NEC Roundup: Midseason Awards and Power Rankings 4.0

It’s time for us to hand out some fake hardware, since we are firmly at the halfway point of the season. Sample sizes have grown, trends have developed and players have begun to establish themselves.

Allow me to highlight the best performers thus far, but keep in mind there’s still plenty of season left for others to move into consideration for the final All-NEC conference teams. (For example, I’m willing to bet Michael Carey, Junior Robinson and Earl Potts will eventually move, health willing, into the top 10/15 of the league).

NEC Midseason Player of the Year

Darian Anderson – With all due respect to Nisre Zouzoua, who arguably has the best statistical profile in the NEC, Anderson earns the nod thanks to his team’s undefeated start in league play. FDU’s difficult non-conference season wasn’t Anderson’s fault – the guard’s 107.2 offensive rating and 1.52 assist to turnover ratio, despite taking on a large number of possessions, is evidence of that. There’s no one in the league I’d rather have with the ball in his hands late in a close game.

Keith Braxton (right) is the frontrunner for the NEC ROY (Photo Credit: SFU Athletics)

NEC Midseason Rookie of the Year

Keith Braxton, Saint Francis University – The 6-foot-4 forward has been a jack-of-all-trades for Rob Krimmel. The rookie currently finds himself in the NEC top 15 in the following: rebounding, assists, steals, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and assist to turnover ratio. With Braxton and Josh Nebo protecting the glass and scoring down low, Krimmel is afforded the opportunity to play small and fast in his backcourt. It’s made all the difference in making SFU a NEC contender.

Other Rookies That Make Up My Top 5: Adam Grant, Bryant, Jashaun Agosto, LIU Brooklyn, Rasheem Dunn, St. Francis Brooklyn, Miles Wilson, Mount St. Mary’s

NEC Midseason Most Improved Player

Jamaal King, Saint Francis University – When Malik Harmon went down in October, many thought (including yours truly) that the Red Flash would struggle without an established floor general and ball handler. King has not only stabilized the offense, but he’s shown the ability to score from outside the arc (36.8% 3PT) and get into the lane (53.0% 2PT). He’s had a great sophomore campaign after a lost rookie season that started off on the wrong foot.

NEC Midseason Coach of the Year

Jack Perri, LIU Brooklyn – I didn’t have Perri here two weeks ago, but all his Blackbirds have done is win since NEC play begin. Considering that LIU lost Aekim Saintil, Martin Hermannsson and Joel Hernandez for various reasons, Perri deserves a lot of praise for going 9-7 against Division I competition with a roster that relies on a couple of freshmen and a walk-on. It’s been a struggle in his tenure to get his team to put forth a consistent defensive effort, but so far the Blackbirds are third overall in defensive efficiency in league play.

NEC Midseason All Conference Teams

First Team:
Nisre Zouzoua, Bryant
Darian Anderson, FDU
Jerome Frink, LIU Brooklyn
Corey Henson, Wagner
Joe Lopez, Sacred Heart

Quick Comments: Based on his past three games, Joe Lopez’s spot in the top five is a little tenuous, with the four others firmly on the first team. I’d be very surprised if any of those four give up their position at season’s end, since they were considered all-conference first team talents to begin with.

Second Team:
Josh Nebo, Saint Francis University
Keith Braxton, Saint Francis University
Isaiah Still, Robert Morris
Glenn Sanabria, St. Francis Brooklyn
Adam Grant, Bryant

Quick Comments: To have three sophomores and two freshmen on my second team illustrates the youth movement that continues to shape the NEC. Hopefully most of these players will stick on their current programs to help push the conference back off the 16-seed line of the NCAA tournament in the years to come.

Third Team:
Stephen Jiggetts, Fairleigh Dickinson
Quincy McKnight, Sacred Heart
Nura Zanna, LIU Brooklyn
Elijah Long, Mount St. Mary’s
Austin Nehls, Central Connecticut

Also Considered: Michael Carey, Wagner, Junior Robinson, Mount St. Mary’s, Khalen Cumberlander, Central Connecticut, Marcel Pettway, Bryant

