NEC Post-Christmas Holiday Hoops Dish: ‘Tis When Things Start Heating Up

The Northeast Conference now has two teams ranked in the CollegeInsider.com Men’s Basketball Mid-Major Top 25 Poll.  The latest rankings came out Tuesday with Wagner joining Robert Morris amongst the nation’s best.

Robert Morris (10-3) was in the poll for a second straight week, moving up four spots from its initial position to No. 20.  Meanwhile, Wagner (8-3), which matched its single-season program record for non-conference wins (7) by beating Pitt last week, cracked the rankings at No. 25.

Dan Hurley & Co. are surging on Staten Island.
Photo courtesy of Wagner Athletics Communications

Rp_primary_bench_action1_pitt

The NEC had a presence in the women’s poll as wellSacred Heart (9-2) remained ranked amongst the nation’s top-25 mid-major programs, coming in at No. 21.  Robert Morris (8-3) saw its three-week run in the poll end, finishing just outside of the Top 25.  The Colonials were the top team in the ‘receiving votes’ category.

Complete Men’s Poll
Complete Women’s Poll 

 

The holiday season is winding down, but NEC hoops is just about to begin cranking up.

After a four-day break in the men’s basketball schedule wrapped around Christmas, the action resumes on Wednesday, Dec. 28.

Both ends of the Garden State rivalry return to the floor on Wednesday night.  Fairleigh Dickinson (1-9) heads to Newark to take on NJIT while Monmouth (2-10) crosses the Delaware Water Gap and faces Lafayette in Easton.  Quinnipiac scored a season-high 85 in a four-point win over Niagara on Dec. 22 heading into the break.  Playing on the road for the fourth time in five games, the Bobcats (6-5) will visit Colgate in an attempt to even their record against Patriot League members this season. Quinnipiac beat Navy by 24 but suffered an 11-point loss to Lehigh and fell to American by one.

Robert Morris and Wagner restart their seasons on Dec. 29.  Andy Toole’s Colonials (10-3) travel to Memphis while Dan Hurley’s Seahawks, fresh off grabbing national headlines for a Dec. 23 win at Pittsburgh, tip off play against Air Force at the annual Cable Car Classic in Santa Clara.

When studying the NEC team stats leader board, it should come as no surprise that Robert Morris and Wagner happen to have the two best records amongst the league’s 12 men’s basketball teams.

The two teams are No. 1 and No. 2 in terms of both scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. 

No team surrenders fewer points than the 59.8 ppg the Colonials allow.  Wagner is second, giving up 64.5 ppg, but is actually a tick ahead of Robert Morris in the field goal percentage defense category.  The Seahawks (.402) and Colonials (.403) are neck-and-neck atop the leader board in what was Mike Rice’s favorite statistical category.

Rice is no longer the coach at Robert Morris, having moved onto Rutgers and handed the reins to the more-than-capable Toole.  Still, the words Rice spoke following the 2010 NEC Championship Game are still ringing true.

When asked why his team had become the first team to win back-to-back NEC titles in nearly two full decades, Rice replied…

“We defend very well and we keep coming at you. That’s what you need to do in a league like this.  The teams that rank first in field goal percentage defense win these [mid-major] leagues a majority of the time.”

His Colonials held Quinnipiac to a .348 field goal percentage in that 52-50 title tilt triumph and led the NEC that season at .407.

Robert Morris is in its second season post-Rice, but defense is still winning in the NEC.

 

On the women’s side, play resumes with a conference matinee featuring New England Collision counterparts Central Connecticut and Bryant.  Both teams dropped their conference openers during the first week of December and have cooled off after shooting out to fast starts.  Bryant finds itself at 6-4, still its best start at the Division I level, but is coming off a 20-point loss to Holy Cross.  Meanwhile, Beryl Piper’s Blue Devils (6-5) have encountered some road problems after winning four of five at home.  Central has lost its last three, all away from New Britain, falling to James Madison, Hofstra, and Auburn.

An intriguing game within the game should be present down low in this one where Naana Ankoma-Mensa and Kirsten Daamen roam.  The former, in her second season at Bryant, is the NEC’s fourth-leading rebounder (9.3 rpg).  In her third collegiate campaign, the 6-foot-3 Daamen has been the conference top shot blocker, having swatted away 28 attempts in 11 games. Follow Bryant-CCSU live.

Tricia Fabbri’s Quinnipiac Bobcats play one of the four night games on the Dec. 28 NEC women’s slate.  The Bobcats (7-3) will look t o make it three wins in a row when they play at American in the first leg of back-to-back games at Patriot League members.  QU will visit Army on Dec. 30.

St. Francis (NY) will visit NYC rival, and MAAC member, Manhattan in what will be a homecoming of sorts for Terriers’ assistant coach Dionne Dodson.  Prior to a stint at Fordham and her current stay at SFNY, Dodson served as an assistant on former Jasper head coach Myndi Hill’s in Riverdale.

Four NEC teams – Wagner, Monmouth, Saint Francis (PA), and Long Island – will partake in holiday tournaments this week.

Wagner will be the first to tip off when the Seahawks face host UVA at the Virginia Cavalier Classic on Dec. 28 in Charlottesville.

Monmouth will host the Hawk Holiday Classic on Dec. 29-30.  Long Island will contest the Reno-Tahoe Classic beginning with a bout against Nevada on Dec. 29.  SFPA is in the great American northwest for the Seattle Holiday Hoops Classic on Dec. 29-30.  The Flash face Seattle first.

 

Ready for Some More Wagner Hoops? How about against the defending NEC champ on ESPNU?

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