If you think that the Blue Devils I'm referring to in the title hail from Durham, NC...you're incorrect. These guys are the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils, and they hail from New Britain, aka "hard-hittin' New Britain". Howie Dickenman's bunch, picked by the coaches to finish fourth in the NEC, lead Sacred Heart by one game in the loss column heading into their game at Quinnipiac tonight. Junior guard Tristan Blackwood is the reigning NEC PLayer of the Week after lighting up St. Francis (NY) and Sacred Heart to the tune of 27.5 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists per game. Blackwood went 14-for-29 from behind the arc in the two games, and a win over the Bobcats would give CCSU even more distance between themselves and the rest of the NEC. And with the higher seeds in the the conference tournament getting home court advantage, any team hoping to get to the NCAA Tournament will have to go through New Britain to do so.
In the Patriot League, once again it looks to be a two-team race between Holy Cross and Bucknell. The Crusaders are atop the league standings at 7-0 thanks to their win Friday night over Lehigh. HC is led by the senior backcourt consisting of Keith Simmons and Torey Thomas, but don't sleep on big man Tim Clifford. Bucknell, whose only league loss came at Holy Cross, has a battle-tested group of upperclassmen who have won NCAA Tournament games each of the past two years. Three games each stand between these two and the rematch at Bucknell February 9th, a game that will decide who wins the Patriot League.
Although you normally want to wait until a team plays more than two games to state that they are the clear favorite to win their conference, can anybody truly challenge Penn at the top of the Ivy League? Preseason prognosticators tabbed Princeton to finish second, but they're sitting in last place right now. Maybe Cornell or Yale? Who knows, but I'll take the Quakers over the field.
The MAAC, where Marist was the unanimous choice to win the league in the preseason, has eight teams within three games of first place, with Loyola atop the standings at 8-2. But the attention at this point goes to still winless Iona, now 0-20 after their loss to the Greyhounds on Saturday. Injuries and academic issues took away their chance to do anything in the league before the season began, but hopefully the Gaels can upset someone soon. They host Canisius on Monday.
The "big one in the CAA" refers to the showdown in Hempstead between first-place Virginia Commonwealth and second-place Hofstra. With Drexel and Old Dominion losing a couple of game to hit three losses in league play, Hofstra may be the only team standing between Anthony Grant's Rams and the regular season title. The backcourt matchup will be one of the best this season has to offer at any level. The home-standing Pride have Loren Stokes, Antoine Agudio and Carlos Rivera. The Rams will counter with their own three-headed monster, B.A. Walker, Jesse Pellot-Rosa and Eric Maynor. Checking the NCAA's listings for game on the air Wednesday, this one was absent from the list. I hope that this is merely a typo and we all will get to see this one. With this being their only regular season meeting, we will have to wait until the CAA Tournament in Richmond for a rematch. And with conference tournaments, that's never a sure thing.
Lastly, in a non-Northeast note, is it really that hard for an SEC West team to win a road game? Arkansas' win at Alabama Saturday was the division's first conference road win of the season. That's embarassing. Thanks for reading.