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Kind of like in presidential races, the early polls in Northeast Conference men’s basketball rarely predict the winner.

In fact, in the last 10 years, the coaches have correctly picked the eventual league champion only twice, and not since they chose Mount St. Mary’s in 1998-99.

So, it’s just fine with Robert Morris coach Mark Schmidt that his Colonials were ranked third in the NEC preseason coaches’ poll released Wednesday. It’s their highest preseason ranking since he took over the program in 2001.

And besides, last year’s third-ranked team, Monmouth, went on to win the championship.

“It’s a credit to our players,” said Schmidt, who signed a three-year extension less than a week ago. “I think we’ve gained the respect of the league. We want to be No. 1, but we’re getting better. We’re improving, and that’s what you want to do as a program. You want your league to respect you.”

Defending champion Monmouth weighed in at No. 1, receiving eight of a possible 10 first-place votes from NEC coaches, who were not allowed to vote for their own team. Farleigh Dickinson came in second, and following Robert Morris was another area school, St. Francis (Pa.) at fourth.

Both the Colonials and the Red Flash had a player named to the preseason all-conference team. Schenley graduate Chaz McCrommon, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound senior guard, was selected from the Colonials after finishing in the top 10 in the conference in scoring (fourth, 17.6 ppg), field goal percentage (10th, .520) and 3-point percentage (8th, .397).

Junior guard Darshan Luckey of St. Francis was a unanimous selection along with Monmouth senior forward Blake Hamilton.

The Colonials finished last season 14-15 overall and tied for fourth with a 10-8 league record. They advanced to the semifinals of the NEC Tournament before losing to Monmouth, and they return three starters from that team — McCrommon, senior guard Maurice Carter and sophomore guard Derek Coleman.

“I think that we left off on a high note last year, even though we lost in the semifinals,” Schmidt said. “We reached one goal, which was to get to the Northeast Conference Tournament. We wanted to get to the upper echelon of the league, and when you get into the top four, you’re in the upper echelon.”

The Colonials open their season Nov. 15 against Morgan State in Columbus.

Northeast Conference men’s basketball


Preseason coaches’ poll

  • 1. Monmouth
  • 2. Fairleigh Dickinson
  • 3. Robert Morris
  • 4. St. Franics, Pa.
  • 5. Central Connecticut State
  • 6. Mount St. Mary’s
  • 7. St. Francis, N.Y.
  • 8. Quinnipiac
  • 9. Wagner
  • 10. Sacred Heart
  • 11. Long Island

All-NEC team


  • Blake Hamilton, Monmouth, F
  • Gordon Klaiber, Fairleigh Dickinson, F
  • Darshan Luckey, St. Francis, Pa., G
  • Chaz McCrommon, Robert Morris, G
  • Landy Thompson, Mount St. Mary’s, G

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