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October 22, 2012

NEC Preview: Examining Conference Schedules

As the 2012-2013 Northeast Conference basketball season nears, the first predictions and evaluations are emerging. With that in mind, ColonialsCorner takes a look at the schedules facing each NEC school in 2012-2013, including the non-conference slates and the conference schedule.

BRYANT
Game of the Year: Home vs Sacred Heart February 9th.

Nonconference: The first game of the year will provide Bryant, arguably the worst team in college basketball last year, with an opportunity to pull off the win of the year. The Bulldogs will travel to Bloomington, Indiana, and take on the preseason number one ranked Hoosiers. A few days later, Bryant will play down the road vs. Big East foe Providence. The Bulldogs will have another tough game when they play at Lehigh on December 29th. They will play the home opener November 17th vs. New Hampshire. Unlike years past, Bryant will play a fair amount of their nonconference games at home. After the opener, they will play four more at home against Army, Yale, Binghamptom, and Dartmouth. All five home games will be winnable. It is important for Bryant to use this relatively easy nonconference schedule to gain some momentum going into NEC play.

NEC: Bryant will open at Robert Morris and then head to SFPA. That isn't the hardest road trip in the conference, but it won't be easy. If they can beat SFPA they will most likely be 1-1. Bryant fans would take that. Remember, this is the first year Bryant is eligible for the NEC tournament and NCAA bid. That should be the goal, to finish in the top eight. Bryant has to win the games vs. teams at the bottom of the conference. They also will have to pull an upset over someone they shouldn't beat. That opportunity may come at home vs. Sacred Heart. If the Bulldogs can hold down Shane Gibson, they can beat the Pioneers. The Bulldogs will play FDU and Monmouth once, both on the road. They play defending champs LIU and SFNY once, both games at home.

CENTRAL CONNECTICUT ST.
Game of the Year: Home vs SFNY January 26th.

Nonconference: CCSU will open up the season in the Connecticut 6 Classic vs. Fairfield on November 10th. They will play two paycheck games on the road at Indiana and Syracuse. A win in either of those games would be a huge upset. The Blue Devils will also play at La Salle who they lost to at home last season. The rest of the nonconference is pretty favorable, and almost all the games are in the Northeast. CCSU will play St. Peter's twice, with both teams getting a home game.

NEC: CCSU will open up with the western PA trip starting with SFPA and then Robert Morris to start NEC play. The stretch that will make or break the Blue Devils will be between January 10th to the 26th; they will play five of six games at home, and the lone road game will be right down the road at Quinnipiac. The home games will include Sacred Heart, Bryant, Wagner, The Mount, and SFNY. CCSU might have to go four and two in that stretch to reach the NEC tournament. Two of those home games will be very tough, as Wagner will be a top tier team, and Mount will be much improved. That will make the date with SFNY at home a must win. That game could make or break the whole season for the Blue Devils. CCSU will play the Terriers and LIU only once and both at home. The will play Monmouth and FDU once, both on the road.

FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON
Game of the Year: Home vs SFPA January 12th.

Nonconference: FDU will start the year on the road vs A10 powerhouse Xavier. Don't expect much from the Knights in that one. After that, FDU will participate in the South Padre Island Invitational. They will take on Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois and Illinois State in Normal, Illinois. Then they head to South Padre Island for a mini-tournament. They will play Delaware State and the winner/loser of Navy/Prairie View A&M the following day. The home opener isn't until December 7th vs Lafayette. The toughest game of the nonconference slate will be at VCU on December 29th. The Knights won't stand a chance in that one. Like many NEC teams, they will play a few games vs Patriot League teams (Lehigh and Lafayette). In the middle of NEC play FDU will host NJIT who they lost to by 13 on the road last year. If you want respect, you can't lose to NJIT.

NEC: FDU will open NEC play on the road at Mount St. Mary's and then Wagner. After that FDU gets RMU, SFPA and LIU all at home. If they don't beat SFPA, they may start off 0-5 in the NEC. It won't get much easier after that for FDU, who won only two games in conference last year. The Knights will play CCSU and Bryant once, both at home and Quinnipiac and Sacred heart once, both on the road.

