Central Connecticut State Blue Devils (13-8, 7-1 in NEC) at Merrimack Warriors (12-10, 6-2 in NEC), Saturday, February 3, 3:00 PM ET
The Northeast Conference has been interesting this season because the two teams that are battling for first place on Saturday are somewhat unexpected. Even though the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils were picked as a favorite before the season began, this is a team that had won 23 games combined over the previous three years.
Their opponents, the Merrimack Warriors were picked to finish 4th, but have been strong contenders in the conference the last few years, including last year when they won the tournament but were ineligible for the NCAA tournament due to transitioning from Division II. That probationary period is now over and Joe Gallo's team wants to make their first trip to the big dance.
Since joining Division I in 2019-20 the Warriors have finished first in the Northeast Conference twice, including last season when they won the NEC tournament despite not being eligible for the NCAA Tournament. Merrimack is closing in on its second 20-win season and now has the carrot of the Big Dance dangling in front of them.
The CCSU Blue Devils haven’t challenged for a conference title in over 16 years and Patrick Sellers has his team in the hunt and a road win at Merrimack in their only meeting would give them a game-and-a-half lead over the field. The way things are shaping up in the NEC a long drought could end or someone could get their first taste of postseason success.