With one week in the books for the season, we’re beginning a weekly feature here at Big Apple Buckets that breaks down the NEC several different ways. Let’s begin with our stock watch!
Stock Up: Malik Harmon, Saint Francis University – For a veteran Saint Francis University roster that returns virtually all of their scoring and rebounding, the key to their success could lie in the 5’11” sophomore. That much was evident on Monday night when Harmon (20 points) nearly willed his team to victory versus the defending Patriot League champions in American. Harmon’s newfound strength and instinctive ability to create off the bounce and attack the rim is the most important ingredient for SFU’s offense. Without Harmon, the Red Flash would once again be stuck in perpetual mediocrity; with him, Rob Krimmel’s group has a chance for NEC contention. Luckily for Krimmel, the leaner Harmon has the look of a point guard that will significantly improve as a sophomore.
Stock Down: Central Connecticut – Oh the Blue Devils. Every year we believe their talent and Howie Dickenman’s pedigree will eventually guide Central Connecticut out of a stubborn underachieving funk, but we are left waiting for one reason or another. Any chance for positive start this season was halted the day Kyle Vinales was arrested, and now the Blue Devils’ depth appears dangerously thin in his absence. In a blowout loss to Maryland, senior walk-on Greg Andrade had to play 27 minutes after Malcolm McMillan found himself in early foul trouble. Also troubling: In CCSU’s season opener versus Fairfield, Dickenman played all five of his starters 30+ minutes with two guards – McMillan and Mobley – never getting a blow at all. If Vinales doesn’t return and Dickenman can only trust 6 to 7 guys in his rotation, the Blue Devils will likely break down late in the season like they did during the 2012-13 season. But at least they have something going for them…
Stock Up: Matt Mobley, Central Connecticut – In the absence of the NEC’s active leading scorer in Vinales, the under recruited sophomore guard has stepped in to fill the scoring void admirably. Through two games, Mobley has a wonderful shooting percentages line of 57% 2PT/41% 3PT/93% FT while controlling 30.6% of the team’s possessions while on the floor. The Blue Devils have plenty of issues as a team, but Mobley surely isn’t one of them. If Vinales can find his way back sometime in January, Central Connecticut will have (in my opinion) the best collection of backcourt pieces in the conference.
Stock Up: Fairleigh Dickinson – At this point in Greg Herenda’s young Division I head coaching career, no respectable upper tier college basketball program should want to schedule the feisty Knights as one of their guarantee games. Improbably in just over one season, Herenda’s group has now defeated Seton Hall, Rutgers, and St. Joseph’s in surprising, albeit ugly fashion. But a win is a win and Herenda is already being lauded as a giant killer. More importantly in the big picture, the head coach appears to have a nice collection of underclassmen to build this once proud program around. This freshmen class of Marques Townes and Darian Anderson and Earl Potts Jr. would make any NEC head coach proud.
Stock Down: The Northeast Conference – Even though I just blew an opportunity for the NEC office to tweet this weekly piece to its followers, I have to be honest here – it hasn’t been a good opening week for the league. The guarantee games aside, the league has a 3-7 against similar mid-major opponents, which is disappointing when you consider the opportunities Robert Morris, St. Francis Brooklyn and Saint Francis University squandered against the top-tier of the Patriot League. With so much turnover throughout the conference, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. There certainly will be growing pains for much of the NEC in November and December.
All-NEC Team of the Week
PG: Phil Gaetano, Sacred Heart
G: Matt Mobley, Central Connecticut
G: Rodney Pryor, Robert Morris
G: Mostafaa Jones, Fairleigh Dickinson
G: Dyami Starks, Bryant
This week’s all-league team is composed of five guards with the big men of the conference struggling, for the most part, against bigger, more athletic lineups in these guarantee games. Turnovers have been an issue for Sacred Heart early on, but Phil Gaetano isn’t the reason. In two games, the senior floor general has been efficient with 12 points (on seven shots), nine assists versus just three turnovers. With Mobley detailed above, Pryor is our next guard on the list and with good reason. The transfer lit up Bradley with 26 points; without him the Colonials would still be searching for their first victory of the season. At 15.3 ppg, Mostafaa Jones leads Herenda’s Knights in scoring thus far. Throw in a game winning shot on the road versus the Atlantic 10 and Jones makes our team! Finally, Starks is averaging 18.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg and has shot 37.5% from behind the arc. The senior looks poised to have a Player of the Year type of season.
Out of Nowhere Player Performance of the Week: Antonio Jenifer, St. Francis Brooklyn
John has alluded to Jenifer previously, but this bears repeating: the 6’7” junior college transfer has been a pleasant spark off the bench for Glenn Braica’s group. Jenifer’s versatility on offense and his ability to grab tough rebounds in traffic should make him a nice asset for St. Francis Brooklyn in league play. I’m much less concerned about Wayne Martin’s departure after seeing Jenifer and Chris Hooper for a couple of games.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride