NEC Power Rankings – Version 1

To put it honestly and succinctly, the NEC has been a mess in what could be construed as the 1st inning of the 2015-16 season. As of this post, the 10 programs of the conference have combined to win 10 games in 52 tries against Division I competitors, sinking the league’s standing among the 32 conferences to 30th overall, ahead of only the lowly MEAC and SWAC, according to Ken Pomeroy. Continue reading “NEC Power Rankings – Version 1”

NEC Team Primer: #9 St. Francis (PA) Red Flash

St. Francis PA Red Flash logo

St. Francis PA Red Flash logo

Head Coach: Rob Krimmel, 2nd year
Last season: 5-24, 5-13 (NEC), failed to qualify for the NEC tournament
RPI/KenPom: 322/329
NEC Preseason Coach’s Poll: 9th out of 10 teams
State of Program: Slowly rebuilding
Key Loss(es): Umar Shannon (11.2 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.3 rpg), Anthony Ervin (4.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
Incoming Players: Malik Harmon (PG), Georgios Angelou (PG), Patrick Wrencher (PF)

Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Georgios Angelou (Fr.)
G: Ollie Jackson (7.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
G: Stephon Whyatt (6.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.2 apg)
F: Earl Brown (10.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg)
F: Stephon Mosley (7.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg)

Key Reserves: Ben Millaud-Meunier (G), Greg Brown (G), Malik Harmon (PG), Ronnie Drinnon (PF), Patrick Wrencher (PF), Dominique Major (G)

Major Storylines:

  • Clean Up Mistakes – The Red Flash turned the ball over on 23.3% of their offensive possessions last season, the worst rate in the NEC. St. Francis just can’t afford to give possessions away. Whether that rate improves will heavily depend upon two talented freshmen. Georgios Angelou (Greece) and Malik Harmon (Christ the King, NYC) will split the duties at the point and Krimmel hopes that the combination of the two can provide a steady hand for the offense. Avoiding turnovers though is a focus for the entire roster as Krimmel wants his more veteran players to take some of the pressure off the freshmen.
  • Staying Healthy – Only two players managed to play in every game last season for the Red Flash. Health will be a major factor for SFU, especially because Rob Krimmel just doesn’t have much depth in the front court. Losing any of his three veteran rotation players up front could have disastrous results. There are only four players on the roster 6’6″ or taller.
  • Continue Building – There are no seniors on St. Francis’ roster this season. Krimmel is asking junior forward Earl Brown to be a more vocal leader. Assuming this entire core sticks around for one more season in Loretto, this could be the warmup to a breakout season for the Red Flash in 2014-15. One of the most important aspect of that will be getting plenty of playing time for all the talented young players on the roster.

Lineup Analysis: There is a lot of depth in the backcourt for the Red Flash. Two freshmen point guards are going to try to replace the departed Umar Shannon, who transferred to former conference foe Quinnipiac for his final season. The wing spots can be split between four talented players and the 5’9″ Dominique Major will also play a role. The loss of Anthony Ervin is also a blow for the Red Flash; he was the team’s most efficient scorer a year ago. Another talented scorer was Ben Millaud-Meunier. Described as a “gym rat” by his head coach, Millaud-Meunier shot 47.6% from three on 84 attempts last season. That’s bound to regress if he’s given more playing time, but he’s certainly one of the best shooters in the entire conference. The sophomore guard could start the season on the bench, but expect him to break through as the season progresses.

Up front it’s all about health and finding a way to rebound, while being incredibly undersized. The Red Flash ranked 336th in effective height last season, as opponents were an average of 3.7″ taller. That deficiency revealed itself mostly on the defensive end where opponents grabbed 35.2% of their misses. With a young team, Krimmel is focusing on making sure everyone gets stronger. That’s super important because players like Earl Brown, Stephon Mosley and Ronnie Drinnon have to be more aggressive on the boards. Brown grabbed 8.1 rpg last season while having the 14th best defensive rebounding rate in the nation. He needs help though. Health is also hugely important for the Red Flash. Drinnon has already been a little banged up during practice and Krimmel and his staff are working him back slowly so that he’ll be available during NEC play.

Ultimately this roster has enough talent to challenge for a playoff spot in the NEC. The Red Flash certainly won’t be a pushover. SFU finished 5-13 last season and even with the 16-game schedule it’s possible that they’ll improve upon that win total and be competitive in most games. Also, unlike last season when the Red Flash went winless in non-conference play, there’s an opportunity to grab some victories before diving into the teeth of the NEC slate.

