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Northeast Basketball: 2020 conference tournament preview and predictions

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 24: Guard Raiquan Clark #23 of the LIU Sharks shoots a free throw during the second half of the college basketball game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 24, 2019 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 24: Guard Raiquan Clark #23 of the LIU Sharks shoots a free throw during the second half of the college basketball game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 24, 2019 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /
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Northeast basketball
MOON TOWNSHIP, PA – MARCH 19: Josh Williams #0 of the Robert Morris Colonials (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Northeast basketball was full of surprises this year, with newcomer Merrimack Warriors dominating en route a regular-season title. Robert Morris locked up the top seed in the NEC Tournament but will still have a tough route to the finals.

Northeast basketball was quite interesting this year. Last season’s regular season and Northeast basketball tournament champion Farleigh Dickinson, lost two of their top three scorers and despite Jahlil Jenkins stepping up to be a big-time player in his junior season, 2019-20 wasn’t kind to the Knights in terms of repeating as champions. Saint Francis (PA) continued a successful run and fell just short of a No. 1 seed in the NEC Tournament with the season-closing loss to Robert Morris.

The Northeast conference coaches pegged Farleigh Dickinson correctly, picking them to finish fourth and they finished fifth, behind Long Island and Sacred Heart. Based on the preseason coaches poll, they were shockers aplenty.

The fourth-place LIU Sharks were pegged to win the conference, and Saint Francis (PA) edged out the Sacred Heart Pioneers—who were predicted to finish second— for the No. 2 seed in the Northeast basketball tournament.

But no surprise in the Northeast was bigger than the Merrimack, newly D1 and NEC member Merrimack, finishing first in the regular-season standings. The Warriors dominated with a defense that had the 29th best defensive rating in the country (!!)  per Basketball-Reference. Merrimack racked up 177 steals over 18 games and flustered their new Northeast basketball rivals. It’s a real shame the Warriors won’t even have a chance to compete at The Big Dance but nothing can take away their 2019-20 NEC regular-season title.

Expect Saint Francis (PA) and Robert Morris to meet in a semifinals matchup that could act as de facto title game but Sacred Heart, LIU, 2019 NEC Champion Farleigh Dickinson, and even Bryant could all make runs to the final round. Will Robert Morris use homecourt advantage and excellent defense to dominate en route aa title? Or will Saint Francis (PA) get back on track with their league-leading offense and get revenge on the team that ended their 8-game winning streak? Or could another team from the NEC rise up and shock the Northeast basketball world for the conference’s automatic bid?