LIU BROOKLYN
Game of the Year: Home vs Wagner Thursday January 10th.

Nonconference: In college basketball, recruiting is everything. Playing games in arguably the best basketball facility in the world should help bolster LIU's recruiting. Who wouldn't want to play in the Barclays Center? The Blackbirds will play in the new Brooklyn Nets facility multiple times this season, and will open up their 2012/2013 campaign there vs. Morehead St. They will later play Seton Hall as part of the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational. That could be a winnable game vs a Big East opponent. The team will have a chance to shock the college hoops world a few times this year. The first will be at Maryland November 16th, and then a week later at the home of the defending national champions, Kentucky. LIU will also play a home and home with Lafayette this year. Although rare, it has happened before, so each team will get a crack at each other on their home floor. LIU has a wonderful group of seniors, in Boyd, Garner, and Olasewere. All 3 will get to play close to home as the team plays two games in Texas vs Lamar and Rice (Boyd) and will play at Maryland, where Garner and Olasewere are from.

NEC: LIU will have very challenging NEC schedule because two very winnable games became a lot harder when LIU announced Julian Boyd, Jamal Olasewere and Carl Garner, the team's top three scorers last season, and Troy Joseph were suspended for the first two conference games at Sacred Heart and at Quinnipiac. Those become a lot tougher, but the Blackbirds should still have a very good NEC record. The game after those suspensions, home vs Wagner is a must win because of those circumstances. LIU only gets CCSU and Bryant once, both on the road. They will play RMU and SFPA only once as well, both at home. The game vs RMU is as big a must win as either Wagner game. With those suspensions, LIU might have to win all three of those to get the all important one seed.

MONMOUTH
Game of the Year: Home vs. Villanova December 22nd.

Nonconference: It is going to be a very busy November for the Hawks they open up at home vs. Hofstra. They will then travel to South Bend, Indiana and take on Notre Dame as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer classic. Then things get real busy. The Hawks will play four games in five days, three of which will be part of the CVC regional round, where they play Georgia St, South Alabama, and Tennessee St on the campus of Georgia St. A few weeks later, Monmouth will go through a brutal stretch where they will play at Syracuse, at Maryland, and then home vs. Villanova. The road games will be very difficult, but if Monmouth can keep its confidence through this tough stretch, they will get a Villanova team who lost a few very good players and struggled last year at the MAC. A win over a team like Villanova at home would do wonders for an up and coming program. When you have great facilities, you can lure big programs to come to your place.

NEC: The first six NEC games will go a long way in how Monmouth will finish in the NEC this year. The open up on the road for two tough games at Wagner and at Mount. Then they come home for games vs. SFPA and RMU. Following that they head to Brooklyn for a date with SFNY and LIU Brooklyn. Three and three would be respectable start for the Hawks. Anything more than that would be great. The Hawks will play CCSU and Bryant once, both at home and Quinnipiac and Sacred heart once, both on the road.

MOUNT ST. MARY'S
Game of the Year: Home vs Wagner January 24th.

Nonconference: The Mount will join most of the other NEC schools logging a good amount of miles early in the season. Jamion Christian and his squad will open up the year at Pitt and will also play a few weeks later at Georgetown. The toughest game will take place at preseason number one, Indiana. An upset in any of those three games would probably be the win of the year in the NEC. The home opener will take place November 13th vs. Hartford. The two most intriguing games in the nonconference will be at Loyola MD and at George Washington. Both games are against more prestigious programs, but both are winnable. Loyola would be a huge win for The Mount, as they are coming off a trip the NCAA tournament.

NEC: The NEC schedule is loaded with opportunities for MSM to climb back to the top of the conference. If they indeed play the "havoc" style of play that Christian wants, they could be one of the toughest road trips in the NEC. They will get both LIU and Wagner twice, so they can pull off a much needed program boosting win at home. They will play RMU and SFPA just once and both will be on the road. They get Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart just once, both at home. If they want to contend for a home game in the NEC tournament, they need to win both those games. If Mount can pack the stands, and the fans can provide a lot of energy, they can be one of the toughest road trips in the conference. The style in which they want to play can be turned up a notch when a team is getting a lot of confidence and energy from a crowd.

