LIU Brooklyn upset by Robert Morris in NEC Tournament quarterfinals

This fadeaway from RMU's Kavon Stewart with three seconds left helped knock out LIU Brooklyn from the 2017 NEC Tournament Wednesday night. (Photo: Bob Dea - BHJ)

This fadeaway from RMU’s Kavon Stewart with three seconds left helped knock out LIU Brooklyn from the 2017 NEC Tournament Wednesday night. (Photo: Bob Dea – BHJ)

LIU Brooklyn and Robert Morris have played many great games in their long rivalry as NEC foes. In recent history, names like Boyd, Olasewere, Brickman, Karvel Anderson, Lucky Jones and Velton Jones immediately comes to mind.

Wednesday night, inside a raucous Steinberg Wellness Center which stuffed in over 1400 fans to watch another great game to add to the long legacy of the Robert Morris-LIU Brooklyn rivalry, it was Robert Morris senior point guard Kavon Stewart who came up his the biggest shot of his career with three seconds remaining to upset LIU Brooklyn and advance to the NEC tournament semifinals with a 69-68 win for the Colonials. [Read more…]

BHJ Photo Gallery: LIU Brooklyn-Sacred Heart NEC Tournament Quarterfinals

All photos taken by Blackbirds Hoops Journal photographer Bob Dea on Wednesday, March 2nd at Sacred Heart’s Pitt Center during the 2016 Northeast Conference quarterfinals. [Read more…]

LIU Brooklyn MBB final game NEC Tournament seeding scenarios

Last night, LIU Brooklyn defeated Central Connecticut, 80-74, at go to 9-8 on the season in the Northeast Conference with one more game remaining tomorrow against Bryant at the Steinberg Wellness Center.

Like I mentioned in the game recap from last night, the NEC this morning put out updated seeding scenarios for all eight teams including LIU Brooklyn. Here is a nifty, easy-to-use chart put together by NEC Associate Commissioner Ron Ratner after last night’s contests: [Read more…]

Mount St. Mary’s reaches the NEC mountaintop

Mount St. Mary's is heading back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Mount St. Mary’s is heading back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Congratulations are in order for the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers and second-year head coach Jamion Christian for winning the 2014 Northeast Conference men’s basketball tournament and defeating the top-seeded Robert Morris Colonials on their home court 88-71 on Tuesday night.

The Mount rode the wave of their dramatic 19-point comeback win against St. Francis Brooklyn in the NEC tournament quarterfinals last Wednesday to two huge road victories to get themselves back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008. In fact, in Christian’s first two seasons as head coach of the Mount, they are now 4-1 in NEC tournament road games and have been to two NEC finals and now winning one.

Mount St. Mary's Rashad Whack named 2014 NEC Tournament MVP (Photo: Bob Dea)

Mount St. Mary’s Rashad Whack named 2014 NEC Tournament MVP (Photo: Bob Dea)

The Mount got great balanced scoring from their entire lineup. NEC tournament MVP senior Rashad Whack lead the way with 20 points but they also got major contributions from the other members of the Mount’s “Big 3” with senior point guard Julian Norfleet scoring 17 and senior guard Sam Prescott scoring 15.

Whack was a terror on both ends of the court for Mount St. Mary’s and was well-deserving of the tournament MVP award. He scored 69 points in three games of this NEC tournament and help neutralized the opposition best scoring threat especially in the last two games in hold Wagner’s Latif Rivers and RMU’s Karvel Anderson to a combined 28 points on 10-31 shooting.

Norfleet started off hot from the field especially from beyond the arc, swishing open three-pointers. Prescott played the role of high-post facilitator to perfection. When he was open, he knocked down the elbow jumper all game long and then when the zone collapsed on him, he either found Whack, Norfleet or Will Miller for open shots or pass it down low to the open 7-footer Taylor Danaher for easy layups. They could not have played the RMU 2-3 zone any better. They seemed to find all the open spots and made every single open shot.

