Let the madness begin.
Wednesday marks the beginning of the playoffs for Quinnipiac basketball as the men travel to Brooklyn to face LIU Brookyln in the Northeast Conference quarterfinals.
The Bobcats are looking to earn their first ever NEC championship before their move to the MAAC in 2013-14, while first round opponent LIU Brooklyn is looking to go for a three-peat.
Coming off a hot February in which the team won seven-of-eight games the Bobcats lost to LIU Brooklyn on March 2, 96-90, in their last game of the regular season.
Ike Azotam will be the key for the Bobcats against LIU Brooklyn. Having surpassed the 1000 point mark earlier this year, the junior is the anchor of consistency for Quinnipiac. Averaging 13.6 points, a 50 percent field goal percentage, and 8.1 rebounds, Azotam will need to bring all his skills and more.
Ousmane Drame compliments the Bobcats off the bench, averaging 9.2 points per game and is shooting 52.7 percent from the floor on the season. Zaid Hearst is second on the team in scoring with 10.9 points per game, while Dave Johnson leads Quinnipiac in assists with 4.1 and three-point percentage at 38.1 percent.
Jamal Olasewere will be the Blackbird on the Bobcats’ radar. Averaging 19.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, Olasewere leads LIU Brooklyn, but his crutch is the 3.3 turnovers he commits each game. Trying to force the ball out of his hands will be a safe bet for Quinnipiac, and Azotam on Olasewere will be a key matchup to watch.
Last season, the Bobcats lost to the Blackbirds in the semifinal round of the NEC Tournament, 78-75, after beating St. Francis (N.Y.) 80-72 in the first round. Ike Azotam and James Johnson both led the way in scoring with 17 points, while Julian Boyd of LIU Brooklyn dropped 21 points in their winning effort. Production came at the free throw line, as the victors went 22-of-30 while Quinnipiac only shot 10 with five makes.
Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m., and the advancing team will play in the semifinals on March 9 at either noon or 2:30 p.m. The winner of the NEC Tournament will earn themselves a bid to participate in the madness of the NCAA Tournament.
With the most impressive season in team history, the Bobcats carry a perfect 18-0 conference record and a 19-game win streak into the NEC Tournament. The quarterfinals will be hosted at the TD Bank Sports Center on Sunday March 10 as No. 1 seed Quinnipiac takes on No. 8 Bryant at 2 p.m.. A tournament victory would earn them a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulldogs defeated Robert Morris 61-56 in OT to clinch a seed in the tournament on Monday March 4. The Bobcats swept the season series against Bryant (12-17, 8-10 NEC) with a combined 36-point advantage.
Quinnipiac defeated St. Francis (N.Y.) 73-54 Monday night in Brooklyn Heights. Camryn Warner and Jasmine Martin led the way in scoring with 14 and 12 points, respectively. Gillian Abshire also chipped in with seven assists.
Senior guard Felicia Barron will have to continue leading the team as she has done all season in order to have tournament success. Averaging 14.0 points, while shooting 40.7 percent from the field to go along with 3.6 times per game, her defense will lead to points on the other end.
Other names to watch are Jasmine Martin and Brittany McQuain. Martin is second on the team in scoring averaging 13.1 points per game. McQuain is third with 11.6 points per game, and leads the team with 8.2 rebounds per game.
Last season in the NEC Tournament, Quinnipiac knocked out Mount St. Mary’s in the quarterfinals, 65-61. In the semifinal round they were edged out by Monmouth by a narrow margin, 69-66. Despite the loss, the team got an invitation to the WNIT but were knocked off by Temple, 75-60.
Akin to the men’s basketball team, the Bobcats have never won the NEC Tournament. No. 4 Saint Francis (Pa.), leads the way in tournament titles having won 11 times since 1986. This season Quinnipiac has won both bouts against the Red Flash, outscoring Saint Francis by a total of 27 points.
After completing a spotless conference record for just the fourth time in the history of the NEC, the team will look to stay on this unbeaten streak and propel Quinnipiac to its first NEC Tournament championship in program history as well as a trip to the NCAA Tournament.