Northeast Conference Final: The Mount To Punch NCAA Tourney Ticket

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 12:22 AM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 7, 2017 12:22 AM UTC

Four automatic bids will be handed out in conference tournament championship games Tuesday around the country. In the Northeast Conference, regular-season champion Mount St. Mary’s opened at -5 against St. Francis (Pa.).

St. Francis (Pa.) At Mount St. Mary's

Mount St. Mary’s hosts this game as it looks for the fifth NCAA Tournament berth in school history and first since 2014.  The Mountaineers played a pretty tough non-conference schedule, losing at West Virginia, Iowa State, Michigan and Arkansas – all expected NCAA Tournament teams. The Mount won the Northeast Conference’s regular-season title at 14-4, one game ahead of LIU Brooklyn.

The Mountaineers squeaked by Sacred Heart 76-73 to open the NEC Tournament and then beat Robert Morris 75-66 on Saturday. Elijah Long scored 22 points, including a decisive 3-pointer in the final minute. Long is the team’s star and was a first-team All-NEC selection. He averages 15.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists.

The Mountaineers are 4-2 all-time in the NEC title game, winning in 1995, 1999, 2008 and 2014 while falling in 2009 and 2013. Mount St. Mary's is hosting the game for the first time.

St. Francis (Pa.) is the No. 4 seed after finishing 11-7 in conference play. The Red Flash didn’t play anywhere near as tough a non-conference schedule as Mount St. Mary’s. They opened the NEC Tournament with a 100-78 blowout win over Bryant and then pulled a minor upset at Wagner on Saturday. Keith Braxton threw up a wild 3-pointer that went in at the buzzer. It’s the first conference tournament title game for St. Francis since 1991, the only year the school made the NCAA Tournament.

The Mountaineers and Red Flash played twice this season and neither had an NCAA basketball spread attached. Mount St. Mary’s won 78-72 at home on Jan. 14, rallying from a 15-point first-half deficit, and then 81-62 in Pennsylvania on Feb. 11.  Long dominated in both games.

The winner Tuesday surely will be a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament and play in the First Four against another No. 16. ESPN projects just that, with Mount St. Mary’s facing North Carolina Central, the regular-season champion of the MEAC.

NCAAB Free Pick: Mount St. Mary's -5Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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