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Northeast Conference Tournament Updates: Robert Morris holds off Saint Francis U for title

The Colonials have now won four of the last six Northeast Conference Tournament championship games.

The Robert Morris Colonials defeated the Saint Francis U Red Flash, 65-54, for the Northeast Conference championship.
Courtesy of Robert Morris Athletics via Twitter

The “Bracket” section of this story has been updated.


The Robert Morris Colonials have more advantages than most top seeds participating in postseason tournaments this week. Their top seed means they’ll be at home for the entirety of their games, which means their 24-game home winning streak against Northeast Conference opponents will follow them there.

The Colonials’ history as a one-seed — namely, their 7-1 record — is also an important factor.

But then there’s the fact that the Colonials’ possible semifinal opponent could be one of two teams that gave them the most trouble this season. Robert Morris could face fifth-seeded Bryant, who played the Colonials to their closest home NEC victory this season. Even sixth-seeded Mount St. Mary’s, who handed the Colonials one of their two conference losses, could find themselves paired with Robert Morris after the quarterfinals.

Another strong contender for the title is the two-seed, Sacred Heart, who dealt the Colonials their other loss this season. The Pioneers ended the season on a five-game winning streak, the best in the NEC. However, their three conference road losses came to the other top-four-seeded teams, which would not bode well for a potential championship meeting at Robert Morris.

The defending champion Saint Francis U finds itself with the four-seed this season. Although the Red Flash were predicted to finish second in the conference — and still could outperform expectations in the tournament — they still finished five games out of first place.

Despite the wide margin of performances in the field, with 11 games separating first place and eighth, a lower seed could still get the job done.

Until last season, the top two seeds hadn’t met in the championship game since 2011, and the 2015 championship featured five-seed St. Francis Brooklyn taking down three-seed Robert Morris.

To be sure, any team that wants to challenge Robert Morris is going to have a difficult time. But, as a handful of teams have shown this season — even in their losses — the chance of beating the Colonials isn’t at all an impossibility.


Schedule

When: Monday, March 11; Thursday, March 14; Sunday, March 17

Where: Campus sites (higher seed hosts)

How to view: NEC Front Row (quarterfinals), ESPN3 (semifinals), ESPNU (championship)


Bracket

QUARTERFINALS (at high seeds)

Robert Morris made quick work of Fairleigh Dickinson in the first quarterfinal, using stifling defense to grab the 64-38 win. Sacred Heart prevailed over Wagner, 68-51, on the strength of three strong quarters (while being outscored in the fourth). Defending champs Saint Francis U also won rather easily over Bryant, 91-78, behind Jess Kovatch’s 38 points.

The lone quarterfinal upset saw six-seed Mount St. Mary’s beat three-seed St. Francis Brooklyn, 80-74. Five players scored in double figures to lead the Mountaineers to the win.

No. 2 Sacred Heart Pioneers vs. No. 7 Wagner Seahawks

Monday, March 11, 6 p.m. ET, NEC Front Row

No. 1 Robert Morris Colonials vs. No. 8 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights

Monday, March 11, 7 p.m. ET, NEC Front Row

No. 3 St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers vs. No. 6 Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers

Monday, March 11, 7 p.m. ET, NEC Front Row

No. 4 Saint Francis U Red Flash vs. No. 5 Bryant Bulldogs

Monday, March 11, 7 p.m. ET, NEC Front Row

SEMIFINALS (at high seeds)

For the second year in a row, Saint Francis U and Robert Morris will meet in the NEC Tournament championship game following their wins on Thursday. Saint Francis U came back from a halftime deficit with two dominating quarters to take down Sacred Heart, 68-60. Robert Morris advanced by way of a 69-65 win over Mount St. Mary’s, whose fourth-quarter run ended up being too little, too late.

No. 2 Sacred Heart Pioneers vs. No. 4 Saint Francis U Red Flash

Thursday, March 14, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN3

No. 1 Robert Morris Colonials vs. No. 6 Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers

Thursday, March 14, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN3

CHAMPIONSHIP (at high seed)

Although Saint Francis U made it interesting near the end, Robert Morris was able to hold off the late run and take the title, 65-54. It’s the Colonials’ fourth championship in six years.

No. 4 Saint Francis U Red Flash vs. No. 1 Robert Morris Colonials

Sunday, March 17, 2 p.m. ET, ESPNU