When coaches from the East Coast Conference convened at C.W. Post for their postseason meeting on Sunday, the consensus was that this year's women's basketball tournament, and the NCAA Division II playoff bid that goes to the winner, is up for grabs.
Queens College is the top seed, but during the year it twice lost to second-seeded Dowling. Dowling split its two regular-season games with third-ranked Molloy, and also lost to No. 4 Bridgeport, No. 6 Adelphi and NYIT, which didn't even qualify for the eight-team postseason.
"The consensus is not just among the coaches, but also four-year players that the league has never been stronger from top to bottom," Dowling coach Joe Pellicane said. "When you look at Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 as the quote-unquote favorites-- if they don't play well, they won't be in the semis."
The ECC tournament begins Wednesday night with the quarterfinals, which are hosted by the higher seeds. Semifinals are Saturday at noon and 2:30 p.m., at Adelphi's Center for Recreation and Sports and the championship also will be played there at noon Sunday.
Queens (21-6), after starting the season 1-4, won 20 of its final 22 regular-season games. It has tremendous frontcourt size and its defense held opponents to an average of 61 points (second in ECC) and 32.5-percent shooting from the field (first). Offensively, sophomore guard Amanda Bartlett leads the league in scoring (18.1 ppg).
The second-leading ECC scorer plays for Molloy, where junior forward Kymira Woodbury is the key for the Lions.
"She touches the ball in every possession," Molloy coach Tim O'Hagan said. The 5-9 Woodbury led the team in points (17.9) and rebounds (12.2) as the Lions won a school-record 20 games to go with six losses.
Dowling (20-7) is led by senior Molly Tubridy (17.1 ppg) and the Golden Lions feature three other players --- Christie Marrone (14.0), who previously played at Maryland, Shanasia Franklin (11.6) and Simona Bartkova (11.2) -- who average double digits. They are the league's best three-point shooting team.
"They're the most dangerous team in the Northeast," O'Hagan said of Dowling. "But this tournament is up in the air. I wouldn't be surprised if an eight beat a one, seven beat a two, or six beat a three. It's all about the matchups."