Flash can remain strong for the upcoming future

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EMMITSBURG, Md. — Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first: Rob Krimmel has done a fantastic job bringing Saint Francis basketball back to a level of prominence, and the program is in very good shape with a ton of young talent.

Saint Francis was picked to finish ninth in the Northeast Conference this season. Instead, the Red Flash tied for third and reached the tournament championship game.

That is a terrific season by any measure.

“I don’t know that I’ve been more proud of a group of guys and the way that they’ve grown up in a short period of time,” Krimmel said.

All five starters return next year, three as juniors, two as sophomores.

And Krimmel isn’t going anywhere, either. Athletic director Susan Robinson Fruchtl confirmed Tuesday that the coach has a multiyear contract and will be at SFU for a long time.

The future for the program is extremely bright, and the Flash will have a good chance to make the NCAA Tournament in the next few years.

That’s the feel-good news everyone wants to hear after a solid season that comes up just short of the big goal.

Now, here’s the less-feel-good part:

Getting to the NCAA Tournament is extremely difficult, and there’s a chance Tuesday’s game was as close as Saint Francis is going to get for a long time. Even with all the young talent and a good coach, there’s no guarantee this collection of Flash players will be able to navigate the treacherous waters to get back to another NEC title game, let alone win it.

Which is why what happened in Tuesday’s 71-61 loss to Mount St. Mary’s is disappointing, even if it was part of an impressive late-season run.

The Flash led by eight at the half. They were playing great. They were 20 minutes away.

Then it disappeared in — pun intended — a Flash, as the Mount took total control of the game in the opening minutes of the second half.

It’s gotta be a tough pill to swallow, seeing all that hard work slip away so quickly.

What probably makes it easier is coming to grips with the fact that Mount is just the better team. The Flash know that after losing all three matchups this season, two of which they were held in check offensively (62 and 61 points).

Mount not only won the NEC regular-season and tournament titles, it also has all five starters back next season. The Mountaineers once again will be a major obstacle to SFU’s hopes of an NCAA berth, and so will Fairleigh Dickinson, Robert Morris and others.

Small leagues such as the NEC offer a golden nugget as they allow the higher seeds to host playoff games. Saint Francis was able to get one home game this year, and it’s imperative in the coming years that the Flash do even better during the regular season so they can get more home games.

Saint Francis is 1-14 all-time at Mount’s Knott Arena. The Flash don’t want to be going back there in the NEC Tournament any time soon.

Robert Morris is building a tremendous new arena, and it’s always going to be tough to win there.

Nothing in life that’s worth anything comes easily, and there will never be an easy path to the NCAA Tournament for Saint Francis.

Again, that’s what makes having a sizable halftime lead in the championship game and not being able to close the deal such a bummer.

But hey, the Flash are going to be a good basketball team for at least the next few years. They will compete at a very high level in the NEC. They will win a lot of games.

Whether they make the NCAA Tournament will depend on a whole bunch of things going their way.

Still, after that 3-pointer went in at the buzzer to beat Wagner, it certainly felt like maybe, just maybe fate was going to smile on Saint Francis this year.

Cory Giger is the host of “Sports Central” weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM.

Still tourney bound?

There’s a good chance Saint Francis’ season isn’t over as the Red Flash could be invited to play in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT), or maybe even an outside chance they get into the more prestigious College Basketball Invitational (CBI). Saint Francis hosted a CIT game two years ago against Bowling Green.

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