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Northeast Quarterfinals Preview

March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Northeast Conference Quarterfinals Preview

Preview by Keith Burdette

No. 2 St. Francis NY Terriers vs. No. 7 Central Connecticut State Blue Devils
These two teams met in last year’s NEC tournament in this very game but with the seeds reversed. St. Francis won the game 67-62 to start their improbable run to the finals. The Terriers won the only meeting this year 69-57 behind 21 points from Mike Wilson. The Blue Devils have had the most success this year when the bench has contributed key minutes; DeMario Anderson, T. Ron Christy, Javier Mojica and Lenny Jefferson have shared that role through out the season and will need to come up big for them this quarterfinal match-up. Mike Wilson will be the key for St. Francis; they won all but one game in which he led the team scoring.

If it comes down to a tight game, CCSU has struggled all season from the free throw line. They shot a league worst 63.7% from the charity stripe; this includes a 5-15 clip in the earlier game against St. Francis NY. Both teams make their fair share of three pointers but the Terriers attempted nearly twice as many on the year which could lead to a big advantage. Despite all this, I’d have to go with the Blue Devils based on the play of Ron Robinson. He was the league’s second leading scorer and was a member of the all-tournament team back in 2002 when the Blue Devils won the tournament. The Terriers can counter with John Quintana who was tenth in league in scoring and was named to the all-tournament team last year but St. Francis lost eight games this year when he was the leading scorer.

No. 3 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights vs. No. 6 Wagner Seahawks
The Knights have the toughest draw of the first round having to face the host and defending champion Seahawks. FDU won both meetings this year, 57-55 on Staten Island in January and 71-58 at home in February. In both games, Tamien Trent came off the bench to lead the Knights, averaging 19 points. In the first game, the Knights won the turnover battle 16-7 and held off a late Wagner run. In the second game, Wagner got 26 points from Nigel Wyatte but the rest of the team shot 13-46 and couldn’t overcome a ten point halftime deficit.

Wagner’s biggest advantage comes on the glass and that starts with Wyatte, the league’s leading rebounder. The Seahawks on average got six more boards per game than their opponents. They were the stingiest defense in terms of field goal percentage but were last offensively in field goal percentage and points per game. The Knights were minus four in rebounding margin, worst in the league, but made that up with the best turnover margin at plus 3.59. Wagner was worst in the league with a minus five turnover margin. Ultimately, I think this gives the advantage to Fairleigh Dickinson. They proved they could play Wagner style and out-rebounded them in one of the games earlier and the Seahawks have been far from consistent down the stretch.

No. 1 Monmouth Hawks vs. No. 8 Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers
These teams split the season series by winning on their own home floor. Monmouth won in early February 57-46 behind 22 points from Blake Hamilton and 16 from Dwayne Byfield as neither team shot well from the field. Mount Saint Mary’s got revenge the last game of the regular season by winning 68-62. The win culminated a three-game win streak that they had to have in order to qualify for the tournament. It also gives them confidence knowing they can go toe-to-toe with the conference’s best team. But Monmouth is the better and more consistent team. They played far from their best games against the Mount and this last lost should inspire them to come out with a greater effort in this rubber match.

Statistically, these teams are very similar. Neither team dominated a particular facet of the game during the season and neither team holds a big advantage over the other in any one area. Individual play will decide this game. Hamilton and Byfield lead the Hawks; they are only two players in double figures and the Mount had problems guarding them in both games this year. For the Mount, Landy Thompson was the league’s third leading scorer but was held in check by the Hawks and averaged less than ten points a game against them. Kiel Butler scored sixteen points to lead the Mount in their win over the Hawks. But with a more focused Monmouth team, Thompson needs to have a huge game in order for the Mount to pull off a second straight upset. Ultimately I think Hamilton and Byfield will be too much to handle and the Hawks will come away with a win.

No. 4 Robert Morris vs. No. 5 St. Francis PA
The last game of the day matches the two Pennsylvania squads. By winning their last two games, the Red Flash are one of only two teams to bring a multiple game winning streak into the tournament. These teams split the regular season series. Robert Morris won in December 65-62 after holding the Red Flash to 30% shooting. St. Francis returned the favor with a 86-77 win in February. Jason Osborne scored 28 points in the game, showing that teams can’t get away by simply shutting down Darshan Luckey.

Both teams rely heavily on their starters. Chaz McCrommon, Aaron Thomas and Maurice Carter proved to be a formidable three-headed monster for Robert Morris. All three finished in the top fifteen in scoring with over fourteen points a game. Luckey, Osborne and Erick Wills led the Red Flash but with not as potent an offensive front. This should be a high scoring game with both teams being in the conference’s top three in field goal, free throw and three point percentages. I expect Darshan Luckey to be the difference in this game. As a freshman, he led the league in scoring and was an all league performer. In his second season he fell to fourth in the league but still averaged nearly eighteen points a game. He’s shown flashes of brilliance this season and should be at his best in the playoffs for St. Francis PA.

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