An unlikely Northeast Conference final tips off Tuesday, pitting the No. 3 Long Island Blackbirds against the No. 5 Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers for the league's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
The Blackbirds (19-13, 12-6), who have represented the NEC in two straight NCAA tournaments, reached the final with a 94-82 semifinal win over No. 2 Wagner. Long Island shot 32 of 49 from the field in Saturday's semifinal and used a 23-3 run in the first half to build an insurmountable lead.
Despite its No. 3 seed in the NEC tournament and two games behind regular-season conference champion Robert Morris, Long Island has won 14 of its last 17 games after starting its conference schedule with three straight losses.
Mount St. Mary's (18-13, 11-7) upset No. 1 Robert Morris in Saturday's semifinal, 69-60, to advance to the title game at Long Island. The Mountaineers' last NCAA tournament appearance was in 2008, when they won the play-in game against Coppin State and then lost to the North Carolina Tarheels.