CBB Review hands out awards for each conference tournament in 2023. Up next: The NEC Tournament.
In my tournament preview, my pick to win the conference was St. Francis PA, which was quickly throttled when the Knights of FDU took down Josh Cohen and co. What stood true, however, was that the winner of that semifinal game would receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament due to the NCAA’s rule stating teams who moved up to Division I need an “adjustment period” before they can contend for a National Championship, making Merrimack ineligible to play in the Big Dance.
We saw Bellarmine not earn a tournament bid despite winning their conference a season ago. Well, low and behold, Merrimack did win the NEC Tournament championship. The Warriors, though deserved, cannot compete in March Madness. How they got here and how they won the conference is a bit of a moot point.
The bottom line is that the Warriors clearly belong at the D1 level and have shown that year after year, yet they cannot represent their school in March Madness because of a rule. What does this rule help, might you ask? Alas, I have no answer, as Merrimack should absolutely be allowed in the field of 68. And yet, the NEC will be represented in the NCAA Tournament by its second-best team.
CBB Review NEC Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Ziggy Reid, Merrimack
Ziggy Reid played excellent for the Warriors all tournament long, starting with a 33-point output against LIU in the opening round. Reid then cooled off a bit and allowed his teammate Jordan Minor to lead the scorers in the semifinal over Sacred Heart, but it was Reid again leading all scorers in the championship, pouring in 23.
Reid was extremely efficient in his three contests, scoring almost 24 points a game on over 65% shooting. He and Minor offered the best frontcourt in the NEC, and it showed, as the two combined for over 40 points a game along with 12 rebounds.
CBB Review All-NEC Tournament First Team
- G: Demetre Roberts, FDU – 3 games played (15.0 PPG, 5.7 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.3 SPG)
- F: Tanner Thomas, Sacred Heart – 2 games played (14.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 BPG)
- F: Josh Cohen, St. Francis PA – 2 games played (18.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 2.0 APG)
- F: Ziggy Reid, Merrimack – 3 games played (23.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 0.3 APG, 65.7 FG%)
- F: Jordan Minor, Merrimack – 3 games played (18.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 4.3 BPG)
Merrimack FDU’s NCAA Tournament Prediction
The NEC is clearly one of the worst conferences in college hoops, as only three teams in the conference have records over .500. To add insult to injury, the conference is being represented by its second-best team, as Fairleigh Dickinson receives an automatic bid despite not winning the conference. Credit is due to the Knights, as they beat a tough St. Francis PA team while shutting down the league’s best player, so winning a game is not out of the question. However, the Knights will more than likely play in the First Four, and almost any team they square off will have the advantage.