After our most glowing NEC recap last Monday, this version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly isn’t all peaches and cream. Overall though, the conference had another solid week with the two biggest contenders in LIU Brooklyn and Robert Morris continuing their winning streak and a little known junior college transfer entering the spotlight.
- A Performance to Tell the Grandkids About – Later this week when I post my biggest individual surprises of the young season, I thought I would be all slick when I highlighted the play of Central Connecticut junior college transfer Matthew Hunter. With all of the attention going to teammate Kyle Vinales, and rightfully so, Hunter’s performance in the young season has been quietly productive. That is until Hunter had a historic performance on the road versus Big Ten power Indiana. Hunter’s 40 points (on only 25 shots) tied a record for the most points scored by an opponent in Assembly Hall. In the early going, Hunter has been the fourth most efficient player in the NEC, so if conference opponents weren’t paying attention to the energetic, highly skilled slasher, they sure are now. Vinales and Hunter are turning into a phenomenal one-two punch that will terrorize NEC opponents this winter.
- More Like a 15 Seed – After an uneven start to the season, the Robert Morris Colonials are slowing morphing back into the Colonials of old, playing inspired defense and aggressively driving to the rim on offense. In their three game winning streak, Andy Toole’s group has outscored their opponents by an average of 11 points at the charity stripe, while forcing 47 turnovers. Lucky Jones has quietly been the most efficient player for Robert Morris, averaging 10.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Karvel Anderson has provided instant offense off the bench, as he’s shooting a fantastic 16 of 23 from behind the arc during the winning streak. Despite the recent success, Toole is still searching for a consistent effort for all 40 minutes, yet the upside of this Colonial group is quite intriguing.
- What Home Court Advantage? – This past Saturday marks another confounding home loss by the Quinnipiac Bobcats, who now have lost three times to non-conference opponents in the friendly confines of TD Bank Sports Center. The latest defeat to America East contender Vermont was the latest example of Quinnipiac’s inefficiencies on the offensive side of the ball. Tom Moore had hoped his team would execute better in the half court and push the ball a little more in transition, but so far neither plan has actually come to fruition yet. Poor free throw shooting continues to plague the Bobcats, with Quinnipiac missing nearly half of their 20 attempts versus Vermont. It’s an issue that may have little chance to resolve itself, so Moore will have to find creative ways to overcome this glaring deficiency.
- Attacking the Rim – It has been a difficult start to the season for Glenn Braica, who finds his on the wrong end of these non-conference battles in year number three. The Terriers winless week now has them with a surprising record of 2-5. A quick glance at the statistics doesn’t illustrate any outragous trends, with the exception of one facet. St. Francis Brooklyn is doing a lousy job of getting to the charity stripe (bottom 20 nationally in free throw attempts per field goal attempts) and making them once at the line (59.6%). All other things equal, if you’re consisently getting outscored at the line most nights, it will usually be an uphill battle to make up the difference in points elsewhere. The Terriers need to be more aggressive getting into the lane.
- Not Fit for a King – One of the things that makes King Rice good for Monmouth and the NEC is his competitive drive, although it was that same fire that got Rice in trouble with his athletic director. After a tough upset loss to Navy at home, Rice went off on the officials after he was ejected from the game for acquiring two technical fouls. The post-game tirade earned Rice a one game suspension and left him in the locker room for the Hawks’ showdown with Syracuse. Obviously, Rice’s presence wouldn’t have determined the outcome of the game, but Rice needs to exercise caution before ripping NCAA officials after a difficult loss. I’m sure the second year head coach has learned his lesson.
- Where’s the Defense? – It was yet another winless week for the Sacred Heart Pioneers, as they dropped two contests to middling teams of the Patriot League. Sacred Heart had their opportunities to win both, but only before they had made exhaustive comebacks in each game. The biggest culprit is the defense, which has allowed 1.12 points per possession this season, good for third worst in the NEC. If the Pioneers are going to overcome the crippling injuries to the backcourt, then they’ll need defensive stops eventually. In crunch time versus Lafayette, the defense never stepped up. In fact, the Pioneers gave up 17 Lafayette points in their final 12 possessions, good for a 1.42 PPP. That will simply not get it done.