Danaher was impressive down low for the Mount with his nice hands and quick shooting. He was a perfect 6 for 6 in the game for 15 points. Jamion Christian inserted Will Miller to hit some open corner threes and that is exactly what he did, making 4 of 5 from the left wing corner. “Coach told me that the corner three would be open all game and they were.” said Miller in the post game interview on NEC Front Row.

So it is on to the NCAA tournament for the Mount as they will likely find themselves on Selection Sunday seeing their names coming up in the First Four bracket in Dayton. Their RPI is 216. Kenpom has them at 207. Their BPI is 221. They have a 16-16 record going into Selection Sunday. The First Four seems like an inevitability. Yet, they are riding a hot wave that might actually get them a win in that First Four game if they can get the right matchup.

Mount St. Mary's Jamion Christian could make a name for himself with a good run in the NCAAs. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Mount St. Mary’s Jamion Christian could make a name for himself with a good run in the NCAAs. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Also, if Mount is capable of making some noise in the Big Dance, they might be more than some eyes at bigger mid-majors looking at Christian as a possible head coaching candidate. Although, I personally believe he needs some more time at the Mount. He still have things he has yet to prove. Can he build a consistent winner and not a team that gets hot in February and March? Can he recruit and retain talent? He has won mostly from a lot of players he inherited from when he arrived. I think these are legit questions which is why I believe he ultimately stays at the Mount for a while. Plus, it would be nice to see the NEC keep their young, talented coaches in the league.

As for RMU, what next for them? It seems like head coach Andy Toole might not be the hot commodity everyone was thinking he would be going into the NEC tournament. Toole is now 0-3 in NEC championship games with one being in his own gym. That still can’t take away from the amazing job he did this season getting a team of just eight players from mid-January on to go 14-2 in the regular season and get them to within a game of the NCAA tournament. Toole might still get some looks but he just won’t be THE hot name had he gotten his team over the hump.

RMU now heads for the NIT where more than likely, they won’t get the fortuitous break of hosting a first-round game against a national powerhouse and defending national champion like they did last season against Kentucky. After the loss to the Mount, it didn’t sound like the RMU upperclassmen wanted to keep playing if it wasn’t an NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, they don’t have much choice.

As for the roster, after the NIT they will lose point guard Anthony Myers-Pate and NEC Player of the Year Karvel Anderson to graduation. They will return Lucky Jones for his senior year and a solid group of returnees with Charles Oliver, Stephan Hawkins, David Appolon and Karon Stewart if they all return. They will likely have a huge class of newcomers coming in with several open scholarships likely available after their suspensions and a couple of players leaving the team. It will be another tall order for Toole next season if he does return to the RMU bench.

Congratulations to both RMU and the Mount for excellent seasons and good luck to them both in their runs at the NIT and NCAAs respectively. Now it is time to pull for the NEC and wish these teams a long and successful postseason journey.

Two wildly exciting games highlighted the 2014 NEC Tournament Quarterfinals

Last night was a different night for me. For the first time in several years, I didn’t have an LIU Brooklyn NEC quarterfinal game to attend so this year I decided to sit back, turn on NEC Front Row and watch all four games happen at once. Man, was it fun! If you happened to miss to out, you picked the wrong night to have plans. Here were some of the highlights and lowlights of the NEC Quarterfinal round.

Game of the Night: St. Francis Brooklyn at Mount St. Mary’s

St. Francis Brooklyn had this game in the bag. They had a 12-point halftime lead that increased to 17 points in the second half. They had an 11-point lead with 1:53 to go before totally self-destructing in the end. They committed two of the worst fouls you would expect a veteran team to make. Ben Mockford committed an intentional foul on Gregory Graves which costed SFBK three points in that possession and then Brent Jones fouled Sam Prescott shooting a three and he hit them all to get within five with 54 seconds to go. Then costly SFBK turnovers and missed free throws give the Mount one last opportunity to win. Lowell Ulmer who really had a good game, missed two critical free throws with eight seconds left and left the door open for the Mount to steal the game and that is exactly what they did with a Rashad Whack three from near the top of the key with two seconds left and destroyed the hearts of the Terriers and their fans with a 72-71 win at home. The fans rushed the court after that incredible win. It was a brutal loss for the Terriers but they can only blame themselves for some of terrible decisions they made near the end of this one.

