By Paul Seaver (TheArenaPulse)
This is the fourth installment of The Arena Pulse’s New England Rankings, a power ranking that will be on-going throughout the season.
Conference play is underway and many of the program from the New England region are members of smaller leagues that play for that one shot at the NCAA Tournament. With that being said, larger programs such as UConn, Boston College, and Providence look to continue their impressive starts against much stiffer competition. How will they compete in the power conferences?
As the month of January kicks off, let’s take a look at the current New England Power Rankings (1/6):
No. 1- UConn (11-2):
After a great run in non-conference play, the Huskies have emerged as an elite team in the nation. However, a 1-2 start in the Big East has proven just how difficult the conference will be. The Huskies will look to revamp on the road at Texas as part of their final non-conference game.
No. 2- Boston College (11-4):
After a 10-2 start, the Eagles have now lost two of their last three games, both of which have come against New England area teams (URI and Harvard). At 1-0 in the ACC, BC will now focus solely on its conference schedule, starting with Georgia Tech and North Carolina State in the coming week.
No. 3- Harvard (10-3): Despite defeating Boston College for the third straight season, Harvard remains behind the Eagles due to their lack of quality victories. However, at 10-3 the Crimson now can look ahead to Ivy League play, a conference in which each game has significant importance. Harvard is considered the favorite heading into league play.
No. 4- Providence (11-5): They did a great job rolling through their non-conference schedule, but question marks over whether or not they’d even be able to compete in the Big East. Three straight conference losses have dipped their mark to 11-5 overall. PC now prepares for a three-game road trip and will not return home again until 1/22.
No. 5- Vermont (11-3): The Catamounts are the only team above .500 in the America East. At 10-3 overall, each of their losses have been to solid teams (UConn, BYU, Fairfield). Now Vermont can look to do damage in conference play as the favorite in the league looks to dance, yet again.
No. 6- URI (9-5):
The Rams are a dangerous team and at points during this season they have proved just that. They will have to make a run in a tough Atlantic-10 Conference to have any shot at the NCAAs. However, inconsistencies have hurt URI thus far, and their best victories have come over the College of Charleston and BC. There is work to do.
No. 7- Fairfield (10-3):
A December 28th trip to Gainesville was cancelled and seemingly enough has allowed Fairfield to extend their current winning streak to nine games. The Stags are already 3-0 in the MAAC and have to be considered the favorites in the conference. They are red-hot and that’s bad news for the rest of the league.
No. 8- Quinnipiac (10-3): QU had their five game winning streak snapped by Wagner on January 3rd and now they will have to look to bounce back with back-to-back conference road games. They won the conference regular season title a season ago, but missed the NCAAs, you already know what is on their minds this season.
No. 9- UMass (8-5):
Believe it or not, UMass started the season at 7-0. Simple math will show the Minutemen are now just 1-5 in their past six games. A recent 29-point loss to Central Connecticut State does not help, but head coach Derek Kellogg and company need to right their ship or it could be a long couple of months in A-10 play.
No. 10- Central Connecticut State (9-5):
The Blue Devils have won five games in a row and are 7-0 at home on the season. Three of their last four victories have come over New England area teams and all have been by double-digits. Can CCSU turn their current momentum into a run in the conference?
No. 11- Maine (7-7):
Maine had won five of their past six games before a tough 2-point loss at the hands of Hartford on Wednesday night. Vermont may be a runaway favorite to win the conference and the Black Bears will need a serious run to threaten them in league play.
No. 12- Boston Univ. (6-10):
They have a lot of losses and some of them have been bad, but the Terriers have tested themselves in the non-conference schedule. A win over UNH knotted them up at 1-1 in America East play and they will get a real test when Vermont comes to the city on Sunday evening.
No. 13- Yale (6-7):
The Bulldogs halted their three game losing streak in a one-point, overtime victory over Holy Cross. Five of their seven losses have been under double-digits with the only two over that mark coming against Illinois and Stanford. Ivy League play starts on the 15th with a trip to Brown.
No. 14- Northeastern (4-10):
The Huskies started the season at 2-0 and since then they have just been bad. Visits from Hofstra and George Mason will give NEU two opportunities to snag their first conference victory of the season. So far, they are 0 for 3.
No. 15- Sacred Heart (6-8):
Sacred Heart started the season at 1-7 and things certainly didn’t look great. However, they have won five of their last six games with the lone loss coming to Providence. SHU might be hitting their stride at the right time, and after picking up their first conference victory on Wednesday, they certainly look improved.
No. 16- New Hampshire (6-8):
UNH is heading in the opposite direction of Sacred Heart. They started strong, but the Wildcats have really struggled in the past month or so. UNH is 1-6 in their last seven games with their lone victory coming over Cornell. They are the only 0-2 team in America East play so far.
No. 17- Brown (5-7):
Brown has dropped four of its last five games overall, but the focus is solely on conference play at this point. The Bears might not be able to threaten Harvard or Princeton at the top of the conference, but they may certainly be able to move up.
No. 18- Dartmouth (4-9):
Similar to their conference rival Brown, Dartmouth has also dropped four of its last five games. They begin conference play with Harvard twice (Colgate, in-between) and that isn’t the best of news. It’s tough for a team to grind out victories when their leading scorer is averaging just 9.0 points per game.
No. 19- Hartford (4-10):
A nice win over Maine helped double their season win total in the past week. Back-to-back wins are certainly a confidence booster for a team who has struggled throughout the first two months of the season. The Hawks will shoot for a 2-0 start in the America East when they host Albany on Sunday.
No. 20- Bryant (2-13):
It is official. Bryant has surpassed their win total from a season ago, although only one of their two victories came against a Division I opponent (Iona). Regardless, freshman Alex Francis is the team’s leading scorer and the future may be brighter for this young Bryant squad.
No. 21- Holy Cross (1-13):
They beat Marist, but that was back on December 19th. Five of Holy Cross’ 13 losses have come by three points or less, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are 1-13 on the season. Either way they may still be able to find improvement in conference play.
*Photo: Derek Needham
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