AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- It has been nearly a decade since a team has won the Northeast Conference regular season title in consecutive seasons.
That streak won't end this year as defending champion Quinnipiac is gone to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference along with third place finisher Monmouth. The Bobcats went unbeaten in conference play last season, going 30-3 overall.
With Quinnipiac gone, Robert Morris was picked to win the conference with five first place votes in the preseason coaches' poll that came out Tuesday.
"It's an honor and a sign of respect from the other coaches that we're picked first with the most players returning," Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia said. "It just means that we have a target on our back."
Except for Quinnipiac last season, no team picked first in the preseason poll has won the conference tournament title in the past eight years.
Robert Morris hopes to buck that trend led by all-conference preseason player Artemis Spanou. The 6-foot senior averaged 19.1 points and 15.6 rebounds last season.
Sacred Heart was second receiving three first place ballots. The Pioneers are led by new coach Jessica Mannetti after former coach Ed Swanson left for William and Mary in the offseason. He had the most conference wins in NEC history.
"I'm excited for the chance to take over a really good team," Mannetti said. "This conference is really competitive from top to bottom and honestly it's so close that you can pick out of a hat each game to see who's going to win."
Mount St. Mary's and Saint Francis, Pa. followed Sacred Heart, each receiving one first place vote.
Central Connecticut, St. Francis, N.Y., Bryant, LIU, Fairleigh Dickinson and Wagner rounded out the preseason poll.
The last team to win back-to-back titles was Saint Francis, Pa. which won four straight from 2001-05.
Spanou was joined on the all-conference team by Naana Ankoma-Mensa (Bryant), Sydney Henderson (Mount St. Mary's), Gabrielle Washington (Sacred Heart) and Alli Williams (Saint Francis, Pa.)
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