MARSHFIELD, Mass. – The Southern Vermont College men's basketball team has earned its sixth-straight berth to the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) championship tournament with the league announcing on Saturday that the Mountaineers seized the No. 5 seed for the 2019 postseason.
SVC went 10-6 in league action and 16-8 overall in the 2018-19 campaign. The Mountaineers will head to fourth-seeded Mitchell College (16-9, 10-6 NECC) Tuesday night for an 8 p.m. first-round tip-off. The Mariners won the tiebreaker and the right to host over Southern Vermont by sweeping their regular season series with SVC.
Mountaineer head coach Brian J. Johnson is bringing his squad to the tournament in just his first year at the helm of the program.
"It feels amazing," Johnson said about getting Southern Vermont back into the playoffs. "I know that these guys put in a lot of effort from preseason—back in October—until now. We have found a way to come together through our highs and lows during the season, and we continue to keep pushing to get better. There is a tradition of success within the program, and we are happy to keep that winning spirit alive."
Johnson is confident about his group and its current mindset following the end of the regular season.
"We feel great about the postseason," Johnson said. "I tell you what: I wouldn't want to play us as a number five seed. We are going into the postseason humble and appreciative—but also motivated to finish as back-to-back Conference champions. First and foremost, we are focused about our first-round game on Tuesday."
With a win in the opening round, SVC would then head to top-seeded New England College on Thursday for a semifinal showdown. The Pilgrims enter the playoffs with a 22-3 overall record—taking the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye with a 15-1 mark in league action; their only NECC loss was against Southern Vermont—a team that went to overtime in each of its regular season games against NEC. The Mountaineers won 76-73 at home on January 12 before falling 86-79 in a February 6 road contest.
SVC brings an experienced crew to the postseason—having six seniors and a junior who have gone through the rigors of winning a title.
"The conference tournament is all about having winners, and these seniors know what it takes to win conference championships," Johnson said. "There is no secret to our success; our seniors have to step up and have to get our younger guys to play at that same level."
Johnson didn't point to one aspect of his team's style as being the Mountaineers' focus for the playoffs—but instead said that it will require a well-rounded effort from his group to repeat.
"We will have to grind it out on the offensive and defensive ends," Johnson commented. "Our focus for conference championship week is being mentality and physically tough. We need to play for one another; because, if we don't—at the end of the 40 minutes—we are collecting the uniforms for good. I have faith that these guys have the determination and fight to pull out another championship. I also want to encourage every Mountaineer fan to come support our men's basketball team as we enter postseason play."
A win at NEC on Thursday would give Southern Vermont its ticket to the championship game on Saturday; that title tilt will be hosted by the highest remaining seed.
Eastern Nazarene College took the other first-round bye along with the No. 2 seed; the Lions were 14-11 overall and 11-5 in Conference play. Dean College was also 11-5 against the NECC (17-8 overall), but a tiebreaker gave ENC the edge as the Lions defeated Mitchell twice while the Bulldogs split their series with MC.
Eastern Nazarene will host the other Thursday semifinal against Tuesday's winner of sixth-seeded Newbury College (10-14, 6-10 NECC) at No. 3 Dean.
2019 NECC Men's Basketball Championship
First Round - Tuesday, February 19
Game 1: #6 Newbury at #3 Dean - 7 p.m.
Game 2: #5 Southern Vermont at #4 Mitchell - 8 p.m.
Semifinals - Thursday, February 21
Game 3: Game 1 Winner at #2 Eastern Nazarene - TBA
Game 4: Game 2 Winner at #1 New England Col. - TBA
Championship - Saturday, February 23
Game 5: Semifinal winners at the highest remaining seed - TBA
– #LetsGoSVC –