Only one team (if that) can finish the season perfect so teams are obviously going to take a few losses along the way, but they sure came in a variety of tortuous fashions this week. There were last-second buzzer-beaters, faltering at the end against far more talented competition, silly mistakes and even the occasional missed free throw or two.
It wasn’t a banner week for the area. Still, all of these award winners are certainly deserving. The hardest selection was for Team of the Week, mostly because either teams played one game, lost, or both. I made the call to go with the team that went 2-1. It’s tough being a road warrior. At least NJIT has something to show for it.
Team of the Week: NJIT – As I said in the introduction, picking this season wasn’t easy. Columbia took Michigan State to the wire (and lost) and also blew a game against Manhattan. It would’ve been cruel irony to name them the team of the week without a win. LIU Brooklyn took Indiana to the final possession, but the Blackbirds also ultimately lost. The teams that won – St. John’s, Iona – only played one game. Thus we’re going with the Highlanders. Jim Engles’ team hasn’t played a home game yet, but they’re 2-2 after a week that included victories over Army (89-85) and New Hampshire (71-63). Those games were on a quick turnaround too. Different players are emerging in each game. Freshman guard Damon Lynn scored 27 points in the victory over Army, while sophomore forward Terrence Smith led NJIT with 19 points and five rebounds in the win over UNH. The America East tour continues with a game at Maine on Tuesday before finally returning home for their first game at the Fleischer Center a full 15 days after the season began.
Honorable Mentions: LIU Brooklyn, St. John’s, Iona
Player of the Week: Fuquan Edwin, Seton Hall – Edwin is the final Bobby Gonzalez recruit left on the Seton Hall roster. He stayed committed to the Pirates when Kevin Willard took over the program, and has evolved in his four seasons with the team. He entered as a precocious and aggressive on ball defender with a still developing offensive game and is now arguably the Big East’s top player, a wing whose scoring can carry the squad while, in spite of college basketball’s recent rule changes, still swiping a handful of possessions per game (Edwin recently told Brendan Prunty of the Newark Star-Ledger that he has worked on changing his defensive approach in 2013-14). We selected Edwin as the conference’s preseason player of the year, and despite the Hall’s loss to Mercer this weekend, Edwin scored 35 points while converting nearly 70% of his twos (and garnering five steals). Only four other players are using a higher percentage of their teams’ shots this season, and Edwin, so far, has been the most efficient (connecting on 52% of his twos and 42% from deep). — Matt Giles
Honorable Mentions: George Beamon, Manhattan (28 points, 6 rebounds and game-winner against Columbia, plus 34 points and 9 rebounds in loss to George Washington); Umar Shannon, Quinnipiac (12 points, 4 rebounds in loss at La Salle and 24 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists in win over Albany); D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s (25 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals in win over Wagner)
Freshman of the Week: Kasim Chandler, Quinnipiac – The 5’10” freshman from Newark, NJ has scored in double-digits in every game this season for the Bobcats. While he hasn’t found his stroke from the three-point line, Chandler has shown an ability to get to the free throw line. He scored 19 points against La Salle while going 9-10 from the line. He then scored 13 points and dished out five assists in the win over Albany. Chandler’s development will be a key for QU as they look for more consistency in the backcourt. He’s already proving to be a spark plug for the offense.
Honorable Mentions: Damon Lynn, NJIT (14 points against Albany, 27 against Army and 13 against New Hampshire); Jon Severe, Fordham (19 points against Syracuse, 16 points against Lehigh)