On Saturday, the 2014-15 Northeast Conference season tips off in grand fashion. Four conference games in eight days.
Due to New Year’s Day falling on a Thursday this year, the NEC decided to not put the big opening night of the conference season up against the brand new College Football Playoff (smart move!) and instead of the usually Thursday/Saturday week of games, the NEC decided to make opening week a Saturday/Monday affair followed by the usual Thursday/Saturday second week. This results in having to play four NEC games in a span of just eight days to open up what could be the most unpredictable and wildest conference season the NEC has had in a quite a long time.
As with any season, teams and coaches are always looking to get off to a fast start, with this season in particular, that is most certainly the case.
With four huge games in basically a week’s time, preparation for each of these games will be quite a challenge. The good part is most if not all of the teams won’t have to worry about class work just yet as they all should be in winter break for the first week of January so that won’t be much of a concern.
One of the challenges will be proper prep time in between games. Games one and two are two days apart as are games three and four, leaving just the three days in between games two and three and get a lot of practice and prep work done.
The next challenge will be travel for road games. This is the NEC and all the teams travel by coach bus. The teams with the easier travel schedule should have a bit more of an advantage than teams who have to travel all across the Northeast to get to their games. The more home games this first week, the better.
With that in mind, I wanted to find out which NEC teams would have the toughest challenges in this brutal first week of NEC play. I wanted to see which teams had the toughest strength of schedule in terms of opponents, which teams would have a more of early advantage in terms of home games in this first week, and how much traveling during this eight day span would each NEC team have to do.
I wanted to begin by first taking a look at the first week composition NEC schedule:
Next, to find out which NEC teams had the toughest first week schedule, I went over to kenpom.com and averaged out the KenPom rankings of each teams four opponents for the first week. I used the KenPom rankings from Tuesday, December 30th to compile the opponent’s average KenPom rankings for the first four opponents. Here are the KenPom rankings I used:
And here are the results:
By the results shown above, Bryant has the toughest first week in terms of opening week strength of schedule. Their four opponents average out to an above-200 ranking, the only one to do so. On the other side by using this chart, Robert Morris has the easiest opening week strength of schedule just edging out Mount St. Mary’s.
Next, I wanted to see what were the home/road splits for each NEC team. I wanted to find out how many home games each team was playing during the opening week and which teams have the advantage of being at home more during this important first week. These are the number of home games and road games each NEC teams is playing during the first week of the conference season:
So I found that LIU Brooklyn, Wagner and Sacred Heart were the three NEC teams playing the most home games in this upcoming eight-day span. Each are playing three home games in the first four games. Meanwhile, St. Francis Brooklyn, Robert Morris and Central Connecticut will only play one home game the first week which means they only to get the home-court advantage once during the opening week and will be traveling a lot on the road.
Speaking of traveling, the next thing I wanted to check out which NEC teams would have the biggest challenge dealing with travel. The more traveling a team has to do, the less rest and prep time they are getting for their next game. With the help of an old resource the NEC used to put out in their NEC Fan Guides, I used an old NEC Mileage Chart which broke down the mileage distance between each NEC campus.
This is chart I used:
You can tell it’s an old chart because it still has former NEC members Quinnipiac and Monmouth on there yet it served its purpose.
With this mileage chart, I could figure out which NEC teams would have the most miles to log in between games on opening week. Here is the order from lowest to highest of travel miles each NEC will have to make to get from game one on Saturday to game four the following Saturday.
LIU Brooklyn once again gets another huge advantage as they will only have to travel just sixteen miles during the four games in eight days span. They only travel to one road game and that game is in Staten Island, a short bus ride from campus and it is also the final game of the week.
Sacred Heart plays just one home game as well but they have to travel back and forth from Fairfield, CT to Brooklyn. Even though Wagner also has one road game, they have to travel to Loretto, PA from Staten Island for the NEC opener Saturday and then travel back from Monday’s home game. That is a 602-mile round trip for one game.
Saint Francis U. and Mount St. Mary’s got the worst end of all the NEC teams. SFU although they play their first two games at home, will have to make a long 502-mile trip to Bryant mid-week. The Mount will have to travel nearing 800 miles to get to and from just their first two games, both on the road, and then the travel back to Emmitsburg, MD from their home games.
Ironically, the three teams with three roads games are fifth, sixth and seventh on the travel milage list. St. Francis Brooklyn’s first two road games are within reasonable travel distance before they make their journey out to Mount St. Mary’s next Saturday.
After seeing everything, it is easy to see that LIU Brooklyn lucked out somewhat with the opening week schedule. The Blackbirds will play three home games and do the least amount of traveling by far of all the NEC teams. Their strength of schedule that first week is also in the middle of the pack so it is not terrible at all for them.
Conversely, the team that may be on the short end of the stick in week one is Saint Francis U. Although, they do play two home games to start the week, they will play against Robert Morris, Bryant and Sacred Heart, teams which are probably looking at the moment like upper-half teams. Their opening week strength of schedule is the third-toughest and they will log the second-most travel miles during the week with 632. That is a lot of travel in eight days for games that matter.
Well, time now to get ready to strap in because starting Saturday, the 18-game, two-month NEC marathon will begins with a four games in eight days sprint. You got love this time of year!