th grade), here are some sobering statistics to illustrate how easy it was for me to pick out the notable wins:
- The NEC is the only existing conference to have never won a first round match in the NCAA tourney (The NEC has 3 NCAA tourney wins to their credit, however all 3 were in the play-in rounds, with the last one coming from Mount St. Mary’s in 2008)
- The following NEC schools have never defeated a team ranked in the RPI Top 50 in its history – Sacred Heart (sigh), Fairleigh Dickinson, Quinnipiac, Bryant, Central Connecticut, Wagner, Long Island, St. Francis (NY), and Robert Morris (this surprised me a little)
Without further ado, here are the top 5 biggest wins in the Northeast Conference history:
5) Monmouth defeated St. Joseph’s (RPI 41), 71-62 on Dec 1994
I wish I could say this is the year that St. Joes made their remarkable run with Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, but I’m about 9 years off. And Monmouth was still a year away before securing a 13 seed in the NCAA tourney by winning their first ever NEC crown. So why is this fairly pedestrian win on the list? Because it’s the NEC, that’s why!
4) Monmouth defeated Southern Illinois (RPI 29), 80-68 on Nov 2005
Where were you when you heard Monmouth had upset mid-major power Southern Illinois in the first round of the famous Great Alaskan Shootout? (Silence….) Yeah, I don’t remember either...
3) Robert Morris (15 seed) lost to Villanova (2 seed), 73-70 in OT in first round of 2009-2010 NCAA Tournament on March 2010
Ok, I just broke the rule of my sacred list by selecting a losing game, but in terms of giving the NEC much needed notoriety, this game could be at the top. Robert Morris, fresh off a hard fought NEC finals victory over Quinnipiac, nearly pulled off the unthinkable by losing to Big East power Villanova in OT by 3 points (and giving everyone who picked Nova as a Final Four team in their NCAA bracket a near heart attack in the process). Despite the heartbreaking loss, I’m sure people were at least Googling questions like, “where the hell is Robert Morris?” and “who the hell is Robert Morris?” and “is Mike Rice a good coaching candidate to fix my mediocre D1 basketball team?” during the game.
(Side Note – Rutgers won the Mike Rice sweepstakes after the 2009-2010 season ended. They are still mediocre, yet the jury is still out on whether Rice can turn the club around)
2) Wagner defeated Pittsburg (RPI 70), 59-54 on Dec 2011
Who cares if Pitt: A) lost to another mid major school in Long Beach State this season and B) is currently a NCAA Tourney bubble team at best. It was an impressive win nonetheless, as Wagner managed to hold Pitt to season lows in points per possession (0.89) and effective field goal percentage (41.7%). And after watching Dan Hurley’s masterpiece on ESPNU, one thing is for certain - Sacred Heart doesn’t have a freaking chance to win the NEC.
1) Mount St. Mary’s defeated Georgia Tech (RPI 9) on the road, 71-69 on Dec 1995
Number 1 on my list is the only time a NEC squad has upended a team ranked in the RPI Top 10. The Mountaineers, who won a school record 16 regular season conference games that season en route to a NIT bid, took down Georgia Tech, led by legendary coach Bobby Cremins and guard Stephon Marbury (sorry, but I refuse to call Marbury a POINT guard). Georgia Tech would later fall to Cincinnati in the Sweet 16, thus validating Mount St. Mary’s monumental non-conference achievement.
Did I miss a noteworthy moment for the NEC? Please let me know in the comments!