QUINNIPIAC
Game of the Year: Home vs LIU January 5th.

Nonconference: Quinnipiac will have a rare opportunity to play in a top tier preseason tournament as they will take part in the Paradise Jam in the US Virgin Islands. The field is pretty deep, with UCONN, George Mason, Iona, Mercer, New Mexico, Quinnipiac, UIC, and Wake Forest competing. QU will open up with Iona, who was an at large selection to last year's NCAA tournament. Before they head to the Caribbean, QU will play at Hartford in the Connecticut 6 Classic, and play their home opener against American. They also get home games against two of the better mid major programs over the past few years, as Lehigh and Vermont will both come to Hamden.

NEC: Quinnipiac will find out where they stand in the NEC right of the bat. They open up conference play with two critical home games vs. SFNY, and then LIU Brooklyn. If QU wants to fight for the NEC regular season crown, they must win both of these games. They will benefit from LIU not having four players, and their top three scorers from last season due to suspension. This is a great opportunity for the Bobcats to get off to a great start in conference play. Quinnipiac will play both Wagner and the Mount only once, and both on the road. They also get Monmouth and FDU once, both at home. From January 12th to the 19th, QU will play four games, and the last three of that stretch on the road. This is due to a nonconference game at Hampton, and they will get RMU and SFPA on the road in that stretch.

ROBERT MORRIS
Game of the Year: Home vs. Ohio Saturday December 1st.

Nonconference: The Colonials will once again be logging plenty of miles. They currently have only two games at the Sewall Center in the nonconference portion of the season. The good news is this number could easily grow to four depending on the results in the preseason NIT. RMU will play Lehigh in the NIT opener, down in Pittsburgh at the Peterson Event Center. They will then play the winner or loser of Pitt/Fordham. If RMU can beat Lehigh, who returns a majority of the team that shocked Duke and take down Pitt for the first time ever (assuming Pitt doesn't get shocked by Fordham) the Colonials would find themselves in NYC playing at Madison Square Garden. Before the NIT, RMU opens up at Rider. The Colonials will travel to Xavier and Arkansas and look to pull off some upsets over nationally recognized programs. Xavier lost a lot from last year's NCAA team, and could be ripe for an upset. If you are only going to play two home games you better make them count. RMU did, as they will take on Ohio, who made a run to the sweet 16 last year, and local rival Duquesne who is now led by former LIU head coach Jim Ferry. The rest of the non conference schedule is against winnable mid-majors.

NEC: RMU will open up conference play at home vs. Bryant January 3rd. RMU will only play LIU Brooklyn and SFNY once, both in Brooklyn. They get Wagner and Mount St Mary's once as well, both in Moon. The Wagner game is a must win if RMU wants to get home court. They certainly should benefit having to only play LIU and Wagner once, while those teams have to play each other twice. Another benefit? Not having to play in Emmitsburg vs. the Mount. Jamion Christian's team could be very tough to beat at home, especially the style in which they will want to play this season. The young team should be much more beatable on the road.

SACRED HEART
Game of the Year: Home vs. LIU Brooklyn January 3rd.

Nonconference: Sacred Heart will open up on a neutral court vs. Yale as part of the Connecticut 6 Classic. They will take on Mike Rice and Rutgers two days later on the road. Rutgers is the only "BCS" level school that the Pioneers will take on. They do end the nonconference portion of the schedule at La Salle and George Washington, two middle of the pack A10 schools. The most intriguing home game will be against Lehigh, who beat Duke in the NCAA tournament.

NEC: Sacred Heart cannot pass up the opportunity that will be awaiting them to start NEC play. They will open up with LIU Brooklyn and the Blackbirds will be without their top three scorers from last season due to suspension (Four total players out). If Sacred Heart wants to fight for a top four seed and get a home game in the NEC tournament, this becomes a must win. SFNY comes in two days later and that too will be a huge game for positioning in the NEC. After that Sacred Heart will have a tough four game road trip, where they will play CCSU, QU, SFPA and RMU. The Pioneers will play both FDU and Monmouth once, both at home. They will also see The Mount and Wagner both once, both on the road.

ST. FRANCIS NY
Game of the Year: Neutral vs. LIU Brooklyn February 10th.

