Talking to people about the NEC today, I came to a consensus conclusion: it’s a bad conference. 20 game winners are few and far between, their non-conference record is bad, and they are 0 for 25 in the Big Dance since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. That said: they are holding a tournament this week, and the oddsmakers have put out lines. I’ll probably tread lightly in the end but, my hands are kind of tied here, we must delve in.
When and Where: March 6th-12th, all games played on high seeds campuses in the New York/New England area of the world.
Defending Champ: LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds
Who’s Good: St. Francis (PA), Fairleigh Dickinson
Who’s Sneaky: Sacred Heart, Robert Morris
Who Stinks Out Loud: Wagner is a bottom-two team in the conference in nearly every metric I use
Coolest Team Nickname: Going with the Blackbirds of LIU-Brooklyn, not only because it’s very original but, because this will be the last year they use the name as they are merging with another local school and will be changing mascots for next year.
Seeding and Rules: Only the top eight teams qualify. First round games are hosted by the high seeds, the entire draw is then re-seeded with the games continuing to be played at the higher-seeds’ home arenas.
Multi-Bid League: Nope. Not even close. This is a clear cut 16 seed conference.
Breakdown: Could be a shitshow, this tournament has VERY recent history of lower seeds getting it done. #3 Sacred Heart has beaten both the top seeds in the past month but, both wins were at home. Doing so on the road would be a much tougher task for a team that went 4-13 this season when they travel. To be fair, almost all the teams with a shot have massive home/road split discrepancies (top 4 seeds are 21-44 on the road) but, some of that can be attributed to their non-conf schedule. Either way, the stats, the records at home, and the reseeding all seem to favor St. Francis PA & Fairleigh Dickinson.
While it might turn out to be a wide open mess of a field, my model doesn’t really respect anyone outside of the top two seeds. So, I used some math (see below) and pretty much evened the two out to grab profit about a 40% ROI if we get the chalky final. I also have some value in Bryant as a long shot. They only have ten wins but, I did make plays on them twice this year and they won both games outright as underdogs, so maybe we’re on to something.
St. Francis (PA) +175 (0.5x)
Fairleigh Dickinson +200 (0.45x)
Bryant +8000 (0.05x)