Upset of the Night: #6 Saint Francis (PA) defeating #3 Bryant

Neither team was coming into this game on any kind of a hot streak. SFU had lost three of their last four and Bryant had lost four of their last six. Bryant seemed to be going in with confidence after beating LIU Brooklyn on Saturday by 19. After an early seven-point lead for Bryant, SFU stormed back and actually took a three-point lead into the locker room at the half. Bryant would come out of the break hot and take a 49-38 with over nine minutes left to go. But back came SFU with a 13-1 run to retake the lead with 3:37 left. SFU would take the lead for good on a Ronnie Drinnon layup with 43 seconds left and a missed three by senior Corey Maynard and then a turnover on the offensive rebound by Alex Francis sealed Bryant’s fate. For the second year in a row, Bryant gets knocked off in the first game at home. It was a sad way to see seniors Francis and Maynard go out like that. Give SFU their due, they played gritty, tough basketball and got big shots and rebounds when they needed them. Congrats to them.

The Other Games

#2-seed Wagner cruised to a 24-point win at home against #7-seed Central Connecticut State. The player of the game was Wagner’s Kenneth Ortiz who scored 21 points and hit 3 of 6 threes. Kyle Vinales scored 20 off the bench for CCSU.

#1 seed Robert Morris were in a fight with pesky #8 seed Fairleigh Dickinson for most of the game. RMU led only by two at the half but were able to keep them at arms length through the entire second half to win 60-53. Lucky Jones scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the win. Anthony Myers-Pate also put in ten points. FDU senior Sidney Sanders Jr. did all he could for the Knights with 16 points on 16 shots. Scotter Gillette scored 15 and senior Mathias Seilund scored 12 in his final game for FDU.

Player of the Night: Ronnie Drinnon (SFU)

The SFU sophomore forward had a monster game for the Red Flash. He had a double-double where he scored 20 points and pulled down 18 rebounds. He was all over the place and even when he got his fourth foul with 8:34 to go, he didn’t let up in his play and manage not to commit that crucial fifth foul. It was an amazing performance from him.

Head-scratching Performance of the Night: Karvel Anderson (RMU)

The newly-minted 2013-14 NEC Player of the Year didn’t play like it in the quarterfinal round. He finished with no points in 28 minutes of action. He only put up only three shots in the game and was benched by RMU head coach Andy Toole late in the second half. This is the same player who was coming in on a scoring tear of late having at least 21 points in each of the last four games including 31 points a week and a half ago versus St. Francis Brooklyn. Look for him to be much more aggressive this Saturday in the NEC semifinals.

Other stars of the night:

Rashad Whack (MSM): 28 points including the game-winner three with two seconds left

Lowell Ulmer (SFBK): 18 points on 11 shot attempts

Kenneth Ortiz (Wagner): 21 points on 5 of 15 shooting including 3 made threes.

Up ahead:

The NEC Tournament continues on Saturday with the semifinals. In game one at 12 pm, it is Mount St. Mary’s at Wagner. In game two at 2 pm, it is Saint Francis (PA) at Robert Morris. It should be two fun games to watch. I’m hoping to be in Staten Island along press row, covering the Mount-Wagner game.

I expect both home teams to win these games which would set up a #1 vs #2 final in Moon Township, PA on Tuesday with Wagner taking on Robert Morris for the right to be the NEC representative in the NCAA Tournament.

BHJ’s 2014 NEC Men’s Basketball Tournament Predictions

With the three-time NEC champs LIU Brooklyn not making into the field for this week’s 2014 NEC Tournament, it means a new NEC champion will be crowned for the first time since 2010.

Here is the bracket for 2014 NEC Tournament (courtesy of the NEC):

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 10.44.52 PM

With the brackets now set, here are my predictions for each round of the 2014 NEC Tournament.