NEC Power Rankings

  1. Wagner (2-2 NEC, Last Power Rankings Rank: 1) – Some may have FDU at #1, but I haven’t wavered from my original power rankings where the Seahawks also held the top spot. This team is playing excellent defense in the half court, and with Carey and Henson playing well, I still think they’re the team to beat.
  2. Fairleigh Dickinson (4-0 NEC, Last Rank: 4) – The Knights have the best offensive efficiency (107.1 points per 100 possessions) in the league with the next team nearly 5 points per 100 possessions away. Through four games, the Knights lead the NEC in 2PT percentage, 3PT percentage and free throw percentage. At this rate, they’ll find themselves in the top 100 in all of Division I for offensive efficiency – only 4 teams (LIU Brooklyn 2011-2013, Bryant 2013) have cracked this threshold in the past decade.
  3. LIU Brooklyn (3-1 NEC, Last Rank: 6) – Only 13 teams in the country have a better offensive rebound rate than the Blackbirds. Armed with Frink, Zanna and Raiquan Clark, LIU has been feasting on second chance opportunities. In league play, the Blackbirds are averaging 18.5 second chance points per game.
  4. Robert Morris (2-2 NEC, Last Rank: 2) – I still believe Dachon Burke will eventually land on the All-NEC rookie team if Andy Toole continues to reward him with minutes. So far so good in league play – 9.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, and 1.8 spg while providing Robert Morris with an athletic and tenacious defender who serves as the Colonials best finisher in the backcourt.
  5. Mount St. Mary’s (3-1 NEC, Last Rank: 3) – Despite averaging 19.5 ppg last week, Miles Wilson wasn’t selected as the NEC rookie of the week, because, well, his team didn’t nominate him. I’m not sure what the motivation was behind that, but I’m sure the Mount coaches have their reasons.
  6. Bryant (1-3 NEC, Last Rank: 7) – Bosko Kostur is flashing his immense talent, as he did two seasons ago as a red-shirt freshman. Over the past two games, Kostur has averaged 20.5 ppg and 4.0 rpg, while shooting 59.1% from the floor. Will Tim O’Shea finally stick with the versatile power forward or will he continue to yo-yo him in and out of the lineup?
  7. Saint Francis University (2-2 NEC, Last Rank: 8) – Don’t look now but sophomore Isaiah Blackmon is returning to form after tearing his ACL last winter. The dynamic guard has averaged 17.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 1.7 spg over his last three contests.
  8. Sacred Heart (1-3 NEC, Last Rank: 5) – This was something Anthony Latina couldn’t have expected – the offense is rated last in conference play while turning it over on 22% of their possessions. McKnight and point guard Cha Cha Tucker have coughed the ball up 33 times (8.3 turnovers per game) over the past four contests. That’s not going to work for a league average defense, at best.
  9. St. Francis Brooklyn (2-2 NEC, Last Rank: 9) – After FDU’s duo of Jiggetts and Anderson, you could make the argument that Sanabria and Dunn are the best 1-2 backcourt combo in the NEC. In particular, Sanabria has been fantastic in his red-shirt sophomore season, posting a 108.7 offensive rating.
  10. Central Connecticut (0-4 NEC, Last Rank: 10) – A 10-game losing streak doesn’t help Blue Devil fans see the glass as half full, yet the team did narrowly lose two out of four NEC games thus far. Still, it’s hard to see this team finish strong when Donyell Marshall is playing six guys more than 30 minutes per game. The lack of depth will continue to make the Blue Devils vulnerable in the second half, as they were recently versus Mount St. Mary’s.

17 thoughts on “NEC Roundup: Midseason Awards and Power Rankings 4.0

  1. Hard to believe the Mount only ranks 5th in the power rankings when they have beaten your #1 and your #3 – loss to Bryant was on a tough intentional foul call with about a minute to go. Also, I know Chris Wray doesn’t always put up huge numbers but I think he deserves a mention as he may be the Mount’s most valuable player.

    All in all, love what you guys do !


    1. Appreciate the comments. Trust me, the Mount will move quickly up the rankings if they have a good homestand against FDU and SFU – I just need to see more after one point wins over Wagner and LIU (minus Agosto). I think the top tier of 1 through 5 are very tight right now, so one weekend of bad or good basketball can certainly sway future rankings.

      In retrospect you’re probably right, I should’ve put Chris Wray on my “Also considered” list, though I’m not ready to choose him as a top 15 player. He’s been great the past 4 or 5 games, but prior to that he had been too inconsistent and takes up far fewer possessions than I’d like to see out of an all-conference guy. If he continues to light up the conference though, I’ll find room for him as will the coaches in the official NEC awards at season’s end.


