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Brooklyn, NY -- The Northeast Conference women’s basketball coaches expect the Nutmeg State rivalry to take center stage this season.
In their annual preseason poll, the league’s 12 head coaches selected Quinnipiac as the favorite to capture the 2013 NEC title and pegged rival Sacred Heart, the defending league champion, to finish second behind the Bobcats.
NEC Women’s Basketball
Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Quinnipiac (7)
2. Sacred Heart (4)
3. Monmouth (1)
4. Saint Francis (PA)
5. Robert Morris
6. LIU Brooklyn
7. Mount St. Mary's
8. Central Connecticut
10. Fairleigh Dickinson
11. St. Francis (NY)
First place votes in parentheses
Quinnipiac pulled in seven first-place votes to finish atop the conference’s preseason poll for the first time in program history. In search of their first-ever Northeast Conference crown, the Bobcats are expected to encounter the highest level of resistance from the team that has won three of the last seven league titles.
Sacred Heart, which topped Monmouth in the NEC Championship Game last March, earned four first-place votes as the poll’s runner-up. The lone remaining top nod went to Monmouth, which took third in the predicted order-of-finish.
Saint Francis (PA), last year’s preseason favorite, claimed the fourth spot ahead of Keystone State rival Robert Morris. LIU Brooklyn was slotted sixth in the poll immediately followed by Mount St. Mary’s in seventh and Central Connecticut in eighth. Set for its first season of NCAA Division I postseason eligibility, Bryant came in ninth with Fairleigh Dickinson right behind in 10th. Verrazano Bridge rivals St. Francis (NY) and Wagner, both of whom underwent head coaching changes in the offseason, rounded out the coaches’ poll in 11th and 12th, respectively.
Having pulled in more than half of the possible number of first-place votes, Quinnipiac became the most-definitive preseason favorite the NEC has seen since 2009 when nine head coaches casted a top nod for Sacred Heart. The league’s coaches have not selected a unanimous favorite in over a decade, and this year’s decision follows two years of severely-fragmented opinion.
Each NEC team will contest an 18-game league schedule with the top-eight teams in the final standings advancing to the postseason conference tournament. The 2013 Northeast Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament, the winner of which will earn the league’s automatic NCAA Championship bid, will unfold entirely at campus sites of the higher seeded team on March 10, 13 & 17. For the sixth season running, the NEC Women’s Basketball Championship Game will reach a live national television audience via ESPNU.
Quinnipiac’s experience, talent and veteran head coach make it easy for one to understand why the majority of NEC coaches predicted the Bobcats to capture that elusive first conference crown in 2013. The Bobcats bring back 12 of 14 letterwinners, including four of five starters, from the 2011-12 squad that won 22 games and earned the No. 2 seed in the NEC Tournament. Preseason all-NEC selection Felicia Barron headlines the list of returnees. The do-it-all guard ranked second amongst NCAA Division I leaders in steals per game (4.2) and her team-leading 16.5 points per game ranked fifth amongst the NEC’s best.