Quarterfinals:

#8 Fairleigh Dickinson @ #1 Robert Morris – RMU defeated FDU last week in their only meeting of the season, 69-64 at FDU. I think RMU should take care of FDU rather comfortably. Only #1 seed in the history of the NEC Tournament has lost a first round game and that was all back in the very first NEC Tournament. Sidney Sanders Jr. might keep FDU in the game for a while but I expect they RMU to ultimately win pretty convincingly.

My pick: ROBERT MORRIS

#5 St. Francis Brooklyn @ #4 Mount St. Mary’s – The Mount won their one and only meeting at home in the their second NEC game of the season. The Mount is a much better home team than away team which gives them an advantage. One thing that may give the Mount trouble is St. Francis Brooklyn size. The Mount won’t have much to combat the Terriers’ front court. Expect SFBK’s Jalen Cannon to have a great game. If the Mount’s threes are falling, it will likely be trouble for the Terriers. SFBK plays defense though so they might be able to slow down the Mount. I think SFBK’s defense and their big three of Cannon, Mockford and Jones ekes out a win on the road over the Mount’s big three of Norfleet, Whack and Prescott.

My pick: ST. FRANCIS BROOKLYN

#7 Central Connecticut State @ #2 Wagner – They split the season series with each team winning on the road. Yes, CCSU finished the season winning six of their last nine but I can’t see Wagner losing this game at home. Wagner is trying to erase the disappointments of the last two NEC Tournament where they lost in the semifinals as a 2-seed. They are a 2-seed once again and it is finals or bust. I think they take care of CCSU in round one. Wagner is just too deep and too athletic for CCSU in this stage.

My pick: WAGNER

#6 Saint Francis (PA) @ #3 Bryant – Neither team has come to the finish on any kind of a hot streak. I think Bryant lucks out with the most favorable matchup of the four quarterfinal games. One thing Bryant has plenty of that SFU doesn’t is offense. Bryant won the only meeting between the two and I believe Bryant will make rather quick work of the Red Flash and advance.

My pick: BRYANT

Semifinals

#5 St. Francis Brooklyn @ #1 Robert Morris – RMU won both meetings but the first meeting was the first game after the SFBK suspensions occurred and they needed a tip-in from Lucky Jones in overtime to escape with a win at home. I think third time will be the charm for the Terriers. I feel like RMU has been losing steam the past couple weeks and that they might be ripe for an upset. St. Francis Brooklyn can present them with a lot of problems inside, problems RMU won’t have the bodies to overcome. Karvel Anderson will be put up the points but I think the Terriers will escape with a close victory and move on to the NEC final.

My pick: ST. FRANCIS BROOKLYN

#3 Bryant @ #2 Wagner – St. Francis Brooklyn won the only meeting of the season. Wagner has lost in this round of the NEC Tournament the past two seasons hosting both times. I believe third time will be the lucky charm for Ken Ortiz, Latif Rivers and Bashir Mason as they get by in a close one over Bryant. Wagner’s depth and ability to play on both ends should be the deciding factor to bring the NEC Final to Grymes Hill on Staten Island.

My pick: WAGNER

NEC Final

#5 St. Francis Brooklyn @ #2 Wagner – Here it is. An all-NYC NEC final. Wagner took the only meeting between the two, winning by just one point. Both teams like to play defense. Both teams can go off on scoring spurt on offense. Both have perimeter scorers who like to shoot from deep and both can get their points inside. Both have good point guards. Both have good shot blockers. Both are pretty deep although Wagner is deeper with the Terriers down Hagigal, White and Santavenere due to suspensions. In the end, I think Wagner has enough of an edge all-around plus the home court advantage to win the NEC championship and return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002-03. I picked them to win it all in October and I’m sticking with them in March.

Final score prediction: 68-65

My 2014 NEC Champion: WAGNER

Let the games begin!!

NEC Championship Game Photo Gallery: MSM vs LIU Brooklyn 3/12/13

All photos taken by Bob Dea for Blackbirds Hoops Journal at the Wellness Center during the Northeast Conference Championship Game on March 12, 2013. [Read more…]