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.
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
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.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.