  2. If you follow Ryan or any other writer in the NEC. They never give the Mount or it’s players any credit. You always hear it’s hard to evaluate them right now. Or some other excuse. The players realize unless they win. They will never get respect cause they have a balanced team. And as you can see even with winning they still find a way to look down on them. A win is a win. Wether by 1 or 20. They will just have to keep winning without support from the conference


    1. I disagree as they have always rated the Mount very high. They write the NEC preview for one of the basketball magazines and have picked the Mount to win it all a few times when I did not think they had a chance. I still think it is a mistake to have the Mount ranked as #5, but time will tell. The outfit that never gives the Mount any respect is the NEC. They had an invitation to join the MAAC when Loyola left but the buyout was more than they were willing to pay – I wish they had gone through with it !! What conference won’t give a player an award because no one from the school put them up for it ? Crazy !


    2. Steve, I’m sorry but what you just wrote is a load of BS. I’m sorry I (and other writers here) don’t fawn over the Mount every single day as you would like me to, and I can assure you that I’m as objective as I possibly can be when assessing all 10 teams in this league. I have the utmost respect for Jamion and what he’s built there.

      As far as heaping praise on the Mount, I guess you forgot my features over the past couple of years on Julian Norfleet, Junior Robinson, the Mount’s suffocating half-court D or how I highlighted Mawdo Sallah (Under the Radar), Miles Wilson (All-Rookie Team) and Junior Robinson (preseason 2nd team) in October posts, while Ray recently highlighted Chris Wray’s contribution in a nail biter against Wagner. It’s really hilarious because you always say you want fair, unbiased analysis, yet in actuality all you really want is biased, favorable reporting and opinions on the Mountaineers. I’m done trying to reason with you, both on here and Twitter.


      1. Never asked you to reason with me. So you have a problem with criticism. If you can give it you should be able to take it. You write and you have a podcast based on your opinions. Yes you do write about the Mount. I give you that. But I have opinions just like everyone else. You did an article saying we have problems scoring. But we score just like everyone else. That was an opinion right. But since it makes you mad to be questioned on your opinions I want say anything else


      2. I don’t have a problem with your criticism – I have a problem with you continually playing the “you disrespect the Mount card.” You’ve done it since Norfleet/Whack championship team, every minor criticism I write must be because we never give anyone at Mount St. Mary’s credit.

        You’re a fanboy, which I understand given your position, but you’re an unreasonable fanboy who fails to look at other perspectives objectively. Hey it’s your opinion, you have the right to say/write it, but please save your tired “disrespect” and “lack of credit” arguments the next time.


      3. Don’t understand your meaning by fanboy. But I am a father who has a son who plays for the Mount. I have trained and coached kids. I have studied the Mount and they have kids that could score on any team in the NEC. But they run a system that at any given night. They will have at least 3 or 4 players around the 10-15 point range. Their system is controlled completely by coach Christian. You are a writer but your also a fan of Sacred Heart. Just like the other gentlemen who is a fan of LIU Brooklyn who writes. And their are a few other who blog and have a team that they support. I don’t expect a writer who writes about the Tarheels to write a good report on the Duke Blue devils. That’s just my opinion. I will use LIU for example. I read the articles. But they are a poor shooting perimeter team. So they have to hit the boards as hard as they do for 2nd and 3rd chance points just to be in any game. So once a team keeps them off the boards they struggle or lose. The Mount has to shoot the ball well to be in games cause they are the worst rebounding team in the league and they aren’t turning any teams over much with the Mayhem cause teams run more guards and have better ppl handling the ball now. All these teams in the conference are beatable any given night cause the coaches in this conference don’t make a lot of adjustments. And if you have a team dependent on one or two star players. You are beatable so the Mount doesn’t want to rely on one or two players to win games. Like I said no disrespect and no need for name calling. We all are fans including the writers. I don’t need to play any type of Mount card cause I have issues with them myself. But if you ask anyone at the Mount do they think they get a fair assessment from the league or the writers. I’m sure most will tell you no. But keep doing what you do. I respect you and all the writers cause of the work you put into it. Just assumed their was nothing personal about speaking up for the team you support.


  3. As an ardent Mount fan, I think these comments are short-sighted. Frankly, the Mount remains a very undisciplined team – would likely be 4-0 right now if that weren’t the case! Until that happens, we don’t necessarily deserve the respect that you are asking for.

    We will always be a geographical outlier in the NEC, so it’s fairly logical that we don’t get the same “eye test” as the Metro teams. Ryan used to attend a fair share of Mount games and we got plenty of coverage on this site.

    In terms of the Conference, it encompasses more than just men’s basketball (and I get that this is a MBB-driven site). When you see the on-field/on-court performance of the other Mount teams, it is understandable that we don’t get the coverage that other teams do. Most of the Mount teams are mediocre at best! If we want the visibility and notoriety that you are asking for, the whole profile of the athletic department needs to improve.



