Northeast Conference Tournament: Preview & Prediction

March 5th, 2009


This is one in a series of conference tournament previews, in which I run down all the teams involved, give a brief statistical review and present the log5 projections, using in-conference offensive and defensive efficiency. The basic log5 methodology comes from Bill James, and this is an area Ken Pomeroy has looked at in the past as well. I claim nothing new in the application, but obviously with slightly different methodologies, these numbers may differ from others you find.  I don’t claim to be an expert on any particular conference, and I’m sure there are some mis-characterizations on some players I’ve seen sparingly at best, so please add your thoughts in the comments. Anyway, with no further ado, the preview follows below:


NEC Tournament

The NEC Tournament has all game played at the higher seed with 8 of the 11 teams making the quarters.








Robert Morris





Mount St. Mary's





Sacred Heart





Long Island










Central Connecticut










St. Francis NY





Robert Morris has separated itself from the rest of the conference all season, and with it hosting every game it plays, it should be on course for the NCAA bid.



#1 – Robert Morris Colonials  (21-10, 15-3) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.162

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1992 (1st Round)


Besides one bad weekend in which they lost twice on the road, the Colonials have looked untouchable in NEC play. This is mostly thanks to their ability to defend the inside and force a lot of turnovers. They are vulnerable to the outside shot, and foul a lot, both areas that can be exploited. Offensively, they commit a lot of turnovers themselves, but are solid shooters from all over the floor.


Players to watch:

6-3 SR Jeremy Chappell, 16.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.5 SPG, 56.2 eFG% - No player in the conference could replace what Chappell does for RMU, he’s a spectacular player who leads the team in every major category except blocks, and leads the NEC in steals. He’s also a 40% three-point shooter, but he does have a bit of a turnover problem.


5-11 JR Jimmy Langhurst, 10.1 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 60.4 eFG% - Chapell is a good shooter, but Langhurst is lights-out, at 43% from behind the arc. Any opponent focusing too strongly on Chapell will get burned by Langhurst’s scoring ability.



#2 – Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (17-12, 12-6) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.115

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (1st Round)


The only team that looks to have a serious chance of stopping Robert Morris, the Mountaineers ran off an eight-game winning streak in January that moved them from 0-3 into contention for the league title. Like the Colonials, Mount St. Mary’s relies on its defense, and while it isn’t quite as good as the league leaders in that area, it still has a strong group that forces a lot of turnovers and causes a lot of problems on the outside. When they get the ball, the Mountaineers tend to send it inside, to reasonable success. They are also good offensive rebounders who rarely turn the ball over.


Players to watch:

5-9 JR Jeremy Goode, 15.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.9 SPG, 48.2 eFG% - Goode is the best three-point shooter for the Mountaineers, but takes most of his shots from inside, where he’s not too successful. He leads the team in steals and assists, and is a effective lead guard.


6-3 SO Jean Cajou, 13.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 50.3 eFG% - Cajou is another perimeter player, and is most notable for his free-throw shooting, a stellar 84-for-95 on the season. He’s a solid, double-digit scorer who doesn’t make much of an impact on the other lines of the box-score.



#3 – Sacred Heart Pioneers (16-13, 12-6) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.099

Last NCAA Tournament bid: None


The Pioneers, who are the third team that the numbers give a serious chance of making of the final, will hope that the conference’s best offense will help them to make their first NCAA Tournament. They shoot 50% from the field, and do it with a balanced attack that is excellent on both twos and threes. Sacred Heart needs to be efficient with its shots, as it turns the ball over a lot and is one of the nation’s worst teams at getting to the free throw line. The Pioneer defense isn’t as strong, but is a solid unit that does a lot of things well, but nothing really well. 


Players to watch:

6-5 SR Joey Henley, 15.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 62.0 eFG% - Henley is the perfect fit as an NEC ‘big’ man, leading the team in points, rebounds and blocks, and having the conference’s best field goal percentage. He’s a purely inside player who will cause a lot of problems for opponents.


6-6 SR Ryon Howard, 10.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 54.4 eFG% - Howard is also a strong inside player, but while he’s a bit better of a rebounder, he lags well behind in most of  the other statistical areas.



#4 – Long Island Blackbirds (16-13, 12-6) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.061

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1997 (1st Round)


Long Island may be tied with the two teams above them, but in terms of efficiency margin there is a pecking order, and LIU clearly sits 4th. The Blackbirds are the last team in the tournament which average more than a point-per-possession, and do it despite a terrible FG%. They manage to be effective by leading the league in turnovers, and doing an excellent job at the free throw line. Long Island’s defense is also a pretty solid unit, thanks to the Blackbirds’ strong rebounding and keeping opponents from scoring much behind the arc or at the stripe.


Players to watch:

6-1 JR Jaytornah Wisseh, 15.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 41.7 eFG% - Wisseh is one of those odd players that shoots better from three than two, and his 36% from inside the arc is a serious hindrance to his play. Despite this, he’s a pretty good player, as just like his team he shoots very well from the free throw line.


