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Somerset, NJ -- With a wild conclusion to the regular season on Saturday, the eight-team field is now set for the 2012 Northeast Conference (NEC) Men's Basketball Tournament. Defending champion LIU Brooklyn clinched its second consecutive NEC regular season title tonight and as the top seed, will enjoy home court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Blackbirds also earned the league's automatic bid to the Postseason NIT.
Each of the top four seeds fell in their regular season finales on Saturday, while the four teams in the lower half of the bracket all won. Translation: this year's playoffs have the potential to be one of the most competitive in recent memory.
The 31st Annual NEC Basketball Tournament will consist of an eight-team playoff format with all games played at the home of the higher seed. After the quarterfinals, the teams will be reseeded so the highest remaining seed plays the lowest remaining seed in the semifinals.
2012 Northeast Conference
Men’s Basketball Tournament
(all games played at home of higher seed)
Thursday, March 1
#8 Sacred Heart at #1 Long Island, 7:00 pm
#7 Central Connecticut at #2 Wagner, 7:00 pm
#6 Monmouth at #3 Robert Morris, 7:00 pm
#5 Quinnipiac at #4 St. Francis (NY)., 7:00 pm
Sunday, March 4
Lowest Remaining Seed at Highest Remaining Seed,
12 or 6:00 pm*
3rd Highest Remaining Seed at 2nd Highest Remaining Seed,
12 or 6:00 pm*
* Games to be televised on MSG and Fox College Sports (FCS)
Wednesday, March 7
7:00 pm on ESPN2
NEC Men's Tournament quarterfinal play commences on Thursday, March 1, followed by the semifinal round on Sunday, March 4. Both semifinal games will be televised on MSG and Fox College Sports at noon and 6:00 pm. The championship game, to be televised by ESPN2, will be contested on Wednesday, March 7 at 7:00 pm.
The NEC’s return to a playoff format in 2005 came after an eight-year absence that saw the league’s annual postseason tournament contested at one campus site (1999), at a municipal arena (2000-01) and at a single campus site for the quarterfinals and semifinals, followed by the highest remaining seed hosting the championship game (1998, 2002-04). The conference had previously employed a high-seed hosting format from 1991-97, though teams were not reseeded after the quarterfinals as the tournament is currently constructed.
LIU Brooklyn (22-8, 16-2 NEC), which had an eight-game win streak snapped on Saturday by Monmouth, has now posted a 32-4 record in NEC play from 2010-12, the best two-year stretch in league history. In that time, LIU has also won 49 games, one shy of the two-year mark held by Robert Morris. The high-scoring Blackbirds have been unbeatable at the WRAC, taking a 24-game win streak – the second-longest in the nation at this time behind Kentucky’s 51 – into the postseason. LIU and 10th-year head coach Jim Ferry will face a dangerous team, however, in #8 seed Sacred Heart (14-17, 8-10 NEC). Under 34-year head coach Dave Bike, the Pioneers took the host Blackbirds to overtime before succumbing, 103-91, on February 16th and also came up just short in two point losses to Robert Morris and St. Francis (NY) just in the last week. Sacred Heart returns to the postseason following a two-year absence and will attempt to become the first #8 seed to knock off a #1 seed in tourney history.
2011-12 meetings: LIU 87, SHU 81 (1/5 at SHU); LIU 103, SHU 91 (2/16 at LIU)
Wagner (24-5, 15-3 NEC), the #2 seed, had won nine straight before going down at Central Connecticut on Saturday. It has been a remarkable year for the Seahawks and second-year head coach Dan Hurley. The Green & White have won a school-record 24 games - an 11-game improvement from last season – and own the most victories of any New York City metro area Division I program. With 12 victories away from home, Wagner is also tied with Murray State for the most road victories in the nation this season. The Seahawks will have a chance to avenge their loss to the Blue Devils when the two teams meet again on Thursday. CCSU (13-15, 10-8 NEC) lost out on a three-way tiebreaker and enters the playoffs as the #7 seed. The Blue Devils won three of their last four games to close out the regular season, including Saturday’s 78-61 victory over the Seahawks in New Britain. CCSU has now qualified for 14 straight NEC Tournaments, the longest current streak in the league, and has won three NEC titles under 16th-year head coach Howie Dickenman (2000, 2002 and 2007).
2011-12 meetings: WC 67, CCSU 58 (1/14); CCSU 78, WC 61 (2/25)
Seven-time NEC champion Robert Morris (22-9, 13-5 NEC) won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010, and reached the 2011 title game. The third-seeded Colonials ended the year strong, winning six straight before suffering a 73-69 setback at Quinnipiac on Saturday. Robert Morris has won at least 12 games in NEC play in each of the last five seasons and has posted 113 overall wins since 2007 – including four 20-victory campaigns – a league record for a five-year time frame. Under the watchful eye of second year head coach Andrew Toole, the Colonials will take on a Monmouth (12-19, 10-8 NEC) team that has defied expectations in the first year of the King Rice era. The Hawks were picked to finish 10th in the conference, then proceeded to win seven of their last nine games to return to the postseason as the #6 seed after missing out on the festivities a year ago. Monmouth heads into the playoffs brimming with confidence after beating both LIU and St. Francis (NY) on the final weekend of regular season play. The Hawks’ 10 league victories are the most for the program since winning 12 en-route to their fourth NEC crown in 2006.
2011-12 meetings: RMU 69, MU 51 (12/3); RMU 81, MU 73 (OT) (1/21)
The NEC’s other surprise team this year has been St. Francis (NY) (15-14, 12-6 NEC). Picked 11th in the coaches poll after losing a pair of league all-stars to graduation, second-year head coach Glenn Braica guided the Terriers to 12 NEC wins, their best year in conference play since winning 12 back in 2003-04. Seeking its first-ever NEC championship, St. Francis will be hosting the first postseason game at the Pope Center since 1997 when it takes on #5 seed Quinnipiac (17-12, 10-8 NEC) this week. The Terriers swept the Bobcats in the regular season, but Quinnipiac has no shortage of momentum heading into March. The Bobcats won eight of their last 11 regular season games, including a four-point win over Robert Morris on Saturday. The Bobcats have qualified for the NEC playoffs seven straight years, and competed in the Postseason NIT (2010) and CIT (2011) the last two seasons under Tom Moore, now finishing out his fifth year in Hamden.
2011-12 meetings: SFNY 73, QU 72 (1/5 at SFNY); SFNY 64, QU 56 (2/16)
About The Northeast Conference
Now in its 31st year, the Northeast Conference is an NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association consisting of 12 institutions of higher learning located throughout six states. Media coverage of the NEC extends to four of the largest markets in the United States - New York (#1), Pittsburgh (#23), Baltimore (#27), and Hartford/New Haven (#30). Founded in 1981 as the basketball-only ECAC Metro Conference, the NEC has grown to sponsor 23 championship sports for men and women and now enjoys automatic or play-in access to 14 different NCAA Championships. NEC member institutions include Central Connecticut State, Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU Brooklyn, Monmouth, Mount St. Mary’s, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis (NY), Saint Francis (PA) and Wagner. Bryant will become the NEC’s 12th member upon completion of the NCAA Division I reclassification process in 2012. For more information on the NEC, visit www.northeastconference.org.