Northeast Conference Tournament 2014: Robert Morris looks to avoid another early exit

Wesley Hitt

The Colonials are the No. 1 seed for the second year in a row. Last year, they lost in the semifinals and missed out on an NCAA Tournament bid.

An automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament will be up for grabs in the Northeast Conference Tournament as Robert Morris looks to avenge last year's upset loss in the semifinals.

For the second season in a row (and the fifth time in seven years), the Colonials are the No. 1 seed. They were the top-seeded team last March, but they fell at home to Mount St. Mary's. RMU will have home field advantage throughout the entire tournament, regardless of opponent.

It would seem Robert Morris' biggest challenger would be No. 2 seed Wagner. The Seahawks defeated the Colonials over the weekend to extend their winning streak to eight games. The only other team from the NEC to defeat RMU this season was Central Connecticut, the seven seed.

There is a lot to like about Wagner. What it lacks in offense is made up on the defensive end of the floor, where it ranks 64th nationally on Pomeroy. No other team from the conference is in the top-100. If the Seahawks can find their stroke from the floor -- they shoot just 42 percent from the field and 34 percent from behind the arc -- they will be a tough out.

Bryant, the No. 3 seed, should not be taken lightly either. The Bulldogs struggle on the defensive end of the floor, but Alex Francis (19 ppg) and Dyami Starks (18.9 ppg) have the talent to keep Bryant in the game no matter who the opponent is. They've lost four out of their last six games, but if Francis and Starks get going early, Bryant could receive its first ever bid to the Big Dance.

Another team to watch out for: St. Francis (NY). The Terriers aren't a great scoring team, but their defense is second-best in the NEC and features one of the top forwards in the conference with Jalen Cannon, who averages a team-high 15.1 points and 8.3 rebounds.

Here is a look at the tournament bracket. Once the quarterfinals end, all the teams are reseeded. Eight of the 10 teams from the conference made it, with LIU Brooklyn and Sacred Heart left watching at home.

Wednesday, March 5 (Quarterfinals)

No. 8 Fairleigh Dickinson (10-20, 6-10) at No. 1 Robert Morris (19-12, 14-2), 7 p.m.

No. 7 Central Connecticut (11-18, 7-9) at No. 2 Wagner (18-11, 12-4), 7 p.m.

No. 6 Saint Francis (PA) (9-20, 7-9) at No. 3 Bryant (18-13, 10-6), 7 p.m.

No. 5 St. Francis (NY) (18-13, 9-7) at No. 4 Mount St. Mary's (13-16, 9-7), 7 p.m. (TV: MSG+2, Fox College Sports and Root Pittsburgh)

All four games will be broadcast on NEC Front Row.

Saturday, March 8 (Semifinals):

Lowest Remaining Seed at Highest Remaining Seed, 12 p.m. or 2 p.m. (TV: MSG+, Fox College Sports)

Third-highest Remaining Seed at Second-highest Remaining Seed, 12 p.m. or 2 p.m. (TV: MSG+, Fox College Sports)

Tuesday, March 11:

Championship game, 7 p.m. (TV: ESPN2)

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