6-4 SR Ron Manigault, 5.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, 47.7 eFG% - Manigault’s offensive play is basically non-existent, but he’s one of the conference’s best rebounders, and for a team that depends so heavily on dominating the glass, he’s plays an important role.



#5 – Quinnipiac Bobcats (14-15, 10-8) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.030

Last NCAA Tournament bid: None


The period between mid-December and mid-January was tough for Quinnipiac, just 2-9 over that stretch. After that, they had a strong finish to battle up to the fifth spot and earn themselves a shot at a semifinal berth. The Bobcats have the best field goal defense in the league, but are somewhat vulnerable to long-distance shooters. Quinnipiac may stop its opponents’ shots, but hits very few of its own, and it depends on some of the nation’s best offensive rebounding to stay above .500.


Players to watch:

6-7 SO Justin Rutty, 14.9 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 60.3 eFG% - Rutty is the closest player in the conference to averaging a double-double, and the NEC’s best rebounder. He’s an excellent player in the paint, shooting 60% from the floor, but his 42% on free throws makes him a bit of a liability in the late game.


6-4 JR James Feldeine, 16.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 47.3 eFG% - In addition to having the conference’s leading rebounder, the Bobcats also have the NEC’s top scorer in Feldeine. He takes a lot of shots, and makes just enough of them to remain an efficient player.



#6 – Central Connecticut Blue Devils (13-16, 8-10) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.054

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2007 (1st Round)


They may be the #6 seeds, but the Blue Devils are the weakest team in the tournament, hampered by a defense that has struggled. Opponents have been able to dominate the inside with little resistance, shooting a high percentage and picking up a lot of their own misses. CCSU takes very few three-pointers, and with good reason, given its league-worst performance behind the arc, and has put together a decent offense by getting the ball inside.


Players to watch:

6-6 SO Ken Horton, 16.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 54.6 eFG% - There can’t be much doubt that Horton is the team’s most important player, as he leads it in points, rebounds and blocks, and is also the Devils’ most efficient offensive weapon. He’s a good inside scorer who can complement it with a good outside shot, one of the few guys on the team who can hit a three.


6-0 SO Shemik Thompson, 11.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 4.9 APG, 2.0 SPG, 42.6 eFG% - Thompson has some decent averages, but is a player that ends up wasting a lot of possessions. He’s really struggled with his shooting, and while he does put up good steal and assist numbers, he also commits a lot of turnovers.



#7 – Wagner Seahawks (16-13, 8-10) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.039

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2003 (1st Round)


Wagner looked destined for the bottom three after entering February 3-and-9 in conference play, but a stirring finish to the season, including wins over Mount St. Mary’s and Robert Morris, saw them get into a tournament spot. During its streak, Wagner has improved its shooting percentages both offensively and defensively, especially in its ability to hit threes. The Seahawks cause a lot of turnover trouble for opponents, which generally manages to cover its own problems holding onto the ball.


Players to watch:

6-4 SR Llewchean Radford, 11.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 52.8 eFG% - Radford is a very good rebounder who has actually seen his scoring diminish somewhat as the team has started to string together victories, but has kept up his rebounding numbers. His biggest trouble has been avoiding foul trouble, as his time on court is limited in a number of games in which he manages to pick up four or five fouls.


6-2 SR Joey Mundweiler, 14.0 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 57.0 eFG% - Mundweiler is basically a three-point shooting specialist, and at nearly 40% from behind the arc, he’s a good one. His game against Monmouth to close out the regular season was a stellar one, as he set an NEC record by making 11 three-pointers.



#8 – St. Francis (NY) Terriers (10-19, 7-11) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.031

Last NCAA Tournament bid: None


Despite grabbing the last seed in the tournament, St. Francis has actually been slightly better than both of the teams just above it in the seedings. The Terriers are the NEC’s most three-dependent team, and thus have a fairly low FG% relative to their eFG%. However, they face the problems we might expect from a perimeter heavy team, struggling on the glass and not getting to the free throw line much.  A couple of other weaknesses are less typical, poor free throw shooting and a lot of turnovers. Defensively, they hold opponents to a low percentage from the outside, but don’t do well inside, and commit the most fouls in the league.


Players to watch:

6-2 SO Ricky Cadell, 15.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 55.6 eFG% - Cadell is a player who has really developed into a bigger scoring threat over the season, averaging 21 points a game in the month of February. He’s an excellent three-point shooter, but also does a lot of damage inside.


5-8 SR Jamaal Womack, 10.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 4.1 APG, 41.7 eFG% - Womack is a solid point guard when it comes to distributing the ball, but when a possession ends with him shooting, the Terriers don’t typically benefit. His long-distance shot is close to being decent, but he is a disaster when he takes shots inside.


My statistical all-NEC team:

Robert Morris SR G Jeremy Chappell, 16.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.5 SPG, 56.2 eFG%

Mount St. Mary’s JR G Jeremy Goode, 15.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.9 SPG, 48.2 eFG%

Central Connecticut SO F Ken Horton, 16.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 54.6 eFG%

Sacred Heart SR F Joey Henley, 15.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 62.0 eFG%

Quinnipiac SO F Justin Rutty, 14.9 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 60.3 eFG%