If you haven’t looked at the NEC standings yet this year, I wouldn’t blame you. No one has played a conference game yet, and the non-conference schedule doesn’t figure in to a lot of the important stuff when we get to the end of the year. What reason do we have to look?
But if you did look, you might be surprised to find that the leader of the conference right now, and its only undefeated team, is Sacred Heart.
The Pioneers, picked to finish last in the NEC’s preseason coach’s poll, have found their way to three wins and the top of the NEC. Wagner, picked to finish first, is currently fifth with a loss to a Division II school on their resume. This is some pretty unexpected stuff and is great news for fans of Sacred Heart.
It also doesn’t mean a whole lot. Why? Because this is all going to change when conference play picks up very shortly.
There are a few reasons for Sacred Heart’s position, not the least of which is the lack of quality opponents. The three wins are Marist, Lafayette, and Lincoln. Marist is 1-2, and their win came against a fairly mediocre Georgetown team. Lafayette is a middling-to-bad Patriot league team expected to finish towards the bottom of the conference. Lincoln competes in Division II. They’ll likely be 4-0 after this weekend’s matchup with visiting Chowan, another Division II school. This isn’t a tough road to hoe, and it won’t be long before the Pioneers find themselves slipping in the standings.
Conversely, look at Wagner. Expected to lead the league as per the NEC coach’s poll, they currently sit towards the bottom with a 1-2 record. Obviously the loss to Merrimack is a huge factor here, but the other loss was to Division I Syracuse, a game that could be put in the loss column as soon as it was put on the schedule. The Merrimack loss was nearly not so – it was a touchdown with 30 seconds left that won it. One could argue that the Seahawks never should have been in such a position to begin with, but nonetheless the game was close to being a win even if it exposed flaws in the Wagner defense.
None of this matters at all, because once October 5th rolls around, it is conference wins and losses that will determine the standings and, ultimately, the NEC Champ. Tune-ups against Chowan and reach games like Syracuse will simply not matter.
In those terms, everyone is currently tied for first place.