With Saturday’s 71-60 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson, the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team now turns its attention toward its ultimate goal – to win the NEC Tournament and earn a trip to the NCAA March Madness tournament.
“The sky’s the limit,” junior guard James Johnson said after Saturday’s win. “We always think about last year, and how we were so close and didn’t make it. We’re always thinking about 52-50 and how we can change it.”
The Bobcats’ first test comes Thursday when they face No. 7 seed Mount St. Mary’s at TD Bank Sports Center.
The Mount gave the Bobcats trouble this year, defeating them once 72-63, and nearly beating them in the NEC opener at the Bank before Johnson took control of the final minute to propel Quinnipiac to a 77-75 victory.
But the Bobcats enter the tournament winning nine of their last 10 games, and are at full strength with a healthy Justin Rutty, giving them a high level of confidence entering the playoffs.
“I think our confidence is through the roof,” Johnson said. “I’m more confident this year because we’re that much more experienced, and that much older.”
The Bobcats are without the No. 1 seed like last year, and graduated a big wing scorer in James Feldeine, but head coach Tom Moore said he feels no difference from last year’s team heading into the playoffs, and that it may in fact be better.
“This year’s team is playing better defense than last year’s team heading into the NEC Tournament,” Moore said. “We’ve won nine of our last 10 games and we’ve been holding teams to 39 percent shooting over those 10 games. But I feel the same [as last season] and I’m really proud of our guys.”
Looking ahead at the whole tournament, a win on Thursday could present an intriguing matchup for a Sunday semifinal at the Bank. If Quinnipiac and Robert Morris both win, a rematch of last year’s NEC Championship will take place.
Photo credit: Matt Eisenberg