Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell has won 22 or more games in three of his last four season with the Seawolves
. (Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports)
March 8-11 SEFCU Arena (Albany, N.Y.) and higher seed for final | Bracket
Another one-bid conference with a questionable tournament setup that disadvantages a 1-seed. In this case, Stony Brook is the league champion and the Seawolves' reward is a possible road semifinal at Albany, the host of the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. Sensational. This has been an ongoing problem in this league. Stony Brook bombed out several years ago before getting a chance to host a final as the league's top seed, and last season, 6-seed Hartford nearly made the title game playing out of its own gym in the semis.
In any case, the top four seeds are all strongly favored to make the semifinals, and we'll see what happens from there.
Key Matchup: No. 1 Stony Brook vs. No. 4 Albany (possible semifinal)
As mentioned above, this is a road game for the Seawolves and could alter the auto-bid picture, as Vermont would then be in position to host a title game against the Great Danes if that's the matchup. The Seawolves rolled in this building earlier in the year, but only beat Albany by five last weekend at home in the season finale.
Team to Watch: Hartford
The 3-seed Hawks just finished up the regular-season by winning at Vermont, and also beat Stony Brook at home, so they clearly are good enough to handle both a potential semifinal vs. the Catamounts and a shot at the 1-seed. Also, if Hartford advances to the final and Stony Brook does not, Hartford would host the title game. In related news, the University of Hartford is actually in West Hartford, Conn., a separate town.
Hottest Storyline: Pikiell's final run?
Steve Pikiell went 4-24 in his first season at Stony Brook in 2005-06, but has won 22 or more games in three of the last four seasons. If he makes it to the NCAAs, with do-it-all Tommy Brenton as a senior, is this the time to cash in his chips and move up a level? If this job does open, expect a lot of people up and down the East Coast to be interested. It's a gig with a lot of potential, especially now that Pikiell has established the Seawolves as a league heavyweight.
The Pick: Stony Brook
The Seawolves (bias alert: my dad works for the school) are the best team in the league this season and will hold serve. It won't be easy, though. It never seems to be for them in this event. They have suffered some very frustrating losses in recent years. This time, it's payback.