NEC trends to watch

With NEC rivalry week kicking into high gear there are a number of teams moving in different directions. LIU Brooklyn got a key win last night over St. Francis (NY) and it was pretty typical for the Blackbirds. They played decent enough defense that their excellent offense was able to control the game. But there are a lot of NEC teams moving in different directions. Let’s take a look at trends for Quinnipiac, Central Connecticut and Robert Morris and see the good and the bad.

First let’s take a look at a good trend. Quinnipiac is becoming a team that no one wants to play down the stretch. The Bobcats have won five of their last six games with the lone loss being a one-point affair at home to Wagner. The defense has improved steadily during the season. Here’s a chart looking at Quinnipiac’s per possession defensive efficiency in conference play.

That’s some impressive movement in the right direction. As you can see there’s a steep negative trend line associated with the graph. Tom Moore has gotten his team to consistently buy into a defensive philosophy that is helping Quinnipiac become a dark-horse contender in the conference race. The defense is now ranked third in the conference overall on a per possession basis, just behind Central Connecticut.

Speaking of the Blue Devils, the defense might be okay, but the offense is struggling. As we saw last night in Quinnipiac’s 72-44 win, CCSU just can’t figure out what to do on the offensive end right now. Both coaches spoke about how their teams seem to be moving in opposite directions afterwards and that certainly seems to be the case. Here’s CCSU’s offensive efficiency from the beginning of NEC play to now.

Note: The trend here is still relatively flat, but there are some danger signs. Each time CCSU has encountered a prolonged offensive slump someone has come to rescue them. That’s why I’m not so worried about them. The thing is, the offense has to perform for the Blue Devils to stay in contention in conference play. Last night’s ugly 0.68 points per possession (that blue dot at the end), was the bottom of the barrel, but not the first time this team has failed to perform during conference play. CCSU is the only NEC contender whose per possession offense is below a point per possession.

Finally there’s Robert Morris. It’s the defensive end of the floor where the Colonials have been struggling lately. Check out the chart below of their points allowed per possession in NEC play.

There’s a dramatic upward trend here and that’s not a good sign. Since beating LIU the Colonials have gotten into shootouts in each of their past four games. It’s not a good way to play basketball and it has already cost them two games against Wagner and St. Francis (NY) and it almost a third on the road at St. Francis (PA) last night, a game in which RMU survived 78-74. At the beginning of the season RMU would have defensive lapses for a few moments and then settle down. That problem is becoming more pronounced. It’s not as bad as that loss to Quinnipiac earlier in the season (that really tall dot), but the trend is definitely in the wrong direction.

Keep an eye out on these three trends. These three teams are the top three contenders for the NEC title outside of the New York area and it should be interesting to see if they continue and how they shape the conference race moving forward.

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