Coach’s Quote:

“As a team we were inexperienced. I was inexperienced.” – Rob Krimmel on his first season as head coach in Loretto, PA

“Our freshmen point guards are playing well. They’re trying to figure out the pace of the game. Their style of play and their personnel. It’s easy in workouts, but when you go 5-on-5 you have to put all those pieces together.” – Krimmel on his two young point guards

“I just feel confident all around. From outside in the perimeter. From in the post. Even just being a leader. I think that’s what’s changed the most, trying to be more vocal on the court.” – Earl Brown about stepping up during his junior season

Final Prediction:
Ryan – There are some intriguing young pieces in Loretto, but it’s really hard to rely on two rookie point guards. Really hard. If Angelou and/or Harmon develop ahead of schedule and Earl Brown takes the next step toward NEC stardom, though, it isn’t wacky to envision a fifth or sixth place finish in the conference. The more likely scenario has them fighting with Sacred Heart for the final NEC playoff berth. I’m currently in that camp. (8 total wins, 5-11 NEC)

John – This is still certainly a rebuilding season, but the Red Flash can be competitive in the NEC. We might look back at this ranking and regret it a bit. Or SFU might get hit by injuries and struggle to top last season’s five victories. (7 total wins, 4-12 NEC)

Other NEC Team Primers:
#10 Fairleigh Dickinson

NEC Breakout Candidates for the 2013-14 Season

Every year, several NEC players come out of nowhere to produce for their teams, so we’re attempting to highlight those candidates. This list is all about seeing which players can increase their production at an above league average level, even if some of them underwhelmed the previous season. Continue reading “NEC Breakout Candidates for the 2013-14 Season”

Season In Review: St. Francis (PA) Red Flash

Rebuilding a program isn’t an easy thing to do, yet St. Francis University has seemingly been a part of the vicious cycle for several years running. In Rob Krimmel’s first season at the helm – after serving as a Red Flash assistant coach for 12 seasons – the NEC basement dweller struggled once again, yet there were some silver linings to be found. Two members of Krimmel’s freshmen class, Ben Millaud-Meunier and Stephon Mosley, were selected to the NEC all-rookie team. Millaud-Meunier, whose work ethic has been lauded by Krimmel, made 47% of his shots, with a majority of those coming from the perimeter. Sophomore Earl Brown, after an uninspiring rookie campaign, emerged as one of the best rebounders of the conference and took home the NEC’s most improved player of the year award. Only 13 players in the nation bettered Brown defensive rebounding percentage of 25.9%.

Several other underclassmen played significant roles on the rebuilding Red Flash, with more than 75% of the team’s available minutes falling to a freshman or sophomore. Perhaps due to the youth movement in Loretto, the inexperienced Red Flash dropped 19 of their first 20 contests, en route to another disappointing and ultimately uncompetitive season.

Injuries surely deserved part of the blame, with team star Umar Shannon failing to recapture his old magic a season removed from an ACL tear. As is the case for several athletes recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, Shannon had difficultly clearing the mental hurdle of trusting his knee when competing at full speed on the hardwood. It led to an inconsistent junior season, although Shannon will return next season to provide the senior presence Krimmel so desperately needs on this roster.

In addition to Shannon’s struggles, senior Anthony Ervin, arguably the second most valuable player of the 2011-12 season behind Scott Eatherton, saw limited playing time due to a nagging groin injury. His condition improved for the second half of the season, and not surprisingly, so did the Red Flash’s performance. They won four of their final nine games, which included a grueling double overtime loss at Central Connecticut that could have easily gone St. Francis’ way.

Best Moment – After slogging their way to a miserable 0-11 start, the Red Flash stunned the community by upsetting Central Connecticut, 67-60, in Loretto for the NEC opener. In the victory, Earl Brown corralled 25 rebounds, the most by any Division I player since the 2009-10 season. If Brown wasn’t the focal point of the opposition’s game plan before the victory, he certainly was now.

Worst Moment – As much as the Red Flash lost in the 2012-13 season, nothing really paled in comparison to the tumultuous offseason the program had to endure previously. Therefore, it remains perfectly logical to cite the Red Flash’s past offseason as their worst moment. In a span of two weeks last spring, St. Francis had parted ways with head coach Don Friday and budding star Scott Eatherton. Those chain of events essentially guaranteed the Red Flash would go through yet another rebuilding season, if not more.

Saying Goodbye

Anthony Ervin – On a team that sorely needed leadership, Ervin struggled to get healthy in his senior season. When he finally was effective for the second half of the season, however, Ervin averaged 7.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 45.4% from behind the arc. His graduation leaves a leadership void that will be transferred to Shannon, as the only senior who could receive meaningful minutes next year. (24 games, 4.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 0.8 apg)

Looking Ahead to the 2013-14 Season
With many assuming the Red Flash will once again struggle for relevancy, it remains plausible that Krimmel could begin to reap the benefits of having one of the youngest rosters in D-I basketball last season. By next November, Shannon will be two years removed from his knee surgery and could return to the form he once displayed as a promising sophomore. The soon-to-be-sophomore class of Ronnie Drinnon, Greg Brown, Mosley, and Millaud-Meunier will have another offseason to improve their game and provide an impact. Brown could emerge as the league’s best rebounder and double double machine with more work. It all adds up to an intriguing second year under Krimmel. With a little bit of luck in the injury department, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Red Flash sneak into the NEC playoffs for the first time in three years. A return to the upper echelon of the conference, however, is highly unlikely, even in a basketball climate full of parity.

