Can undefeated C.W. Post run the table? That's the central question heading into Wednesday night's East Coast Conference basketball tournament.
It is an eight-team tournament, but aside from Post's streak, the focus will be on the longest -- and rapidly fading -- college basketball rivalry on Long Island. Most observers expect Post (24-0) and Adelphi to meet in the final. If it is indeed last call, it could be a classic end to a 50-year battle.
Adelphi will leave the ECC next season for the Northeast 10. It will still play Post and other locals in non-conference, but the stakes will not be the same. Adelphi holds a 41-36 advantage in the all-time series but Post has won both games this season.
"What a way to go out, for everything," Adelphi senior Alvin Vivican said. "We're looking to go out with a bang. We're looking to get this done."
Third-seeded Adelphi (19-8) needs to win the ECC to make the NCAA Division II Tournament, while No. 1 seed Post, with two-time conference player of the year Jonathan Schmidt (19.3 ppg), is already assured of a berth. But the nation's second- ranked team only plays at one speed: Full throttle. "It is the end of our season but it is the most important part of our season," senior Kevin Spann said. "We put the undefeated record behind us. It was a nice accomplishment. We have out sights set on something bigger. The conference [title], then the [NCAA] regional and then the national championship."
That path should lead directly through Adelphi, which hosts the semifinal and championship round.
"Of course it is a great rivalry," Spann said. "They are the most competitive team in the league. We beat them by six both times. That is what players play for, the chance to play the best team possible. But we can't look beyond [Wednesday] and Saturday thinking about Sunday, we have to actually make it there."
Post hosts Molloy this evening. Despite losing twice by an average of 34 points, Molloy coach Charles Marquardt said there is no intimidation factor.
"Obviously we're met with some odds here," he said. "But, hey, there is no pressure on us. No one expects us to do anything, nor should they after the way we played them so far. They are the ones with the perfect record and they are probably feeling [pressure] more than us."
Of course, none of the tournament teams believe Post is the ordained winner. Second-seeded Bridgeport (20-7) is a formidable team and is led by forward Teairez Stennis (19.0 ppg), the conference's second-leading scorer. Bridgeport split the two regular-season games with Adelphi. NYIT, who has guard Bryant Lassiter (17.4), has a history of pulling upsets in this tournament.
But Adelphi, which is 10-2 at home, has all the motivation it needs to make Sunday's finale. Twice frustrated by narrow losses, Adelphi is eager for a third meeting.
"We should be frustrated, we feel we are right there with them," Adelphi coach James Cosgrove said. "They know it and we know it, its close. We're excited for the chance to have that opportunity again."