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NEC Tournament Watch

Saturday is the final day of the NEC's regular season, so rather than breaking down games I figured taking a look at all the NEC Tournament seed possibilities would be a more prudent use of time.

First, below are the current standings. Note: This is the first time all season I've ordered the standings by the only thing that ultimately matters, winning %.

A few reminders:

  • Unlike in most seasons, every school makes the NEC Tournament this year. This change was implemented since the league opted to keep its forfeiture rule in place. Those affected: Wagner (2-0), Bryant (1-0), Merrimack (1-0), Central Connecticut (1-0), Fairleigh Dickinson (1-2), Mount St. Mary's (0-2), and Sacred Heart (0-2).

  • The tournament begins on Monday night, with #9 playing at #8.

  • The higher seed hosts every game so every seed line (theoretically) matters.

  • The conference re-seeds the teams after the quarterfinal round.

  • Merrimack remains ineligible for post-season play as it is in year 3 of its 4-year D1 transitional period.

Here are Saturday's Games:

Mount St. Mary's at Central Connecticut, 1pm

Fairleigh Dickinson at Long Island, 2pm

Merrimack at St. Francis-Brooklyn, 2pm

St. Francis (PA) at Sacred Heart, 2pm

Wagner at Bryant, 4pm

Ron Ratner and his team created this handy tie-breaker sheet so you can see exactly where every team ends up based on the outcomes of Saturday's games:

#1 Seed: It all comes down to 4pm in Smithfield, as the #1 seed (and outright regular season crown) is up for grabs.

As you all know by now, Wagner lost at Fairleigh Dickinson (which was 3-10 in the league coming into the game) in overtime on Thursday night to set up this winner-take-all showdown. So...which team is better at this point? Kenpom has Wagner as a 1-point favorite while Torvik has Bryant -1, but both of those systems are factoring in each team's full body of work this season. However, I think we'd all agree that anything the Seahawks did prior to February 10th (the first game in which Eljiah Ford wasn't available) is largely irrelevant. Let's look at both teams over that 5-game sample:

The analytics are not kind to Wagner since Ford went down, and while 5 games could be consider a small sample, it's clear that the Seahawks just aren't the same team on either side of the floor. Especially since Raekwon Rogers has been in a rut of late; through the team's first 5 NEC games, the big-man averaged 16.5 ppg. However, since January 23rd (10 games), he's scored less than 12 points eight times. His efficiency is fine over that period (51.5% eFG%), but not anywhere near where it was prior to that period (62.5% eFG%).

For Bryant, Hall Elisias is slowly working his way back from a knee injury (he played 11 minutes against SFC on Thursday), and I'd expect that Jared Grasso will push him a bit on Saturday if he needs it.

The NEC couldn't have drawn this one up any better; two teams tied atop the standings facing off on the season's final day.

#2-5 seeds: The loser of Wagner-Bryant will be locked in as the 2-seed; LIU clinched the #3 seed a week ago; and Mount St. Mary's will host St. Francis-Brooklyn next Wednesday in the 4/5 matchup.

#6-9 seeds: Now for the fun. Four teams, all of which could end up anywhere depending on the outcomes of Saturday's games. There are 16 distinct possibilities which you can clearly see on the league's chart that I posted above (the Bryant-Wagner came will have zero effect on this group of teams). Let's look at the likelihood of every outcome.

First, two things:

  • Fairleigh Dickinson cannot end up in the 9th spot since they've split with the other three teams involved plus they own the best win thanks to Thursday night's win over Wagner;

  • If both Central Connecticut and Sacred Heart both lose on Saturday and St. Francis-Brooklyn beats Merrimack, the Blue Devils and Pios would finish tied in every tie-breaker and it would fall to the NET Rating. Sacred Heart is currently #328 and Central Connecticut is #344. For a 16-spot swing to occur this late in the season, CCSU would likely need to win by 30+ and SHU lose by 30+. For all intents and purposes, Sacred Heart winning this tie-breaker is already a done deal.

Below is a grid of all possibilities with the resulting seeds:

Now to each team's odds of each seed:

What you're rooting for, in addition to your favorite team, on Saturday:

Central Connecticut

  • Beat the Mount and you avoid the PIG as long as FDU doesn't win at LIU (the Sharks are a 14-pt favorite according to Kenpom).

  • Lose and you're in the PIG, and the only way you're the home team in that one is if both SFU and Merrimack win.

Fairleigh Dickinson

  • Pull the upset at Long Island and you avoid the PIG.

  • If the Knights win and CCSU and SFU (both underdogs) don't both win, you're the 6-seed and you go right back to the Steinberg Wellness Center on Wednesday. If one of CCSU or SFU win, you go to either Smithfield or Staten Island at the #7.

  • Lose and you can still avoid the PIG! However, FDU would need both SFU and Mount St. Mary's to win.

St. Francis (PA)

  • Beat Sacred Heart in Fairfield and you're the 6-seed unless both FDU and the Mount win. If one of them wins, you're the 7-seed but avoid the PIG.

  • Lose and you can still end up at the 7-seed, but you need Mount St. Mary's and Long Island to win. Both are heavy favorites, so that's a reasonable thing to pull for.

  • However, lose and have one of CCSU or FDU pull the upset and you're in the PIG. You host the PIG if Fairleigh Dickinson wins but Central Connecticut loses, you're the visiting team if CCSU wins (no matter the outcome of FDU-LIU).

Sacred Heart

  • The team least in control of its own destiny; win and you can't finish 9th, but you could still end up in the PIG.

  • If the Pios win but CCSU and FDU also win, they'd host the Red Flash again next Wednesday. This is one of the more unlikely outcomes (2.3%), but anything is possible.

  • Win and have CCSU and FDU both lose, you're the 6-seed. Win and only one of CCSU and FDU lose, you're the 7-seed.

Enjoy your Saturday!

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