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Northeast Conference Semifinals Preview

March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Northeast Conference Semifinals Preview

Preview by Keith Burdette

No. 7 Central Connecticut State Blue Devils vs. No. 3 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
The Blue Devils pulled off the only upset of the tournament by beating second seed St. Francis NY 81-68. Ron Robinson had fourteen points, one of five Blue Devils in double figures. He also had fourteen rebounds, including the 1000th rebound of his career to become only the second player in NEC history to reach that plateau. The Knights beat tournament host 69-67 in a nail-biter. Marcus Whitaker had a double-double with sixteen points and ten assists in a game where the lead changed hands six times in the last five minutes. Wagner had a chance to tie it at the end but missed a shot at the buzzer. In the regular season, these teams split the two games by winning on the road. In January, the Knights won 84-77 behind 25 points from Chad Timberlake. In February, CCSU won 70-69 with 20 points and ten rebounds from Ron Robinson.

If the Blue Devils can win this game, it might not be appropriate to consider it an upset since the Blue Devils led the NEC in scoring margin at 1.7 points per game. Seven losses in games decided by five points or less suggest that they have underachieved this season. But in the postseason all that matters is getting on a roll and the Blue Devils have gotten off to a great start with the big win over St. Francis NY. For the Knights, turnovers will again be key. In the quarterfinals, FDU won the battle 16-7. In the win over CCSU earlier in the season, they had a 17-7 margin but in the loss it was only 13-12. I think the Blue Devils will put a dent in those turnover numbers and get another big day from Ron Robinson for the win.

No. 4 Robert Morris Colonials vs. No. 1 Monmouth Hawks
Both teams had relatively easy wins in the quarterfinals. 19 Blake Hamilton points and 16 Dwayne Byfield points led Monmouth to a 64-52 win over Mount Saint Mary’s. The Colonials used solid defense and 26 points from Maurice Carter to beat St. Francis PA 58-43. During the regular season, Monmouth won both meetings with Robert Morris, 75-67 in January and 68-58 in February. Hamilton and Byfield averaged over 37 points in those two wins.

Monmouth doesn’t always win pretty, but they’ve won more consistently this season than any other team in the NEC. In low scoring games, the contributions of Hamilton and Byfield have been enough to lead them to wins. But as the score creeps into the 70s, players like Brian Boxler and Chris Kenny have given them the extra offense they needed. When the Hawks struggle, they have trouble defending multiple players and several end up in double figures. With Chaz McCrommon, Maurice Carter and Aaron Thomas, the Colonials have a group that could give them fits. But before the tournament, the Colonials had really struggled and lost four of five. They would have made an early exit to the tournament if Maurice Carter hadn’t come away with a huge performance. Ultimately, I think Monmouth’s consistency will come out victorious.

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