Northeast tournament: Preview, prediction, TV info

Lucky Jones and Robert Morris have won back-to-back NEC regular-season championships. (USATSI)
Lucky Jones and Robert Morris have won back-to-back NEC regular-season championships. (USATSI)

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What: Northeast Conference championship.

When: March 5, 8, 11.

Where: Campus sites. The higher seed in each game hosts.

Bracket: View tournament field here.

TV: Championship game on ESPN or ESPN2 (March 11, 7 p.m.). Semifinals and one quarterfinal matchup on MSG-Plus and FCS.

Last year's champ: LIU Brooklyn (20-14, No. 16 seed)

What matters: Robert Morris won the regular-season championship for the second season in a row, but the Colonials are looking to get back to the NCAA tournament for first time since 2010 -- and for the first time under successful young head coach Andy Toole. They rolled to a 14-2 record in the conference this season, beating out Wagner by two games in the standings. Wagner, however, has won eight in a row heading into the conference tournament. Bryant was in the mix before dropping four its final six games.

Who matters: Robert Morris is led by the league's best scorer, Karvel Anderson (19.6 ppg, 46.4 3PT%). Anderson is a knockdown 3-point shooter who is capable of getting hot and carrying the Colonials offensively. He gets help from sidekick Lucky Jones (13.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg), who has been inconsistent down the stretch. Wagner is a balanced outfit, but Kenneth Ortiz (13.2 ppg, 4.3 apg) might be the key for the Seahawks. The best inside-outside duo in the league belongs to Bryant, with Alex Francis (19.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and Dyami Starks (18.9 ppg). 

Fun fact: 6-0. That's Wagner's record without double-figure scorer Jay Harris, who was suspended for the season on February 14 for a violation of school policy. At the time, the Seahawks were just 6-4 in league play -- but they haven't lost since Harris was suspended. Part of the reason is Wagner's balance; the Seahawks have three players among the league's top 25 scorers and three players among the league's top 15 rebounders. All six are different players.

Prediction: Wagner takes down Robert Morris in the championship game. The Colonials could suffer the same fate as last season, when they lost on their homecourt in the conference tournament after winning the regular-season championship. Wagner is on a roll, winning eight in a row while holding every opponent during that streak to 68 points or fewer. The Seahawks beat Robert Morris in the season finale, and took the Colonials to the wire in Pittsburgh. I think Wagner wins the rubber match.

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