One of my favorite posts to write during the season is the Big Apple Buckets awards. The awards could be for the preseason, midseason, end of season; I don’t really care. I simply enjoy highlighting the excellent players of the NEC! While I usually rank the top 10 to 15 players of the conference, I also take pleasure in mining through rosters to find the truly underrated, invaluable gems, using both advanced statistics and my eyes.
Hence today’s post. Without the six individuals listed below, these clubs would likely be a loss or even two worse in the standings. Given the parity from teams one through eight, that extra loss would make a big difference.
Greg Brown, Saint Francis University
Everyone talks about the Red Flash’s big three of Earl Brown, Ronnie Drinnon and Malik Harmon, but it’s Brown, the co-captain, who deserves being mentioned in the same breath as his aforementioned teammates. In addition to posting a nationally ranked true shooting percentage of 56.1%, Brown’s impact on the defensive side of the ball may be even more invaluable to Rob Krimmel. Most of the time he’s guarding the opponent’s best perimeter scorer, and yet, the junior guard still has the energy to possess an offensive rating of 106.7. As a matter of fact, when Brown posts a game rating above 107, SFU has a 10-3 record this season. (One of those losses was when a Chris Hooper buzzer beater snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.) He’s made some big shots for Krimmel’s team down the stretch, therefore he’ll likely be a factor come NEC tournament time.
Glenn Sanabria, St. Francis Brooklyn
After playing a grand total of 10 minutes in his first six collegiate games, the freshman guard has been an integral part of Glenn Braica’s rotation, posting respectable averages of 6.6 ppg and 1.9 apg with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.7. In addition to giving the Terriers another capable ball handler/facilitator alongside NEC Player of the Year candidate Brent Jones, Sanabria has emerged as one of SFC’s best three-point shooters on a team desperate for perimeter scoring. Up to this point, he’s made a team leading 43.1% of his long-range attempts. The numbers may not be particularly gaudy and with the overabundance of rookie talent in the league I’d be surprised if Sanabria lands on the NEC All-Rookie team. But that shouldn’t take away from his value on the best squad of the NEC. His 109.7 offensive rating – 500th among Division I players – is evidence of that.
Tevin Falzon, Sacred Heart
Falzon is turning into the new Brandon Peel, the under-the-radar power forward who excels at protecting the backboards and rim. Prior to his junior campaign, Falzon was maddeningly inconsistent. He still is too, but much less so. In conference play, Falzon leads the NEC in offensive rebound rate (15.6%) and defensive rebounding rate (24.4%), while residing in second place in both block rate (9.5%) and fouls drawn per 40 minutes (5.6). Sure, he’s thrown in a couple of clunkers here and there, but he’s also posted seven NEC games with eight rebounds or more. He’s been a pleasant surprise for Anthony Latina and should help ease the transition next year when the Pioneers lose three key seniors in Phil Gaetano, Steve Glowiak and Evan Kelley.
Bryon Ashe, Mount St. Mary’s
The diminutive Ashe wouldn’t have been an underrated consideration back in November. It’s only because of his wildly inconsistent non-conference season and time spent in Jamion Christian’s doghouse. Case in point: Here are Ashe’s point totals for those turbulent games which lowered his stock considerably:
12, 9, 10, 5, 2, 16, 7, 15, 0, DNP, 5, DNP
Since that mediocre start, however, Ashe has been quietly spectacular in league play, posting an excellent shooting line of 72% FG/35% 3PT/71% FT in 11 league games. His 116.7 offensive rating is fifth best among NEC players and he’s averaging a little more than one turnover per contest despite handling nearly 20% of the team’s possessions. (Five of his 13 turnovers in NEC play came in one game against Sacred Heart.) Christian’s deep rotation of team first guys likely won’t boast an all-league player at season’s end (Greg Graves probably has the best shot to land on the third team), but Ashe has recently done well to spearhead a young and inexperienced group in the backcourt. His fearlessness and confidence are the reasons why Christian keeps him on the floor when the game is on the line.
Greg Senat and Nolan Long, Wagner
With the exception of the oft-injured Mike Aaman, the sophomore duo of Senat and Long have been Bashir Mason’s most productive frontcourt players on a team that lost a lion share of production from the departures of Naofall Folahan, Orlando Parker and Mario Moody. Both Senat and Long are rebounding at a high rate and have impressively converted 53.7% of their two-pointers. So why exactly are they playing just 45.1% and 29.1% of Wagner’s available minutes, respectively? (Long, who has averaged a meager 6.1 minutes in his last seven league games is particularly confusing, given his production.)
That question is for Mason to answer, but when on the floor, there’s no doubt that the power forward pairing is a big reason why the Seahawks are ferocious on the offensive glass, corralling 36.7% of their misses.
Also Considered: Khalid Nwandu, Mount St. Mary’s; Xavier Harris, Fairleigh Dickinson; Ollie Jackson, Saint Francis University