Another season of rebuilding ahead for St. Francis (PA)

St. Francis Red Flash – 6-23 (5-13 NEC), Did Not Qualify for NEC Tournament

Players Lost:
PF Scott Eatherton (transfer) – 14.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.2 bpg, NEC Most Improved Player
PG Chris Johnson (expelled) – 8 games, 5.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 5.8 apg, 2.3 assist/TO ratio
F John Taylor – 5.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.9 apg

Incoming Players:
Ronnie Drinnon, 6’7″ PF – Greenview High (OH)
Ben Millaud-Meunier, 6’3″ G – Vanier High (Quebec, Canada)
Greg Brown, 6’2″ PG – Archbishop Spalding (MD)
Aric Gresko (walk-on), 6’0″ G – Penns Manor (PA)
Zachary Vigneault (walk-on), 6’1″ G – Central Cambria High (PA)

Since the 2004-05 season, the St. Francis Red Flash have averaged 7 wins per season, forcing every subsequent offseason to feel like a rebuilding year.  This offseason is no exception.  After a tumultuous year that led to the unexpected firing of head coach Don Friday, the sudden hiring of Rob Krimmel, and the surprising transfer of future star Scott Eatherton, the Red Flash are once again starting from scratch.  It’s a difficult situation to be in, with the rest of the Northeast Conference improving, but first year coach Krimmel has no choice as he attempts to rebuild a long suffering program back to respectability.

The rebuilding effort, for the 8th season, begins this time around with skilled big man, Ronnie Drinnon.  The 6-foot-7 Drinnon was an accomplished player in high school, earning the honor of being named the All-Area DIII Player of the Year as a junior.  But then on Halloween night of 2011, Drinnon made the critical mistake of crashing his car while drinking.  He paid dearly for his mistake, as Greenview High suspended him for the 2011-12 season.  Despite the costly mishap, Drinnon has said and done the right things since his suspension.

Now with Eatherton’s gone, Drinnon will be expected to contribute immediately.  He has excellent footwork and a soft touch around the basket, and despite his reported lack of athleticism, Drinnon always found a way to rebound the basketball at the high school level.  He’ll need to add muscle to bang down low with the rising class of NEC power forwards, but his intensity and nose for the basketball should help him and his team, which finished a staggering 342nd in rebounds per game last season.  Playing time is plentiful in St. Francis’ thin frontcourt, so an All-NEC Rookie Team selection at season’s end certainly isn’t a stretch, given that most of the promising rookies from the NEC will be perimeter players next season.

Coach Krimmel and his staff next focused their attention on improving the backcourt.  With this in mind, St. Francis signed playmakers Greg Brown and Ben Millaud-Meunier, who should form a solid rotation of guards with captains Umar Shannon and Anthony Ervin leading the way.

Of the two backcourt recruits, Brown may have more of an impact his freshman season, because of his ability to play both the “1” and “2” positions on the floor.  Chris Johnson’s dismissal from the team last season leaves the roster devoid of a true point guard, so for the time being, Brown will be asked to partially fill this role.  Based on this Youtube clip, Brown possesses a tight handle, is very shifty in the open court, and has the ability to drain the three.  He led his high school team in scoring, but now in college, he’ll be asked to facilitate more often, especially when manning the point.  It’s a nice opportunity for the versatile Brown, who has the potential to carve out a productive career in the NEC, if developed properly.

The second playmaker was discovered by the Red Flash north of the border.  There, Millaud-Meunier used his excellent court vision, high basketball IQ, and solid outside jumper to dominate in the high school ranks.  Millaud-Meunier isn’t the first Canadian, or Vanier High student for that matter, to play for the Red Flash.  Former great Deon George also hailed from Vanier, and led St. Francis in scoring and rebounding for a couple of seasons.  Perhaps Millaud-Meunier can find the same magic that George did for the Red Flash in the early 90’s.

Finally, it’s probably worth mentioning 2 walk-ons, Aric Gresko and Zachary Vigneault, who were recently added to the Red Flash’s roster.  Both players could find limited minutes on the court, especially since Coach Krimmel’s roster is barren with upper-class talent, sans Shannon and Ervin.  After all, Mount St. Mary’s walk-on Kelvin Parker narrowly missed out from making last season’s All-NEC Rookie Team, and this St. Francis club is even less experienced than the Mount was last season.

St. Francis is obviously not expected to compete in the short term, therefore these incoming freshman can garner valuable on-court experience in the hope that they’ll someday serve as the foundation of a competitive team.  It’s the first step in what has proven to be a brutal rebuilding process in Loretto, PA.  Find lesser known DI prospects that can develop after a couple of seasons.  Then, maybe their moderate success will lure better high school prospects onto the St. Francis campus, which unfortunately is a difficult place to attract basketball talent.  Krimmel now has a mammoth challenge ahead of him, yet if he can somehow pull it off, he’ll be revered as a coaching god for the remainder of his St. Francis career.

Ryan Peters covers Northeast Conference men’s college basketball on Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride.  You can follow Ryan on Twitter here.