Tying it all together…LIU’s run to the NEC regular season title & tiebreakers (they’re back!).

One week to go before the Madness begins.

Very little is settled on the men’s side other than Long Island quietly putting an end to the race for the NEC regular season crown.  The Blackbirds ran away from the field this season, and with a 20-point win over Mount St. Mary’s on Saturday, ensured that the road to the NEC title will go through Brooklyn as long as they remain alive in the postseason.  Lots of superlatives here:

• The regular season championship is the first for LIU since 1997-98 and the days of future NBAer Charles Jones
The 22 wins for LIU is the most for the program since going 22-2 in 1967-68
The Blackbirds have won eight straight games, their second eight-game streak this season
LIU has more wins than any other New York City area program
LIU is now ranked #20 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll

Most impressively, the Blackbirds have posted the most road wins (13) in the nation and two more than any other program (Belmont has 11).

People are beginning to take notice as well both in and out of the league.  LIU has been profiled in all the New York dailies in recent weeks, and even the Wall Street Journal has gotten in the act.

After LIU beat Wagner in overtime last Thursday in an entertaining game with an intense playoff atmosphere, Wagner head coach Dan Hurley had this to say about the Blackbirds:

“They have a lot of answers,” said Hurley.  “Their wing kids are really underrated guys.  They’re the heart and soul of the team.  I think they have a really good balanced team and they have swagger.  They have the best swagger of anyone we’ve played.  I think they know they are really good.”

So while LIU head coach Jim Ferry proudly extols the virtues of his school and borough, and begins making his playoff plans, the rest of the league gears up for what promises to be a wild final week of regular season play.

There are 10 teams still fighting for seeding or qualification, which leads to the inevitable question on everyone’s minds – TIEBREAKERS!

Here at Overtime!, we’ve spent countless hourse (really!) putting together some of the scenarios that may play out over the next six days…some light reading for everyone entering the work week.

Making March Plans
Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Wagner, Mount St. Mary’s and St. Francis (NY) last week joined Long Island and CCSU as NEC playoff participants.  Robert Morris qualified for the postseason for the eighth consecutive season, while Quinnipiac and the Mount have made it six years running.  Wagner and St. Francis (NY) are back in the playoffs after failing to qualify a year ago.  For the earlier qualifiers, it marks the 13th straight tourney appearance for CCSU – the most in the NEC at this time – and the fourth in a row for Long Island.

Top-Four Seed Drama
Unlike conferences that contest their postseason tournament at a neutral site, the NEC format of playing all games at the higher seed adds a sense of drama as the regular season winds down with teams fighting to finish in the top-four and earn quarterfinal and possibly semifinal round home games.  Thus far, Long Island (14-2), Quinnipiac (11-5) and Central Connecticut State (11-5) are assured of hosting first round games.

#2 Seed Battle
Quinnipiac owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with CCSU based on their season sweep of the Blue Devils.  The Bobcats can earn the #2 seed with a pair of wins this week at Monmouth and FDU.  Quinnipiac can also snag the #2 spot with a split this week and a CCSU loss.  The Bobcats can even drop their final two games and take the #2 seed if CCSU drops both its games, and Robert Morris (10-6) and Wagner (9-7) each lose once.  CCSU can lay claim to the #2 seed with victories over St. Francis (NY) and Long Island and a Quinnipiac loss, or by splitting its last two contests if the Bobcats drop both their games.  Robert Morris can only qualify at #2 by winning its final two games, along with Quinnipiac and CCSU both going winless this week.  Wagner is two games out at this point, but has a remote chance of reaching as high as #2.  The Seahawks must earn wins over Saint Francis (PA) and Robert Morris, while Quinnipiac and CCSU must lose their final two games.

Last Home Spot Up For Grabs
The battle for the final remaining home game in the NEC quarterfinals boils down to Robert Morris (10-6), Wagner (9-7) and St. Francis (NY) (8-8). 

Robert Morris can earn the spot with a win over Wagner this week, or by splitting its final two games as long as the Seahawks lose once.  If the Colonials lose twice, they cannot host a first round game.  The Seahawks can bring a playoff game to the Spiro Center by beating Saint Francis (PA) and Robert Morris this week.  Wagner can also go 1-1 on the week and host a game, provided they beat Robert Morris, the Colonials lose to Mount St. Mary’s and St. Francis (NY) loses at least once.  Despite being two games back of fourth place Robert Morris, St. Francis (NY) can sneak into the #4 spot by defeating CCSU and Bryant this week, the Colonials lose twice and Wagner falls to Saint Francis (PA).

Middle of the Pack Hi-Lo Game
Things are still murky in the middle of standings with plenty of room for movement.  Wagner could go into the tournament as high as the #2 seed, but as low as the #7 seed.   Robert Morris could fit into the puzzle anywhere from #2 to #6.  St. Francis (NY) has a chance to enter the playoffs as high as the #4 seed, but as low as the #8 seed.  Mount St. Mary’s could finish anywhere from #5 to #8.  Saint Francis (PA), which is just fighting for an opportunity to play in March (see below), could go qualify at the #6 with a pair of wins this week, along with two losses apiece for the Mount and St. Francis (NY).

Fighting For Survival
Every bit as intense as the battle for a quarterfinal home game is the slugfest for the final NEC Tournament berth. With one week to play, only Fairleigh Dickinson has been eliminated from playoff contention as three teams are engaged in a duel for the final chances at playing postseason ball in March.  With a 6-10 record, Saint Francis (PA) controls its own destiny and can qualify for the tourney with wins over Wagner and Mount St. Mary’s this week.  The Red Flash can also qualify with a single victory, coupled with either a Monmouth loss or a Bryant win, and can even get in with a pair of losses if neither Monmouth or Sacred Heart wins both its games.  Trailing Saint Francis (PA) by a game at 5-11 are Monmouth and Sacred Heart.  The Hawks can reach the postseason by winning their final two games against Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac, along with Saint Francis (PA) dropping its final two outings.  Monmouth can also get in with two wins, a Saint Francis (PA) split and two Bryant losses.  Sacred Heart has the most difficult path to the postseason, needing to beat both Monmouth and FDU, while Saint Francis (PA) loses twice.  Bryant is ineligible for NEC Tournament play until the 2012-13 season  when it completes the five-year NCAA Division I reclassification period.

There are loads of scenarios that can play out over the next week, so be sure to check the NEC website for tiebreaker updates.

To whet your appetite for the postseason, NEC-TV brings you four games this week.  On Thursday, Mount St. Mary’s visits Robert Morris in a continuation of one of the league’s best-ever rivalries.  The game is set to air live on MSG, FSN-Pittsburgh and MASN at 7:00 pm. 

On Saturday, first place Long Island hosts second place Central Connecticut State in a battle of NEC heavyweights in the second half of a doubleheader on MSG.  The women tipoff at 11:30 am, followed by the men at 2:00 pm.  FDU and Quinnipiac close out the NEC tripleheader on MSG at 4:00 pm.

Enjoy the action and let us know your thoughts on the playoffs!

(Posted on February 20, 2011)

One thought on “Tying it all together…LIU’s run to the NEC regular season title & tiebreakers (they’re back!).

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