Mount St. Mary’s Nana Opoku (22) looks to pass the ball as Washington’s Quade Green (55) and Isaiah Stewart (33) defend during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, in Seattle. Washington won 56-46. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
- The No. 4 seed Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (11-10, 9-7 Northeast) take on the No. 1 seed Bryant Bulldogs (15-5, 10-4 Northeast) Tuesday, March 9, in the Northeast Conference Tournament Championship Game
- This will be the first meeting between the two teams this year after their regular-season series was postponed twice due to COVID protocols
- Read below for odds, analysis, and our best bet for this matchup
The No. 4 seed Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (11-10, 9-7 Northeast), who took out No. 1 seed Wagner in the semifinals, take on the No. 1 seed Bryant Bulldogs (15-5, 10-4 Northeast) Tuesday, March 9, in the Northeast Conference Tournament Championship Game. Tip is set for 7:00 pm ET at the Chace Athletic Center.
The winner of Tuesday’s game earns the league’s automatic bid to the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Bryant is making its first-ever title-game appearance, while Mount St. Mary’s is there for eighth time.
The Bulldogs are favored to get past The Mount and earn the program’s first-ever bid to the Big Dance.
Mount St. Mary’s vs Bryant Odds
|Mount St. Mary’s||+5.5 (-106)||Off||O 132.5 (-110)|
|Bryant||-5.5 (-116)||Off||U 132.5 (-110)|
Odds as of March 8 at FanDuel.
The Mount, which came into its semi matchup with the Seahawks leading the NEC in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense and defensive efficiency, held Wagner to 36.1% shooting in the 66-60 upset to advance The Mountaineers did a number on NEC Player of the Year Alex Morales, holding him to just 10 points on 3-of-15 shooting.
FINAL | Mount 66, Wagner 60
NEC Championship Game, here we come! pic.twitter.com/tRJqxBcFrp
— The Mount MBB (@MountHoops) March 6, 2021
As for The Mount scoring, Nana Opoku finished with 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting while adding five rebounds and three blocks. Damian Chong Qui also had 14 points, to go along with four assists. The team’s leading rebounder, Malik Jefferson (averaging 7.7 boards per game coming in) notched his second consecutive double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.
Now, that formidable Mountaineer defense will try to stymie a Bryant squad that was my pick to get to this point. MSM has a top-15 defensive effective field-goal percentage (45.5%, good for 13th in the country) and a top-25 defensive three-point field-goal percentage (30.0%, good for 22nd nationally). Overall, head coach Dana Engelstad’s team has the third-best rating by KenPom at No. 227, behind only Bryant (No. 167) and Wagner (No. 216).
Can The Mount knock off another favorite Tuesday?
Short Bench? No Problem
It’s been quite a week for the Bulldog program. After narrowly missing out on earning the tourney’s No. 1 seed, Bryant was hit with a positive COVID case within the program — putting the rest of its season in jeopardy. But after contact tracing, Jared Grasso’s squad was given the green light to participate. And with only a seven-man rotation, Bryant dominated Sacred Heart 85-55 to get to the title game.
We’re on to our first-ever NEC Championship game thanks to a TEAM effort today.
— Bryant Men’s Basketball (@BryantHoops) March 7, 2021
Peter Kiss had a game-high 19 points, leading five into double figures. Hall Elisias — aka “The Block Father” — added 18 points, nine rebounds and three rejections. Charles Pride chipped in 16, while Erickson Bans had 13 and Luis Hurtado finished with 12. That kind of offensive performance will be challenging for The Mount to slow down.
This @BryantHoops squad may call Rhode Island home, but Bulldogs have a NYC swag to them. High scoring. High intensity. HC Jared Grasso has them on the verge of their first title. Top 5 scoring/Top 15 3-pt shooting in the nation. @NECsports @necbbt Tuesday 7p ESPN2
— Rich Hollenberg (@RichOnSports) March 8, 2021
Coming into Saturday, things didn’t look great for Bryant. The team was missing roughly half its players facing a Pioneer squad that had exceeded expectations all season. Now, emboldened by a 30-point blowout with a short bench, the Bulldogs are brimming with confidence and and may just get some of those players back to add depth.
Grasso’s group appears to be in good shape ahead of Tuesday’s potentially historic game.
On the Verge
While Bryant may have the swag, Mount St. Mary’s has the savvy.
Advancing to the tourney title game is old hat for The Mount, getting this far for the eighth time in program history. It’s the first since the program had advanced to the championship round since winning the title on its homecourt in 2017.
The Mountaineers have won five NEC titles (1995, 1999, 2008, 2014 and 2017) and are 5-2 in the title game. The Mountaineers are now 7-2 all-time in the NEC Tournament as the No. 4 seed, and 8-7 all-time in the NEC semifinals. The Mountaineers hold an all-time record of 28-18 in NEC Tournament games, including 10-11 on the road. This is a program familiar with the emotions of March. But will that experience be enough to outweigh Bryant’s superior talent?
— Matt Tracey (@T_DollarSign) March 8, 2021
One key factor could be where this game is played. Bryant is 10-0 at home this season, one of only ten squads nationally that are unbeaten at home. That, along with the other factors noted, as me on the Bulldogs’ side in this spot.
The pick: Bryant -5.5 (-116)
Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and seasoned sports content creator. He has been writing and producing content as long as he can remember, with such familiar names as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo. Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.