Early on this college basketball season, Wagner was making a long-shot case for an at-large bid as the face of the Northeast Conference. A 17-2 start with a nonconference win over VCU definitely turned some heads.
Then, losses in three of their last five knocked them off the pedestal. Still, the Seahawks are looking to continue the streak of a fifth different champion in five years.
Bryant, though, has emerged as a legitimate threat to earn the automatic bid. The Bulldogs ran through conference play with a 16-2 record to earn their first No. 1 seed in the NEC Tournament in program history.
This also is a year after Bryant lost on their home floor to Mount St. Mary's a year ago in the NEC Championship game.
If Wagner or Bryant take the title, both have a shot at avoiding a No. 16 seed for the first time since the beginning of LIU's championship streak back in 2011.
NEC TOURNAMENT 2022 INFORMATION:
When is the 2022 Northeast Conference Tournament?
The NEC Tournament is on Feb. 28, March 2, 5, and 8. The NEC Championship Game is on Tuesday, March 8.
Where is the 2022 Northeast Conference Tournament?
The NEC Tournament is hosted at the campus site of the higher-seeded team for each matchup. The No. 1 seed has homecourt advantage throughout the tournament.
How to watch the 2022 Northeast Conference Tournament?
The quarterfinals of the NEC Tournament will be streamed on NEC Front Row. The semifinals will also be streamed on NEC Front Row and broadcast on ESPN3 and SNY. The championship game will air on ESPN2.
Who is the defending 2021 Northeast Conference Champion?
Due to coronavirus complications, there were only four teams to make the NEC Tournament. No. 4 seed Mount St. Mary's completed a darkhorse run to the championship, beating No. 2 Bryant 73-68 in the final.
NORTHEAST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT 2022 BRACKET:
Northeast Conference Tournament Opening Round (2/28, Time ET)
-No. 9 Central Connecticut St. d. No. 8 Farleigh Dickinson 67-66
Northeast Conference Tournament Quarterfinals (3/2, Times ET)
- No. 1 Bryant d. No. 9 Central Connecticut St. 73-59
- No. 4 Mt. St. Mary's d. No. 5 St. Francis Brooklyn 78-48
- No. 2 Wagner d. No. 7 Saint Francis (P.A.) 82-53
- No. 3 LIU d. No. 6 Sacred Heart 82-75
Northeast Conference Tournament Semifinals (3/5, Times ET)
- No. 1 Bryant d. No. 4 Mt. St. Mary's 70-69
- No. 2 Wagner d. No. 3 LIU 82-62
Northeast Conference Tournament Championship (3/8, Times ET)
- No. 1 Bryant d. No. 2 Wagner 70-43
Northeast Conference Tournament 2022 Preview:
Once again Merrimack is unable to compete for the NEC Tournament title as the Warriors continue its transition to Division I. Last season, Merrimack ran through the conference - where they would have received the No. 1 seed - but alas did not participate.
It would be hard to peg one team the favorite over the other, but expect the champion to be either top-seeded Bryant or Wagner.
With that said, the Bulldogs went an impressive 9-0 at home this year. One team will have to do what no other Northeast Conference team has done this tournament, which is beat Bryant at home with them holding homecourt throughout the NEC Tournament.
Bryant also is home to the nation's leading scorer Peter Kiss who averages 25.1 ppg, leading them to a conference-best 83.0 ppg.
Wagner, though, with its impressive defensive identity can knock any team off on any given day. They boast a home overtime victory over Bryant earlier in the season despite their loss in the season finale this past weekend. A stronger-than-expected nonconference docket certainly will have them battle-tested over many other programs in the NEC.
Like Bryant, no team in the tournament (Merrimack notwithstanding) has beaten the Seahawks at home.
One team projected to be a dark horse against the top two programs is Derek Kellogg's up-tempo LIU squad. Despite a slow start, the Sharks are playing their best basketball of the season, winners of six straight including a win over Bryant.
PICK: No. 2 Wagner Seahawks