Nonconference: Last season the Terriers almost pulled a shocking upset over Seton Hall of the Big East. They lost a heartbreaking 75-71 game in overtime. This season they will get a few more opportunities to take down a big conference school, the first of which will take place November 12th at Illinois. They open up 3 days earlier on the road at Lafayette. The Terriers will also play at Boston College, but the most intriguing match-up comes December 15th when SFNY will play local NYC power St John's at the Barclays Center. One other interesting nonconference game will take place November 29th as SFNY will play last year's Cinderella upstart Norfolk St., who beat Missouri in the NCAA tournament. SFNY will play a lot of their games in the NYC area and could get off to a very solid start. While the above mentioned games will be difficult, most of the schedule is very manageable.

NEC: Last year SFNY did not get their Brooklyn rivals on their home court; instead they played the battle of Brooklyn at Madison Square Garden, and again on LIU's home court. This year, it's the other way around. SFNY will get the Blackbirds on campus, and will play the return game at the Barclays Center in what will be a great opportunity for both schools. That game will get much more publicity because of its unique location and could be a great opportunity for the Terriers to get back some of the momentum that LIU has gained on them the past few years. SFNY will get RMU and SFPA only once, both games in Brooklyn. Last year the Terriers won at RMU, and will look to again win the only battle between the two schools. SFNY will play CCSU and Bryant once, both of those games will be on the road.

ST. FRANCIS PA
Game of the Year: Home vs. Robert Morris January 24th.

Nonconference: The nonconference schedule isn't that challenging and there are a decent amount of possible wins for the Red Flash. They will play the first three on the road, including the opener at Penn St. The home opener will be maybe the most winnable nonconference game when Colgate comes to Loretto. The Red Flash will also get two of the better Patriot League teams at home, as Lehigh and Bucknell both come to SFPA (The Red Flash play American and Lafayette too, playing a total of five games vs. the Patriot League). The toughest nonconference game with take place November 24th as SFPA will travel to Notre Dame.

NEC: SFPA will open up NEC play at home vs CCSU and then take on Bryant. Both games will be huge for the Red Flash because the middle of the conference schedule is brutal. SFPA will go through a stretch in which they will play Quinnipiac, RMU, Wagner, at SFNY, at LIU Brooklyn, at RMU, Mount, at Sacred Heart, and at QU. It will be tough to squeeze out a win or two in that stretch. A victory at home vs. rival RMU would go a long way for SFPA. The Red Flash will play LIU and SFNY both once, on the road. They will take on Wagner and Mount St. Mary's at home in their lone game against those schools.

WAGNER
Game of the Year: Home vs. LIU February 23rd.

Nonconference: Last year Wagner had about as good of a nonconference run as an NEC team can have. They highlighted the hot start with a win over the Pitt Panthers in Pittsburgh. This year they will look to shock another Big East power when they head to Syracuse November 18th. They will open up before that at home vs. Deleware St. Wagner's best shot a upset will come December 1st when the travel to Philadelphia to take on a future Big East team, and current A-10 powerhouse Temple. The Owls lost a lot from last year's team, and if they don't show up, Wagner is the type of NEC team that has the talent to pull off the win. Wagner will also take part in the 46th Cable Car Classic in late December. Last year the Seahawks won this event. Their top nonconference home game will be against last year's Ivy League runner up, Penn. Like most NEC schools, Wagner will live on the road during the nonconference portion of the schedule.

NEC: Most publications have Wagner listed ahead of RMU in the preseason NEC standings. Wagner only plays RMU once, and it is in Moon Twp., where the Colonials have been so tough to beat over the past few years. Wagner will get LIU twice, and if they want a top two finish in the standings, may have to win at least one of those games. They will get LIU late in the year, and could be playing for first place if a few breaks go their way. Wagner will open up NEC play with back to back home games vs. the Jersey schools (Monmouth and FDU). Wagner will play SFPA just once on the road, and will only see Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac once, both at home. In the middle of the NEC season, Wagner faces a difficult stretch of four straight road games. Look for the contest at Mount St. Mary's to be the most challenging.

Check back Tuesday morning for our comprehensive NEC preview, including predictions for the All-NEC squad and league champion

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