NEC Tournament Odds: Top-Seeded Merrimack is Favored to Win Northeast Conference Title
Could Merrimack Win The Northeast Conference Championship In Its First Try?
FDU and Saint Francis Front-Runners to Reach NCAA Tournament
There are 32 Division I men’s basketball conferences with the winner of the conference tournament earning a spot in the March Madness bracket. When it comes to the strength of those conferences, the Sagarin ratings list the Northeast Conference as No. 32. In other words, welcome to a No. 16 seed to the winner of the NEC tournament.
No Northeast Conference team is in the top 300 in the NCAA NET rankings with No. 304 Wagner, No. 307 Fairleigh Dickinson and No. 310 Merrimack leading the list of top teams in the conference.
Merrimack, still officially transitioning from Division II to Division I, wasn’t eligible for the NEC tournament in 2022. Now the Warriors are listed by the NEC Conference tournament odds as the favorite to win the tournament. If the Warriors win the NEC title, the team that lost in the tournament championship game will receive the NEC’s bid into the March Madness bracket since Merrimack is not eligible to play in the NCAA tournament as the Warriors continue to transition from Division II to Division I.
When it comes time to take part in the March Madness bracket contest, it will be hard to look for the NEC champion to be sticking around for very long.
Merrimack finished two games ahead of Fairleigh Dickinson and Stony Brook in the NEC standings with the Warriors priced at -105 according to the NEC tournament odds.
Senior forward Jordan Minor averaged 20.3 points and 14.3 rebounds over the last four games. He is a major reason why Merrimack takes an eight-game winning streak into the postseason.
Merrimack has been without senior guard Mykel Derring since mid-January.
FDU comes in at +230 in the NEC tournament odds even though the Knights lost three of its last five games. The Knights did sweep both games against Merrimack during the regular season. Fairleigh Dickinson is one of two NEC teams with overall winning records with the Knights leading the conference in scoring offense.
Those making NCAA basketball bets should keep in mind that Fairleigh Dickinson led the NEC during the regular season with 17 games finishing over the total.
Saint Francis (PA) was fourth in the NEC during the regular season but the Red Flash is third in the NEC title odds. A loss to Wagner in the final game of the regular season ended the hopes of finishing tied for second in the NEC.
Josh Cohen had 31 and 29 points in the last two games and could be ready to get rolling in the NEC tournament. Saint Francis is priced at +650 to win the championship. There is a chance that when looking at the college basketball matchups that a Saint Francis-Fairleigh Dickinson semifinal matchup could be for a spot in the NCAA tournament depending on what takes place in the other semifinal.
With Stonehill not eligible for the tournament, one of the top three teams in the conference during the regular season won’t be playing in the conference tourney.
Wagner and Sacred Heart could be two teams worth watching as both are priced at +1200 in the NEC tournament odds. They were both 8-8 in conference play during the regular season with Wagner joining FDU as the only NEC team to post a winning record.
Wagner will need to head to Sacred Heart for the quarterfinals with the winner drawing Merrimack in the semifinals. Sacred Heart reached the NEC semifinals in 2020 and 2021. Wagner allows the fewest points per game in the NEC during the regular season.
Central Connecticut State (+3000 in the NEC tournament odds) will need to win on the road to advance to the semifinals and that won’t be easy with a 4-13 road record this season.
Projected Championship Matchup
It is an interesting decision to allow top-seeded Merrimack to play in the tournament since the Warriors won’t be able to play in the NCAA tournament. Still, it is hard to pick against Merrimack to get to the title game.
Saint Francis and Fairleigh Dickinson split the two games during the regular season so it could be quite the battle if the No. 2 and 3 seeds reach the semifinals.
The games will be at the site of the higher-seeded team so there is a possibility of the host team for the title game not being eligible to be part of a March Madness bracket. It is a whole different sort of March Madness that could transpire in the March 7 championship showdown.
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