  4. The Mount is no more undisciplined than any other team in the conference. And if they are as bad as you say. Why are they 3-1 with only 2 seniors on such a young team. And clearly because someone writes a few things about you don’t mean they are for you. It shouldn’t matter geographically where a team is as long as they are in the same conference as the other teams. The Mount will be fine once the coaches who are also new except for Christian gets them running smoothly. As long as they keep winning they want need respect. And it want matter what anyone has to say.


  5. When was the last time the Mount won the conference. And when they won the conference tournament. They were 16-17 overall and 9-7 in the conference. You seem to be acting as if the Mount has always been a winning program. They have a chance to have a better record and win both the conference and the tournament. This season and the next. But you say they are undisciplined


  6. I said the same thing last year, but I was a Mount players dad, so my comments had less weight, as they should:). As for their conference play for the last several years they have played inconsistent, but when it comes to conference tournament play they have played great! So it seems like you consistently underestimate the Mount. If you say the Mount has been inconsistent but they beat those 2 teams ahead of them you are not counting their inconsistent play against them. I really do enjoy your covering the NEC though.


    1. I respectfully disagree, Mike. In my ESPN/Blue Ribbon previews over the past 4 offseasons, I selected the Mount to finish:

      2013-14: 2nd (finished 4th reg season, won NEC tourney)
      2014-15: 6th (finished 4th reg season. lost NEC quarters)
      2015-16: 2nd (finished 5th reg season, lost NEC semis)
      2016-17: 3rd (3rd in reg season so far)

      I’ll admit in 2013-14 when the Mount suffered several injuries in Nov and saw their depth erode away to 8 scholarship guys, I backed off my original prediction midseason, only to see Norfleet and Whack have all-conf first team type of seasons and lead the Mount to the promise land (which by the way happened because St. Francis blew a 19-point lead in the QFs). But other than that, I’ve been somewhat accurate with my Mount prediction each preseason. I certainly wouldn’t call it underestimation.

      Yes, I report and blog on in-season successes and failures, because I’m looking at trends and such, but I practically do that with every team, except for maybe the juggernauts like St. Francis Brooklyn (2014-15), Robert Morris (2013-14) and LIU Brooklyn (2011-2013). Of course rankings will vary throughout the season, but I always view these Power Rankings are fluid.


  7. Ryan, I think you do a great job of covering the NEC and providing all of us with information about the conference that we would otherwise have no way of learning. It makes following the Mount even more fun, from my perspective. For years … well before our current style of play and well before the current NEC staff … there’s been a feeling that the Mount has not gotten its due respect when it comes to post-season honors and other types of individual recognition. And, when you consider that over the past 20 seasons we have had more championships (3) than players who earned All-NEC first team (2, albeit Jeremy Goode was a 2-time honoree), those who feel that way have their reasons. Yes, it’s true that the all-conference selections are voted on by the coaches, and the Mount has not won a regular season title in those years. Nonetheless, we do view ourselves as one of the top programs in the NEC over the last few decades and though you wouldn’t know it by perusing post-season all-conference teams.

    As for our current system, our style of play and our early-season scheduling philosophy don’t bode well for individual recognition. If anything our players should take pride in being a contender without having any one individual standout … I’d argue that’s when we are at out best.

    So, do Mount fans seem to have thinner skin than others? Perhaps. But, I wouldn’t take it personally if I were you. Enjoy this weekend’s games … big ones in Emmitsburg.


    1. Thanks for the comments, Dave. I generally agree that the Mount doesn’t usually get as much consideration when it comes to the NEC all-conference awards, although I think it’s better these days with better coverage, social media, etc. I do remember the 2013-14 season when Norfleet didn’t land on the 1st team, I was pretty surprised.

      But more recently it’s gotta better IMO – the following season I remember pushing for BK Ashe and Graves to make the top 15 before the end of the season, and to my surprise, they did. And last year all the coaches obviously respected the contributions of Junior Robinson by putting him on the 2nd team.


    2. Thanks Dave. What you just said and explained is all I have ever said. I never disrespected or said anything crazy. A lot of ppl have said the same things. It’s just I was one to speak out about it. The Mount has a habit of playing down to the competition this year and it gets them into trouble. It’s the reason for the low scoring games and close games. But regardless who they play. They score enough to position themselves to win the game. The players feel like they are just as good or better as anyone else in the league. But they are a complete team who try’s to have balance. We just have to see if it translates into a winning season.


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