Happy New Year one and all! If your football team is still playing, congrats! If they’re not, over the next two months, every Monday afternoon (sometimes Tuesday if travel is tough) you can look forward to The Musings, right here on D2easthoops. In this edition, we’ll debut our Lucky 13, preview some upcoming contests that grabbed my attention and look back at the old year. It’s ladies first this time!
Last musings, I gushed about the University of the Sciences schedule. Well, kudos to Jackie Hartzell and her Devils, who have gone undefeated against the Northeast 10 conference, a sparkling 5-0, which included wins at Bentley, versus Assumption (neutral floor) and at Stonehill on back-to-back-to-back days. In fact, only two teams have more wins versus NE10 competition than Sciences, Bentley (seven) and Assumption (six, inclduing a non-league victory over AIC). I don’t have to tell you that won’t last as Sciences isn’t in the NE10, but it’s just a remarkable feat.
When you talk women’s basketball in the East Region, one name often overlooked is Tom Shirley. Quietly, the veteran coach and Athletic Director of the Jefferson Rams has molded a powerhouse. His club’s victory over the Devils was more a hold-of-serve than an upset. These two teams will contend to host the regional, but you may be surprised who I think as of now should be number one in our poll below. These two units prove that just because your league isn’t deep doesn’t mean the top teams can’t contend for an Elite Eight appearance.
The Northeast 10 demonstrates that a large quantity of really good teams doesn’t mean it has the best the region has to offer. I love the depth in the league but there is no standout great team. This season, as expert Steve Zerdelian and I predicted in the preview of the region podcasts, the East Regional title will almost certainly go through Philadelphia. That doesn’t mean an NE10 squad won’t cut down the nets, but it does mean it will be a touch more difficult.
What can I say about the ECC? I’m not sure if the top two (NYIT, St. Thomas Aquinas) are contenders or pretenders based on the Downey-soft schedules. STAC will be one of my two teams to watch this week. I have a lot of sympathy for LIU Post. Deirdre Moore's 11th year on the Pioneers sidelines as head coach will be her last and this team deserves a better fate. However, based on performance, LIU Post may need to run the table in conference play to be a serious at-large contender. Why is it important for a team to challenge itself in the non-con? Well, losing a handful of games won’t get you to the dance. The bottom seven teams (of the 10-team ECC) have combined to lose 30 games in a row. That’s not an optical illusion.
If you’ve read the Musings, you know we’re not fans of the weak schedules, unless you nearly win ‘em all, and when you look at the bottom five of the Lucky 13, you’ll see five teams with LOTS of work to do.
1A) USciences 12-1
1B) Jefferson 14-0
3) Bentley 13-1
4) LeMoyne 10-2
5) Stonehill 10-3
6) St. Anselm 10-2
7) Assumption 10-4
8) NYIT 12-2
9) STAC 12-2
10) SCSU 9-5
11) Saint Rose 9-4
12) New Haven 10-4
13) LIU-Post 11-3
I’m not a fan of ties, but I don’t think you can say “Jefferson beat Sciences, so they are one”. I think you can say, “I can’t wait for the second meeting.” Frankly, the best thing that happened for the CACC was Jefferson beating the Devils. It solidifies those two as the top two. Both are unlikely to lose a game other than to each other the rest of the season. I’d love to see NYIT, STAC, Jefferson, and Sciences play in a round robin than most of the contests we’ll witness over the next few weeks. If you have watched the NE10 play, you know the league is deep. Assumption has lost to numbers one, three and six, while defeating five. The great thing about the region’s northern-most league is there will be plenty of chances for quality wins.
It’s crossover time in the NE10, which means the Southwest Division plays the Northeast Division. The next three weeks will separate a lot of bubble teams. Merrimack has a chance to prove just how good that side is if it can go 5-2 in its seven crossover affairs. Frankly, I don’t know what to make out of New Haven so it, along with STAC, are my teams to watch.
Wednesday, January 9
#4 LeMoyne @ #3 Bentley
If the Dolphins win here, they prove they belong with the region’s elite.
#12 New Haven @ #6 St. Anselm
Are the Chargers a contender or a pretender? This week will tell us!
#8 NYIT @ #9 STAC
These are the two teams with the best chances for an at-large bid out of the ECC. One of these two will leave with a blemished conference record.
Saturday, January 12
#9 STAC @ # 13 LIU-Post
The Pioneers swept the season series last year. The Spartans need to do no worse than split the week’s games. Two losses would push them to autobid territory while two wins would catapult them into the top eight.
#7 Assumption @ #12 New Haven
Two clubs that have a penchant for holding opponents in the 50's could make this excruciating to watch.
The men’s side of the region has a distinct top three. Credit to Mike MacDonald’s Daemen group, which handed Saint Anselm its first defeat. The Wildcats then boarded a plane for two road games in Texas in which they split. The last was against nationally-ranked Saint Edward’s University. Those tired legs may have finally caught up with them in the finale. It was their fifth game in eight days. When I watch a lot of games and break down every nook and cranny in order to come up with the rankings that are deserved based on strength of scheduling, results and more, it’s no surprise that this week’s Lucky 13 left me empty. I made a case for five teams in the number four spot. Truth is, this week won’t do much to separate the masses unless we have some upsets. In fact, there are only two games of interest this week, and let’s get to them.
Wednesday, January 9
#9 LeMoyne @ #3 Bentley
There is nobody more solid in the poll at their current position of three than Bentley. It will be hard for the Falcons to move off that line, even with a win or a loss. The Dolphins, however, are part of a cluttered bubble group. A win, to go along with a challenging non-conference schedule, should keep them in the conversation for the foreseeable future.
#7 Merrimack @ #10 Southern Connecticut
Of all teams outside the top eight, the Owls have the most upside going forward. If they can steer clear of those mystifying losses (Post, USciences x2) and get a couple wins of quality they’ll be in the mix. The Warriors were my preseason favorite to win the regional and as two coaches have told me recently, “they will be there come March.” However, there’s only so much time. The Warriors have top talent in the region, and this game should show us precisely where Joey Gallo’s cast is.
1) Daemen 11-2
2) Saint Anselm 11-1
3) Bentley 13-1
4) New Haven 8-4
5) Stonehill 10-4
6) STAC 11-2
7) Merrimack 9-5
8) Dominican 9-3
9) LeMoyne 7-4
10) SCSU 9-5
11) Pace 10-4
12) Goldey-Beacom 7-6
13) Molloy 8-5
Goldey has played a very tough schedule and should be poised to make a run at an at-large. They have the ability to reel off a double-figure win streak. I love what Matt Healing has done with Pace. He’s trying to build a program but these crossovers could be tough for his Setters. Dominican has only defeated one team with a winning record (UDC 7-6). I love this team, but looking ahead, it doesn’t have many chances to rack up strong W's. With only two other teams boasting winning records in the CACC (Jefferson, GBC), the Chargers can not slip up.
Finally, a couple of pet peeves. I love being able to watch the games from the comfort of my dining room table when I’m not announcing (or putting the kids to bed). I can get multiple screens and cherry-pick the best games. I’d rather listen to silence than a homer announcer call games. Get a professional. Please no cheerleaders or people who refer to the team as ‘we’ or tell the listening audience they may be hung over. Yes, that last one did happen…. You can’t make it up. Also, can we get a camera person who is competent? I was watching a one-point game when the camera person didn’t follow the action from the backcourt to the frontcourt likely because they were into the game which is understandable. I missed the shot that would have won the game and so did everyone not watching from the bleachers. There are plenty of really good broadcasters in the region. Perhaps soon, we’ll talk about them! Until next week: Goodnight from Yonkers!