With only four regular season games remaining for each Northeast Conference team, it’s an excellent time to break down the standings and look ahead to the final matchups. Below I laid out the current NEC standings in tiers, went over the tiebreakers, and outlined the likelihood of each team’s potential playoff seed. For simplicity, I removed both Bryant and Fairleigh Dickinson from the bottom of the standings, since neither will be playing postseason basketball in two weeks.
RANK/TEAM CONF W-L KEY GAMES LEFT
1) LIU 13-1 vs. QU, SHU, at MU
2) Wagner 12-2 vs. MU
- LIU owns tiebreaker based on head-to-head record (2-0)
With their sweep over Brooklyn rival St. Francis, LIU is in good shape to capture the regular season title and that coveted home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Only two more challenging games remain, both of which are at the WRAC. Even if LIU splits that set, Wagner still needs to win out and hope for LIU to get upset by Monmouth or FDU. That scenario seems unlikely.
3) St. Francis (NY) 10-4 at QU, MU, vs. SHU
4) Robert Morris 10-4 vs. CCSU, at SHU, QU
- St. Francis owns tiebreaker based on head-to-head record (1-0)
A month ago, Glenn Braica’s Terriers validated their legitimacy with a convincing upset win against an inconsistent Robert Morris squad. Now, barring a collapse from either team and an improbable end-of-season sweep from Quinnipiac, both teams will host a playoff game in the first round. Should either advance, they’ll certainly serve as a dangerous opponent for LIU or Wagner in the semifinals.
5) Quinnipiac 8-6 at LIU, vs. SFNY, SFPA, RMU
6) Monmouth 7-7 at Wag, MSM, vs. LIU, SFNY
7) Central Connecticut 7-7 at RMU, SFPA, vs. Wag, MSM
8) Sacred Heart 7-7 at LIU, SFNY, vs. RMU, SFPA
- Monmouth owns tiebreaker based on head-to-head-to-head records (MU 2-0, CCSU 1-2, SHU 1-2)
- CCSU own tiebreaker on SHU based on better common record vs. Robert Morris (CCSU 1-0, SHU 0-1)
Quinnipiac is quickly turning into the lower seeded opponent no one wants to play in the NEC tournament. As noted in Big Apple Buckets, Quinnipiac’s improved defense has sparked a 6-1 record in their past seven games. Monmouth will have difficultly holding the #6 seed, thanks to their difficult end of season schedule. Their only saving grace may be that the schedules of CCSU and Sacred Heart are equally as difficult. CCSU is fortunate there’s significant space between the 8th and 9th teams in the standings, because Howie Dickerman’s Blue Devils are heading the wrong direction, mainly due to their offensive inefficiency. Once considered to be a NEC title contender, CCSU is presently looking at a difficult first round road showdown against LIU or Wagner. That’s not what Dickerman envisioned for this roster in the preseason.
9) Mount St. Mary’s 4-10 at CCSU, vs. MU
10) St. Francis (PA) 4-10 vs. CCSU, at QU, SHU
- Mount St. Mary’s owns tiebreaker based on head-to-head record (1-0)
If you believe in miracles, then perhaps you think these teams have a fighting chance to sneak into the top 8 at season’s end. St. Francis’s playoff starts on Thursday night, with a date at home against the aforementioned Blue Devils. A win and their faint hopes are still alive, yet a loss extinguishes that dream. Mount St. Mary’s is equally as desperate, and it’s very unlikely the Mountaineers will experience an offensive resurgence to catapult them into the NEC tournament. They do conclude the season with an easy stretch of games, but significant help is still needed from above to grab that #8 seed. I wouldn't bet on that.
All in all, the playoff qualifiers and regular season champion is close to being decided, but these final two weeks will certainly create some excellent first round match-ups in the NEC tournament.