We've got a repeat of the 2011 title game. Same teams, same location. Same result? If Long Island-Brooklyn wins, then yes. The Blackbirds ended a nearly 20-year NCAA tournament drought last season in a dramatic 85-82 overtime win. But Robert Morris has become the class of this league in the past half-decade.
Under Mike Rice, and now Andy Toole, the team is consistently in the top three of the NEC and always a threat to go to the NCAAs. It won the league in 2008, 2009 and 2010, going to the NCAA tournament those latter two years. The fact RMU is back again is a surprise for only this reason -- it's playing without its best player. Toole suspended Karon Abraham before the season started for violating team rules. It wasn't a five- or 10-game suspension. No, Toole told his guy he had to miss an entire year. And Abraham's taken it in stride. The team -- even more so. The team is 24-9; last year, it was 18-14.
Long Island-Brooklyn was the league's best this season, though. It is the No. 1, through and through, even if No. 2 Wagner wasn't far behind, the Blackbirds have the most talent. It went 16-2 in the league (Wagner was 15-3, RMU 13-5) and has the Player of the Year in Julian Boyd. Boyd's a joy to watch, as he's really versatile and could end up getting a shot in the NBA. What you'll want to watch: the tempo battle. LIU-Brooklyn averages 75 possessions per game, which is extremely high. It's third in the nation, in fact. RMU averages a full 10 possessions fewer per game.
The Colonials will want to drain the clock and keep it conversational in the half-court. Last year, it lost that battle for most of the game, and thus ended up losing. The teams met once this season, a 75-66 RMU win. If Boyd and Jamal Olasewere and LIU-Brooklyn point guard Jason Brickman play to their ceiling, the Blackbirds should somewhat comfortably win the rematch. If it's close, the Colonials' Verdell Jones will be the one involved. He leads the team in scoring (16.6 points per game) and is multi-dimensional on the offensive end.
-- Matt Norlander