NEC Weekend In Review

A lot went down in the NEC this past weekend, and while Ryan had time to prepare a NEC Weekend Recap, here are some of my thoughts about the past week in NEC play.

Best Week: St. Francis Brooklyn — Margins are really important in predicting the future play of college basketball teams, but sometimes even a 1-point margin can be considered a big success. Take for instance on Sunday afternoon when the Terriers went to Loretto, PA and defeated Saint Francis U. 60-59 on a Chris Hooper put-back. To get out of the Pennsylvania trip unscathed (against two good teams) was a small miracle. SFC now has eight home games versus four away games left in NEC play after going 3-1 on a four-game road trip. That’s why KenPom has Glenn Braica’s team projected to take the conference at 14-4. There are a couple of other things working in SFC’s favor too. For one, teams have shot 38% from three and 75% from the free throw line during their first five NEC games, which is part of the reason the defense ranks just third in the league. As those numbers come more in line with national averages, the Terriers defense could look even better.

Also impressive is how senior guard Brent Jones has stepped up his play recently. Jones struggled in the loss at Mount St. Mary’s, but he’s controlled every game since — and was absolutely sublime during the second half of the game against Robert Morris. Jones has had an offensive rating above 100 in every NEC game except the MSM contest, while using between 19% and 33% of SFC’s offensive possessions depending on if he needs to take over or not. What might be the most impressive thing about Jones’ season thus far is that he’s averaging 1.9 fouls per 40 minutes, but also ranks 57th nationally in steal percentage. He’s a lockdown perimeter defender in the NEC. You could see how much Braica trusted his senior point guard at the end of the first half against RMU, where sensing things slipping away Braica let Jones go back onto the court with two fouls. (He never picked up a third, by the way.) Also, Glenn Sanabria is the high-efficiency foil the Terriers needed in the backcourt, which is why those three-guard lineups look so good. Braica can afford to play Jones, Sanabria and Tyreek Jewell together because they do complementary things well on the court.

Also had a good week: Bryant (now 5-1 and on a 4-game NEC winning streak); Mount St. Mary’s (4-2, 4-game NEC winning streak, nice comeback at Barclays on Saturday)

Surprising Stuff: Robert Morris couldn’t get out of their own way on offense during non-conference play, but since moving into NEC play the Colonials have been lights out on offense. Despite scoring 59 points in 65 possessions in their loss at Saint Francis PA, the Colonials now lead the NEC in offense at 1.09 points per possession. RMU is shooting 39% from three and 52% on twos during NEC play. Freshman Marcquise Reed has been a dominant scoring force in the backcourt. The biggest key, though, is Lucky Jones. In RMU’s two NEC losses (at Saint Francis U. and vs. St. Francis Brooklyn) Jones has struggled a bit offensively, shooting 6-22 from the field and committing five turnovers. The 6’6″ senior wing absolutely torched Sacred Heart on Sunday though, going 6-8 from three and scoring 22 points in RMU’s 85-65 victory.

MAYHEM’s New Twist: Mount St. Mary’s is on a four-game winning streak and a lot of that can be attributed to the Mount’s NEC leading defense. Jamion Christian’s club is allowing 0.89 points per possession in NEC play after stifling road wins at Fairleigh Dickinson and LIU Brooklyn this weekend. Part of the Mount’s success on the defensive end comes from forcing turnovers, they’re second in conference with a 23% defensive turnover rate. A big part of the success thus far this season has come from teams shooting 27% from three. It seems highly unlikely that NEC teams will continue to shoot that poorly from three all season, but MSM has some cushion. What’s more interesting is that teams are only shooting 44% on twos — third best in the NEC. The Mount has ranked dead last in two-point field goal defense in each of Christian’s first two seasons. If that number is sustainable (and I have a few doubts), it would make the Mount’s already terrifying defense that much stronger. Holding LIU to 9-22 (41%) from two in the first half on Saturday is what allowed MSM to stay close enough to grab a victory after forcing 11 second-half turnovers and shooting the lights out at the Barclays Center in the second half.

Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Balance?: LIU is now 2-4 in the NEC and the Blackbirds’ offense ranks eighth in the league at 0.98 points per possession. You have to wonder if part of the reason is that there’s no “go-to” player on the offense. There are five Blackbirds using between 20% and 23% of LIU’s possessions on offense when they’re on the court – and Elvar Frioriksson isn’t far behind at 19.6%. The balance is great, but it’s stopping LIU’s best offensive threat, Gerrell Martin from taking over games. Part of that is Martin’s skill set, he’s a much better three-point shooter than he is going to the rim. Martin is shooting 41% from three and 40% on twos (and not drawing enough fouls to make up the difference either). Even in the NEC, LIU is undersized and it’s showing, as the Blackbirds are shooting 43% on two-point attempts through six NEC games, almost three percentage points behind number nine FDU. Compare LIU’s lackluster offense with Wagner’s. Bashir Mason has crafted a completely viable offense by having Marcus Burton control the ball on most possessions, hitting the offensive glass hard, and getting to the free throw line. The strategy has worked well too. Wagner is fifth in the NEC in offensive efficiency at 1.06 points per possession and Burton leads the NEC in scoring. (On the other hand, Wagner’s defense has struggled due to foul concerns and just generally not being able to stop any type of shot.) It’s a lot to ask of the freshmen, but either Martin Hermannsson or Nura Zanna probably needs to become a more authoritative part of the offense for LIU to contend in the NEC this season.

Winless Watch: Ray Curren wrote about this after CCSU’s game against LIU, but the Blue Devils have to be on winless alert at this point. They’re not favored by KenPom in any remaining NEC game, but since they still get 12 more cracks at a victory, the Blue Devils’ chances of going winless are at just 12.2%. Their best chance for a win? This Saturday when Wagner comes to Detrick Gymnasium. CCSU is doing great on the boards, but teams are shooting a whopping 57% on two-point attempts in NEC play and CCSU is forcing turnovers on just 14% of opponent possessions. It’s a severely limited roster going through a transition period.

Odd Scheduling Quirk of the Week: Bryant hosts Harvard on Tuesday night — as Ivy League play is just slowly getting going for the Crimson. How hard will the Bulldogs go in that one considering they’ll be hosting LIU Brooklyn just two nights later?

3 thoughts on “NEC Weekend In Review

  1. RE: the Mount’s shooting defense, they were 264th and 211th in effective height the past two seasons. They’re 17th this year. Tough to defend the paint when you’re playing 6’3″ guards at the 4. A lot easier when you’ve got 6’6″ and 6’7″ there for the entire game.

    http://www.basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=82

    Hoop-math splits also look a lot closer to the last pre-Christian year than the past two seasons (fewer lay-ups).

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    1. Excellent points. It appears the slightly larger lineup has helped the team play much better on the defensive end. The fewer layups is certainly a good sign for those trends continuing.

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  2. As a person who was at the Mount vs FDU game last week. Mount’s Defense is good,but not as good as Robert Morris or St. Francis ,Brooklyn. FDU Incompetence on Offense especially in the 1st half was more self inflicted then Mounts playing exceptionally strong defense. The most amazing stat of the game was that FDU starters for the WHOLE GAME scored SEVEN POINTS. Is that a record ?

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