LIU Sharks still breathing, but barely
Can still qualify for NEC Tournament if Bryant bows out
If this had been a normal Northeast Conference season, not one littered with COVID-19-related testing, postponements, cancellations and postseason alterations, both St. Francis Brooklyn and Long Island University would have qualified for this weekend’s NEC Men’s Basketball Tournament.
As it stands now, Brooklyn Heights’ Terriers are out and Downtown Brooklyn’s Sharks still have an outside shot at participating in March Madness.
With identical conference records of 9-9, the Sharks and Terriers finished tied for sixth place in the league standings, meaning both would have made the NECs under the long-time eight-team format.
But the coronavirus pandemic not only wreaked havoc on the regular season, resulting in 15 schedule changes and three makeup weeks, it also forced the NEC to invite only four teams to its season-ending playoff, which will send one program to the NCAA Tournament.
The Terriers entered last week’s two-game series at Merrimack needing a sweep and plenty of help from the teams in front of them.
SFC beat the Warriors, 84-71, last Thursday night in Andover, Massachusetts, but dropped a 75-67 decision to Merrimack Friday.
Though the Terriers finished the campaign even with the Sharks, LIU took both meetings between the neighborhood rivals during the regular season, giving it the critical tiebreaker and sending coach Glenn Braica’s charges home.
The Sharks had an opportunity to win their way into the tourney for a seventh consecutive season, but dropped their final two games at league-leading Bryant in Smithfield, Rhode Island last week.
But that’s when things got interesting.
By Sunday, the Bryant athletic department and the NEC revealed that there had been a positive COVID-19 test among the Bulldogs’ Tier 1 group, putting their collective health and postseason chances in peril.
At press time, Bryant had cancelled this week’s scheduled series with Mount St. Mary ahead of the tournament and
the NEC had not yet determined whether the Bulldogs would be allowed to participate in the tournament.
If the league rules that Bryant can’t play in Saturday’s semifinal round, the Sharks would be the first team back in the tournament, but only if Merrimack (9-8) was unable to get past Wagner Wednesday night.
Regardless of whether LIU gets a bid, the season itself has been one that Brooklynites and long-time alum of these historic programs will never forget, even if they weren’t allowed to attend any games.
Here’s to never having to go through another campaign anything like it.
The LIU ladies won’t be dancing this month either, but they did go into the offseason on a major high note.
After losing 11 of their first 14 contests, the Sharks (7-11) ended the year on a four-game winning streak, including last Friday night’s 83-42 rout of Bryant at the Steinberg Wellness Center.
Juniors Brandy Thomas and Ryan Weise scored 14 points apiece as LIU completed a two-game sweep of the Bulldogs and remained unbeaten since a 65-41 setback at Mount St. Mary’s on Valentine’s Day.
On the women’s hoops scene at SFC, the Terriers (4-10) had their final four games, including two last week at the Pope Center, cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.
SFC did win what proved to be its final contest with a 63-55 triumph here on Feb. 14.
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