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NEC Notes: Wagner’s defense, Junior Robinson’s excellence, and more

The Seahawks could be back in the tourney for the first time in 15 years.

NCAA Basketball: Mount St. Mary's at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Northeast Conference isn’t known for producing Cinderella stories or key transfers to Power Five programs, but there’s never been a better time to be a fan of the NEC. Currently, four teams are within one game of first place and two coaches, Bashir Mason and Andy Toole, are on their way to being household names. Couple that with a plethora of hard-wired guards like Junior Robison, and you have an intriguing season brewing up north.

Wagner’s defense is legendary and it’s winning the Seahawks games

The Seahawks are among the top the NEC in rebounds per game and blocks per game, while also giving up the fewest points to opponents. Their fervent D was on full display against their biggest competition in the NEC, Robert Morris. Wagner held RMU to just 49 points because of their gritty defense. In that game, the Colonials shot just 27 percent from field goal range and 10 percent from distance. That type of defense has carried Wagner to a 6-2 record in conference play.

Andy Toole’s young squad has dark horse potential

Despite the loss to the Seahawks, the Colonials are now shockingly 6-2 in conference play despite having 10 new players on the roster, including seven freshmen. Two surprising sensations for RMU come in the form of Dachon Burke and Koby Thomas. Burke is one of the few returners and he leads the team with 17.0 points and 2.1 steals per game. Beyond Thomas having one of the nicest flows in the game, he brings the energy to every game and is assembling quite the rookie season for himself, falling just behind Burke in scoring at 13.4 points per contest.

The Keith and Jamaal Show

St. Francis (PA) is leading the conference in points per game by a landslide thanks to its strong backcourt duo of Keith Braxton and Jamaal King. These two managed to stop RMU from getting too carried away and will look to do the same as they continue conference play. Together, they average nearly 35 points per game and both have been on fire lately in different regards. Braxton is shooting over 38 percent from three and King has now had seven games with over 20 points.

The Legend of Junior Robinson

Junior Robinson is yet again the best player in the Northeast Conference. He is 16th nationally in scoring with 21.7 points per game and he’s hit three or more from downtown in seven games. Oh, and he’s 5’5, making him among the shortest players in D-I.

But as head coach Jamion Christian said to Sports Illustrated recently, “We play these high-major teams, and he’s the fastest guy on the floor. He has high-major athleticism. He has high-major shooting ability, and high-major understanding of the game. You need big personalities and big egos. People get caught up on size.”

Unfortunately, Junior’s presence alone hasn’t been enough so far for the Mount in NEC play. They dropped both their games this week even though Robinson scored 19+ points and shot beyond 40 percent. However, Robinson did lead the Mount to not only a captivating NEC championship but also a First Four win last year, so it’s best not to count him out.