St. Francis PA will be the cream of the crop in the NEC this season.  The Red Flash return senior guard Keith Braxton who is the reigning NEC Player of the Year.  Braxton will be joined by Randall Gaskins, Jr. and Isaiah Blackmon in the starting lineup.  Scott Meredith returns from injury and will provide added scoring.  The Red Flash hope to take care of unfinished business this season.  Fairleigh Dickinson returns three double figure scorers in Jahlil Jenkins, Xzavier Malone-Key, and Kaleb Bishop.  The Knights upended the Red Flash in the NEC Conference Tournament Final last March and will hope to repeat as Conference Champions in 2020.  Head Coach Greg Herenda always gets the best out of his players every season.  Sacred Heart is gaining ground on the frontrunners in the NEC and will continue to do so this season.  The Pioneers welcome back NEC Most Improved Player of the Year E.J. Anosike, Koreem Ozier, and Cameron Parker.  Senior forward Jare’l Spellman is back as well and hopes to repeat as NEC Defensive Player of the Year again.  Watch out for the Pioneers this year – they are a dark horse in the NEC.  Long Island returns four starters and has a new nickname – the Sharks.  The Sharks also return senior Raiquan Clark who was a 1st Team ALL-NEC Player in 2018-19 along with Massachusetts transfer Ty Flowers.  The Sharks may have been a step behind the rest of the league last season but that could change this season with their returning starters and a pair of Detroit Mercy transfers in sophomores Jermaine Jackson and Jack Ballantyne.  Robert Morris opens it new arena – the UPMC Events Center – on Tuesday 11/12 against Pittsburgh.  The Colonials bring back two of their top three scorers in Josh Williams and Charles Bain.  A pair of junior-college transfers in DJ Russell and AJ Bramah will help the Colonials reign in their new building as well.  Hopefully the UPMC Events Center is a tough place to play for all of the Colonials’ opponents for years to come.

St. Francis Brooklyn returns three starters including guard Rosel Hurley and forward Deniz Celen.  Sixth man Chauncey Hawkins is back as well for the Terriers who also add UMass graduate transfer Unique McLean.  These players should help the Terriers stay competitive in the NEC and in the middle of the pack in the Conference Standings by season’s end.  Wagner Head Coach Bashir Mason hopes to get the Seahawks back on track this season after finishing in 7th place last season.  The Seahawks hope Nigel Jackson and Chase Freeman can blend with newcomers Curtis Cobb III, Alex Morales, and Will Martinez.  Unfortunately Wagner’s best scenario may be finishing 5th or 6th in the NEC this season.  Mount St. Mary’s returns their top four players from last year’s team.  The Mountaineers hope the trial by fire last season will help them against the upper echelon teams in the NEC this season.  Guards Vado Morse and Jalen Gibbs will lead the attack and will be aided in the frontcourt by Omar Habwe and Malik Jefferson.  Bryant Head Coach Jared Grasso’s team improved significantly last season as the Bulldogs won seven more games than they did in 2017-18.  Guard Adam Grant and forward SaBastian Townes will lead the Bulldogs attack this season as they hope to return to the upper half of the NEC Conference Standings.  Central Connecticut State will look to build around senior Jamir Coleman and sophomore Ian Krishnan this season. The Blue Devils will need several newcomers such as freshmen Myles Baker and Greg Outlaw to step up if they expect to avoid the NEC cellar this season. Merrimack joins the NEC Conference this season and returns four starters from last year’s team. The Warriors will be led by Juvaris Hayes, Jaleel Lord, and Idris Joyner. Merrimack will have a tough transition to Division 1 this season and may only win 2 or 3 Conference games. Better days are ahead for Merrimack Men’s Basketball.

Be on the lookout for my College Sports Radio Show that will launch in the next several months along with a daily/weekly blog on College Basketball, College Lacrosse, College Football, and US Soccer. Please follow me on Twitter as well – @SteveHiegel – Thanks.

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