In a league full of parity and teams that mostly pride themselves on balance and depth, Cane Broome has undoubtedly stood out from the rest of the pack.
In league play, Broome currently leads the NEC in scoring at 24.8 ppg, which is miles ahead of the next two players, Jerome Frink (17.3 ppg) and Martin Hermannsson (17.0 ppg). He’s cracked the 30-point threshold four times this season and his career high 39-point effort last Saturday at Fairleigh Dickinson singlehandedly pushed Sacred Heart to their 10th NEC victory. But he’s hardly a volume scorer, as evident from the analytics.
The smooth sophomore guard has posted an efficient KenPom offensive rating of 107.7 against opposing NEC squads, despite taking a staggering 33.4% of his team’s shots when he’s on the floor. His season long possession rate (30.0%) lands in the top 40 nationally, yet the 6’0, 160 pound guard is converting 52.7% of his 2s on 277 attempts. He’s initiating contact and drawing fouls at a high rate (6.1 per 40 minutes), keeping his teammates involved (17.7% assist rate) and shooting the gap on passing lanes in order to accumulate steals (1.7 spg) and create opportunities in transition. And with 26 of 27 games ending in double figures for scoring, Broome has also been the most consistent among the NEC’s elite.
But that’s just one part of the story, with the other side serving as the subjective, and impossible to predict, eye test. Ask any coach in the league who the toughest player to defend and game plan for, and a majority of them will likely acknowledge that it’s Broome. Here’s a sampling from a few NEC coaches, including Broome’s own:
“You want to see a great player? You saw Cane Broome.” – Howie Dickenman after his Blue Devils lost in OT to Sacred Heart in January.
“I love the kid. He’s a great scorer. With [Broome] playing at that level, he just stretches [the defense] out so much. I’ve coached 33 years and he’s probably one of the top 10 scorers in the last 33 years at any level (that I’ve seen).” – Greg Herenda after his FDU Knights fell to the Pioneers last Saturday.
“Cane passes the analytics test, the eye test, the stats test – there’s no test he doesn’t pass… And the one thing you can hold over Sacred Heart’s head (in past seasons) is they’re not winning. Well that’s not the case anymore either. If he’s not the Player of the Year in the league, I don’t know who is. And this is not to knock anyone, but this is a case where I just think he’s done enough.” – Anthony Latina, after Saturday’s victory over FDU.
So with the stats, analytics and eye test on Broome’s side, what’s the big deal here? Just give him the coveted award already!
Well, there are a couple of hurdles for the sophomore to clear. First of all, at least some of the NEC coaches have historically treated all-conference selections as lifetime achievement awards, rather than simply picking the 10-15 best players regardless of tenure. I won’t get into examples to single out past individuals who may or may not have been deserving of an all-conference honor, but let’s just say this surely has happened before.
This train of thought may not extend out to the Player of the Year vote, and yet you have to go all the way back to the 1991-92 season to find a NEC underclassman who was voted as the league’s best player. It was Robert Morris 6’4 guard Myron Walker (thanks to NEC Associate Commissioner and historian Ron Ratner for the tidbit), who’s also a member of the NEC Hall of Fame. And that’s it. Since Walker’s selection 23 years ago, each and every NEC POY has been either a junior or senior.
Luckily for Broome, the other daunting hurdle may be soon cleared given Sacred Heart’s position in the standings. Most coaches clearly prefer that their POY selection resides on a team that’s the regular season champion, or at the very least inside the conference’s top 4. Not since Ron Robinson in 2004 has a POY been on a team outside the top 4.
Thanks to Broome and his teammates, though, Sacred Heart is in control of their own destiny for second place. All they need to do is defeat Robert Morris and SFU in their final two home games. A split will probably net them a home playoff game in the quarterfinals of the NEC tournament as well, and will give the Pioneer faithful one less thing to worry about come NEC POY selection time.
Two losses to close out the season — KenPom views that scenario as unlikely with an 8% chance — could push the Pioneers to the bottom half of the league and give some coaches an unjustified reason to eliminate Broome from POY consideration.
Regardless of the team’s final standing and Broome’s underclassman status, it’s evident who deserves the award at regular season’s end. It’s Sacred Heart’s dynamic guard out of East Hartford, CT.
Cane Broome is the best player in the Northeast Conference and it’s not really that close.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride