NEW BRITAIN - The Northeast Conferenceâ€™s menâ€™s and womenâ€™s basketball seasons will look a little bit different this year, but the good news for those teams and their fans is there will be games.
The NEC announced an amended men's and women's basketball regular season and NEC Tournament formats for the 2020-21 season on Monday with a number of quirks due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. The formats were unanimously adopted by the NEC Council of Presidents.
Both the menâ€™s and womenâ€™s schedules will consist of an 18-game, double round-robin regular season and both slates will be mirrored, meaning the menâ€™s and womenâ€™s teams from one school will play the teams from another in a home-and-home series. For example, if the CCSU menâ€™s basketball team plays at Bryant, the CCSU womenâ€™s basketball team will host the Bulldogs the same day. Games throughout the season will be played on back-to-back days against the same opponent at the same site, primarily in a Thursday/Friday format.
NEC play will begin Dec. 8 with each school playing three or four times in December, and will resume on Jan. 7 following the holiday break and run through Feb. 26. Six mid-week makeup dates have also been incorporated into the schedule.
The scheduling of non-conference games will be at the discretion of each institution.
"By implementing rigorous testing protocols, removing the day off between games, creating safe playing environments and ensuring maximum flexibility in the case of competitive interruptions, we have set the stage for our basketball student-athletes to return to the court and enjoy the spirit and excitement of NEC competition," NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris said in a statement.
The CCSU menâ€™s team is set to begin its season with a road series at Fairleigh Dickinson on Dec. 8-9. The Blue Devilsâ€™ first home games will be the Dec. 15-16 series against St. Francis (Pa). After the winter break, CCSU will pick back up with road games against Bryant (Jan. 7-8) and Sacred Heart (Jan. 14) before playing a home series against Mount Saint Maryâ€™s (Jan. 21-22). The Blue Devils will then play a road series at Sacred Heart (Jan. 30-21) to close out the month.
A home contest against the Pioneers is schedule for Feb. 4 with a home series against Merrimack (Feb. 11-12) to follow. CCSU will then close out its league slate at LIU (Feb. 20-21) and against Wagner (Feb. 25-26).
The Blue Devils were picked to finish ninth in the NECâ€™s preseason poll after going 4-27 overall, including 3-15 in league play. CCSU is set to return four starters and seven of its top eight scorers from last season, including Ian Krishnan, who led the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game and connected on nearly 45 percent from 3-point range.
The CCSU womenâ€™s team is set to begin its season Dec. 14-15 at St. Francis (Pa) before playing its first home series of the season Dec. 19-20 against Fairleigh Dickinson.
The Blue Devils will return from the holiday break with three home games - a series against Bryant (Jan. 7-8) and a contest against Sacred Heart (Jan. 14). Theyâ€™ll play a road series against Mount Saint Maryâ€™s (Jan. 23-24) and a home series against St. Francis (Jan. 28-29) to close out January.
CCSUâ€™s February slate will consist of five games with a road contest against Sacred Heart (Feb. 4), an away series against Merrimack (Feb. 13-14), a home series against LIU (Feb. 18-19) and another road series against Wagner than will run in March (Feb. 28-March 1).
The Blue Devils were picked to finish last in the NEC preseason poll after a 4-25 (3-15 NEC) season in 2019-2020. CCSU will also have a new head coach in Kerri Reaves, who was given the interim tag after the school opted not to bring Beryl Piper back. The Blue Devils are set to return three starters from last season: Ashley Berube, who averaged12.1 ppg and 6.9 rebounds, as well as Emma McCamus and Ashley Forker.
If anything, the regular season will have much more meaning than in years past.
The 2021 1 NEC Men's & Women's Basketball Tournament fields have been reduced from eight teams to four teams with games being contested at the home of the higher seed. The men's semifinals will take place on Saturday, March 6 and the championship on Tuesday, March 9. The women's semis are slated for Wednesday, March 10 and the final on Sunday, March 14.
"We engaged in extensive discussions with the NEC Council and conference administrators on the most optimal tournament format to ensure the crowning of NEC men's and women's basketball champions next March,â€ť Morris said in a statement. â€śOn the front end, there was consensus to extend the regular season and build in makeup dates in order to play as many regular season games as possible. There was also a strong desire to minimize the financial impact on schools, reduce postseason travel and remove one layer of potential exposure that may impact our ability to safely complete the tournament. Ultimately, the four-team format made the most sense in the short term as we anticipate a return to the normal NEC Tournament experience next season."
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org