It's hard enough for Hofstra to succeed in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament every year when it has to travel to Richmond, where the five Virginia-based school in the league have a decided advantage. But it becomes next to impossible if the Pride fails to get a first-round bye that goes to the top four teams in the regular-season standings.
That's why it was absolutely critical for Hofstra to rally from 14 down to beat Northeastern, 78-75, Saturday at the Mack Sports Complex. The Huskies are a much better team than their record (8-16, 4-9 in CAA play) indicates, and they had won four straight, including a victory in their previous game over Virginia Commonwealth, whch is tied for the league lead with George Mason at 11-2.
The victory by Hofstra (15-9, 9-4) left it tied for third with Old Dominion, two games behind Mason and VCU, but two games ahead of James Madison (7-6). Drexel (7-5) is at Delaware (6-6) tonight with a chance to move into solo fifth a game behind Hofstra and ODU.
The Pride stopped a three-game losing streak with the win over the Huskies before it had a chance to grow larger in road games at Georgia State (5-8) on Wednesday and Delaware next Saturday.
"We needed it," said Jenkins, who scored 21 points to lead the Pride. "Coach stressed that we needed this game to get back into the mix because the standings are so tight. We want to be a part of the first four teams.
"If we get a bye, we can rest the first night [of the CAA tourney} and let the other teams beat each other up. Then, one win puts us in the semifinals, where we want to be."
Now, Hofstra has a chance for a strong regular-season finish. Although three of its remaining five CAA games are on the road only Delaware had a .500 record or better entering today's games, and the Blue Hens play the regular-season finale at Mack Sports Complex. If the Pride can pull an upset in the ESPN Bracketbuster game on Feb. 19 at Wright State of the Horizon League, which produced NCAA semifinalist Butler last season, that would enhance its NCAA credentials.
Still, you have to figure Hofstra has to at least reach the CAA finals to have a shot at an NCAA bid. The first-round bye is key to getting that far.