Heading into the 2012-13 season, big things were expected from the Northeast Conference. LIU Brooklyn, Robert Morris, and Wagner were returning most of their players after each team won 20+ games the previous season. Quinnipiac, St. Francis Brooklyn, and Sacred Heart had the potential to infiltrate the upper third of the league if things broke right. Even teams projected in the bottom half like Monmouth, Mount St. Mary’s, and Bryant had visions of NEC playoff home games in their hands. It was going to be a banner year for the conference.
Or so everyone thought.
Injuries have brought down the overall performance of the league, there’s no doubt about that. As a result, several programs found themselves looking forward to the NEC season in order to forget about those mediocre out of conference results. So much for three teams getting into the NCAA and NIT tournaments.
One team, however, has been able to stay relatively healthy. Bryant’s fantastic foursome has missed only one total game (Frankie Dobbs vs. Navy), which has helped guide the Bulldogs to their unexpected 6-0 start. In the two previous seasons, LIU Brooklyn enjoyed perfect health from their key guys, which helped propel them to consecutive NEC titles. Talent and terrific coaching is absolutely necessary if you want to represent the NEC in the NCAA tournament, but you also need to be a little lucky in the health department as well.
This season many teams will need to unfortunately break that trend if they want to dance come March. So in honor of our fallen athletes (who have missed at least two games this season), I decided to elect an all-injury conference team for the Northeast Conference. As you’ll soon see, this team would surely dominate for a league title. It’s sad to see so much talent miss so many games…
NEC All-Injury Team: The Starters
- PG: Velton Jones, Robert Morris – One of the most respected players in the league practically missed two games because of a head injury. Jones’ fearless style of play puts him at risk of missing time, but he had missed exactly zero games in his Colonial career prior to this season.
- SG: Latif Rivers, Wagner – A knee injury sidelined Rivers for a majority of the non-conference schedule, and Wagner really struggled to score as a result. As one of the few deep threats on the team, Rivers is indeed one of the most valuable players in the NEC.
- F: Andrew “Red” Nicholas, Monmouth - Nicholas is another irreplaceable player, as one of the few Hawks who can actually get his own shot. Jesse Steele has picked up his play in Nicholas’ absence, but King Rice needs both guys to keep up with a league that plays a lot more offense then in year’s past.
- F: Jonathan Williams, Wagner – Williams started off like a ball of fire, but unfortunately injured his hip against Santa Clara in the Cable Car Classic. The five game setback has halted the rhythm of what was an all-conference type of season, but there’s still plenty of time for Williams to regain his mojo.
- PF: Julian Boyd, LIU Brooklyn – After missing one game (because of a suspension) in his past two seasons since coming back from a heart ailment, Boyd blew out his ACL diving for a loose ball against Rice. As awful as the injury was, at least the timing was decent. It allows Boyd to apply for a medical redshirt and possibly regain an extra year of eligibility. Blackbird Nation has their fingers crossed.
NEC All-Injury Team: The Bench
- PF: Justin Swidowski, Sacred Heart – The versatile 6’9″ forward has the skills to perform at a high level, yet the senior’s shoulders simply aren’t built for the rigors and physicality of college basketball. Numerous injuries to both shoulders have sadly limited Swidowski’s upside.
- SG: Chris Evans, Sacred Heart – The stat-stuffer for Dave Bike has yet to put on the red and white of SHU this season, thanks to complications from offseason knee surgery. Steve Glowiak has done a nice job filling Evans’ shoes, but Pioneer fans have been left to wonder what could have been with a healthy Phil Gaetano, Shane Gibson, and Evans playing together in the backcourt.
- SG: Evan Kelley, Sacred Heart – OK, is someone playing a cruel joke on the Pioneers? This really isn’t funny anymore.
- PG: Dave Johnson, Quinnipiac – In a backcourt that greatly misses James Johnson, Dave Johnson is one of the few veteran presences among the guards, but a recent concussion has kept the solid senior off of Tom Moore’s roster for the time being. No offense to Evan Conti, but the Bobcats need Johnson to come back, and soon, if they plan to make a run back to NEC respectability.
- F: Russell Johnson, Robert Morris – Now that the senior is playing at a high level, few NEC fans remember that the oft-injured Johnson missed some time earlier with a sprained ankle. The depth of Andy Toole’s frontcourt is an issue moving forward with Lijah Thompson and Vaughn Morgan no longer available, so the Colonials desperately need Johnson to stay healthy.
Other notables: Lijah Thompson, Robert Morris; Marcus Ware, Monmouth