- The four-team Northeast Conference Tournament begins play Saturday, March 6 at campus sites, with the title game slated for Tuesday, March 9 hosted by the highest seed remaining
- No. 1 Wagner won the regular-season title by two games over No. 2 seed Bryant
- See the seeds, bracket, and full tournament preview, below
Editor’s note: no online sportsbooks released pre-tournament outrights for the Northeast Conference Tournament.
The four-team Northeast Conference Tournament begins play Saturday, March 6 with a pair of semifinal games. The winners of those two contests will face each other at the higher-seed’s home arena Tuesday, March 9.
The action tips off Saturday at noon ET when No. 2 seed Bryant hosts No. 3 seed Sacred Heart. Then, at 2:00 pm ET, No. 1 seed Wagner, the regular season champion, hosts No. 4 seed Mount St. Mary’s,
While the Seahawks captured the regular season crown by two games over the Bulldogs, it’s Jared Grasso’s club that is rated 23 slots higher overall by KenPom (No. 185 vs. No. 208) compared to Bashir Mason’s.
Sacred Heart vs Bryant Odds
|Sacred Heart||+8.5 (-110)||Off||Ov 154 (-110)|
|Bryant||-8.5 (-110)||Off||Un 154 (-110)|
Odds taken March 5
Be Still My Heart
Bryant may have finished second to Wagner in the regular season standings. But the Bulldogs had a slightly better overall record than the Seahawks (14-5 vs. 13-6), were undefeated at home (9-0) and are the hottest team in the tournament, winning four straight.
— Bryant Men’s Basketball (@BryantHoops) February 27, 2021
The Bulldog program has yet to qualify for the NCAA Tournament since launching 13 years ago — but this might be the year that changes. Junior Peter Kiss is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 17.0 points per game. But the 6-foot-5 New York City product has plenty of help in the scoring department, with four other players averaging in double figures.
????️#NECMBB PRIME PERFORMERS from Week #⃣1⃣2⃣⬇️
????Peter Kiss & Hall Elisias (BRY)
????Stephane Ayangma (CCSU)
????Brandon Rush (FDU)
????Eral Penn (LIU)
????Ziggy Reid (MC)
????Damian Chong Qui (MSM)
????Unique McLean (SFBK)
????Elijah Ford & Alex Morales (WC)
✨presented by @PilotPenUSA ✨ pic.twitter.com/0S4jNYDJRh
— Northeast Conference (@NECsports) March 1, 2021
One of those is 6-foot-8 senior Hall Elisias, who has a nickname made for March Madness. “The Block Father” ranks 15th in the country with 2.5 blocks per game and can also score, putting up 20 in the back end of a recent two-game sweep of Merrimack.
Standing in Bryant’s way is the No. 3 seed Sacred Heart Pioneers.
Ready for the playoffs? Enjoy this #TBT from one year ago, today‼️
Thanks @jtspell ???? pic.twitter.com/2couEoijOQ
— SHU Men’s Basketball (@SHU_MensHoops) March 4, 2021
Picked to finish tenth in the preseason poll, all Anthony Latina’s team has done is exceed expectations all season. The program has qualified for the NEC Tournament – normally an eight-team field – six out of the seven years under head coach Latina. So, unlike some of the other teams playing this weekend, this is familiar territory.
The Pioneers are led by Tyler Thomas, the conference’s top scorer at 19.4 points per game. Junior backcourt mate Aaron Clarke is averaging 13.6 per outing.
Sacred Heart split its games with fellow tourney teams Wagner and Mount St. Mary’s and did not play Bryant during the regular season. The program has never reached the NCAA Tournament, but has earned double-digit win totals six straight seasons. A victory Saturday would keep the streak alive. Will it happen? I say no.
The pick: Bryant -8.5 (-110)
Mount St. Mary’s vs Wagner Odds
|Mount St. Mary’s||+2.5 (-110)||Off||Ov 122.5 (-110)|
|Wagner||-2.5 (-110)||Off||Un 122.5 (-110)|
Odds taken March 5
Wagner the ‘Dog
The Seahawks were picked to finish eighth in the preseason conference coaches poll. And as Mason noted Wednesday — after Wagner’s 64-59 victory against Merrimack that clinched the tourney’s No. 1 seed – the program was a bottom-feeder in the league last year, not even qualifying for the conference tourney. To accomplish what Wagner has during the 2020-21 campaign — smack in the middle of the COVID Era — has been remarkable.
You love to see it pic.twitter.com/AvpUbkTg03
— Wagner Men’s Basketball (@Wagner_MBB) March 4, 2021
Under Mason, the program’s calling card has been defense and rebounding. But this year’s group can score too. A pair of senior New Jersey natives lead the way in Elijah Ford (averaging a team-high 17.8 points per game) and Alex Morales (17.1 points per game). Both players also average 7.4 rebounds per game as well.
– Villanova def. Creighton, 72-60
– UConn at Seton Hall, 69-58
– Oregon def. UCLA, 82-74
– Justin Moore, Villanova: 24 pts, 5 reb, 5 ast
– Elijah Ford, Wagner: 21 pts, 13 reb, 7 stl
– Alan Griffin, Syracuse: 22 pts, 10 reb
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) March 4, 2021
The Seahawks have won 12 of their last 13, which includes a 10-game stretch between the middle of January and late February. The only slip-up was an 83-77 road loss to Central Connecticut Feb. 25. As noted earlier, Mason’s guys are especially adept on the offensive boards, with a 34.7% offensive rebounding percentage — good for 21st in the nation.
While this group may not have the core of front-line players Bryant has, the Hawks are hungry to make some noise in March.
Their opponent, Mount St. Mary’s, is a scrappy bunch.
The Mountaineers feature the NEC’s Most Improved Player in Chong Qui. At just 5-foot-8, the junior guard has become the most significant cog in the Mount’s lineup, playing in 89.8% of the Mount’s minutes – 30th-highest in all of college basketball – and ranking at the top of the NEC in assists per game.
Dan Engelstad’s group can D up. The Mountaineers are the NEC’s most efficient defense, while holding teams to an offensive rebound on just 24.6% (the NEC’s best mark) of their attempts, and rank second in three-point defense (29.7%) and first in two-point defense (44.2%). Wagner seems to be on a collision course with Bryant, though.
The pick: Wagner -2.5 (-110)