Breaking Down the NEC Transfer List

With the “free agent” period of college basketball in full swing, I felt it was a good time to identify who has prematurely left the NEC and what kind of impact it has on their former team. Here are the top nine transfers that decided to leave the conference. For Jeff Goodman’s complete list of 2013 basketball transfers, go here. Continue reading “Breaking Down the NEC Transfer List”

NEC Week 2: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Week two of the NEC season has come and gone, clearing up the conference picture just a bit. The contenders are slowly beginning to separate themselves from the pretenders, but as we expect to be the case for the entire season, the NEC should be just as unpredictable from start to finish. Through 24 conference games, the home team has only gone 13-11, another indication that any team can win on any given night. Let’s sift through the positive and negative developments of the week.

The Good

  • Back to Normal in Moon Township – After enduring a surprising two game slide to open up conference play, the Colonials responded to Andy Toole’s challenge: play defense and compete with maximum effort and toughness. Robert Morris did just that during their New Jersey road trip, soundly beating Fairleigh Dickinson and Monmouth by 34 and 15 points, respectively. Neither game was ever in question, as the Colonials held their opponents to 0.84 points allowed per possession. The Colonials received significant contributions throughout the roster, highlighted by upperclassmen Russell Johnson and Coron Williams. Johnson, who has struggled in the past with his consistency, filled up the stat sheet as of late, registering 17 points, 21 rebounds, 11 assists (against only one turnover), and six steals in his last two games. The sharp shooting Williams has been potent from behind the arc, draining 12 of his 17 long-range jumpers this past week.
  • Officially Among the Elite – It’s time to stop being surprised by the Bulldogs’ success; they simply are for real. In four conference games – three on the road – Bryant has scored 1.15 points per possession, in large part thanks to unsung floor general Frankie Dobbs. The loyal senior has masterfully run Tim O’Shea’s offense by scoring (14.4 ppg) when necessary, while keeping his talented teammates involved (4.2 apg, 2.0 A/TO) as well. Down in the low block, Alex Francis continues to torment opposing defenses. On Saturday versus CCSU, the junior posted 26 points and a career high 18 rebounds. Throw in Starks, Maynard, and O’Shea and you have a lethal starting five. Ken Pomeroy agrees; Bryant is now rated #169 (out of 347 D-I teams) after beginning the season at #290. That is one heck of an improvement in only 15 games played.
  • Tough Terriers – Since their lopsided losses to Stony Brook and St. John’s this past December, St. Francis Brooklyn has won five of their last six contests. The Terriers impressively went into Spiro Sports Center and upset Wagner by holding the Seahawks to 0.80 points per possession. In fact, defense has been the major culprit for St. Francis’ recent run, as they are the only team to hold all four of their NEC opponents to under 1.00 points per possession. It also helps that Travis Nichols has been heating up recently. In their two most recent wins, Nicholas averaged 15 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. When he is able to produce from behind the arc (4-9 from three-point range versus Wagner), Glenn Braica’s offense becomes that much better. With home games versus FDU and Monmouth coming up, St. Francis could find themselves with five wins after three weeks of conference play. That notion seemed far-fetched a month ago when the Terriers were 2-7.
  • The Youth Movement – It hasn’t exactly been the year of the NEC freshmen so far (I’ll have more on that in the near future), but recently two frontcourt novices have emerged as important contributors for their respective teams. In Brooklyn, E.J. Reed has taken advantage of increased playing time with Boyd’s season-ending injury by scoring 15.6 points per game in his last five games. The athletic 6’6″ freshman has shown a propensity toward fouling (he has committed 6.9 fouls per 40 minutes), yet he’s infused some much-needed energy on the offensive glass and in the defensive post. Further north in Connecticut, Brandon Peel made a name for himself in New Britain when he put together a monster 17 point, 17 rebound, and four block performance against Sacred Heart last Thursday. Since being named as a starter in Howie Dickenman’s lineup, Peel has grabbed an average of 11.5 rebounds per game, relegating senior Joe Efase to the bench. It should only get better for the high-motored Reed and Peel in the coming weeks as they elevate themselves into the NEC Rookie of the Year discussion (along with St. Francis freshman Stephon Mosley).

The Bad

  • Still a Work in Progress – There’s a lot to be encouraged about if you’re a long suffering FDU Knights fan, but the second week of conference play probably wasn’t what their fans could have envisioned. Sure, they split the two game home stand against the Pennsylvania teams, but they never had a chance versus Robert Morris and barely edged out a victory over the feisty, yet flawed and inexperienced St. Francis Red Flash. Two NEC wins in four tries is a nice start for a team that went 3-26 last year, but you can bet Greg Vetrone is cognizant his team has been hideous at defending. In 16 games, FDU has given up 113.8 points per 100 possessions, bad enough for 10th worst in the nation. With a difficult slate of NEC games coming up, the Knights will need to dial up the defensive effort – and reduce their 23.6% turnover rate – to become a factor in this wonderfully competitive conference.

The Ugly

  • Unchartered Territory for Quinnipiac – With only one season left to earn that elusive NEC postseason title and NCAA automatic bid, it’s becoming more apparent that Tom Moore may fall short in that regard. For the first time in the Moore era, the Bobcats find themselves at 5-10. Quinnipiac is inventing new ways to lose each game, but the most troubling issues have been their poor free throw shooting (once again) and their inconsistency to score and respond when other teams make a run. Overall, the offense has performed better of late (1.18 points per possession), whereas the defense has been exceptionally porous (1.18 points allowed per possession). The optimistic approach for a Bobcat fan is to recall their team’s early NEC slump last season when they climbed out of a 2-5 hole to finish with a 10-8 NEC record. This season however, I’d be a little more skeptical that Tom Moore can somehow turn the ship around without any true playmakers. I’ll have more on their issues in the near future.
  • The Mayhem Mess – Jamion Christian is one of the most positive coaches in the conference, but even the first year head coach has to be shaking his head over his team’s recent play. The numbers have become particularly ugly during their 2-6 skid: the Mountaineers are allowing opponents to shoot 43.9% from three (worst in the nation) and 59.3% from inside the arc (2nd worst in the nation). In addition, their interior players – Krajina, Barber, Danaher – aren’t intimidating opposing big men with their puny block percentages and heavy foul rates. With an upcoming schedule that immediately includes Bryant, CCSU, Wagner, and Robert Morris, the defense needs to improve in a hurry. Right now when the Mount gives up more than 1.00 points per possession, they are 2-8 on the season. That must change if the Mount wants to get back into the NEC postseason.

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

Convincing Defeats Dominate NEC Thursday

There was plenty of action across the upper east coast tonight for the NEC, so let’s jump right into it!

Robert Morris 88, Fairleigh Dickinson 54
If there was any doubt that the Colonials would respond after their two lackluster losses at home, you quickly got your answer in the early going. After one half, Robert Morris jumped out to a 19 point lead, forcing ten Knight turnovers and holding them to 42.7% shooting. I guess all teams should run the balance a chair between the legs drill! The Colonials sizzled from beyond the arc, hitting 13 of 24 threes. Coron Williams had a game high 27 points, but really everyone played well in this one. Anytime you can force 17 turnovers, dish out 22 assists versus nine turnovers (2.4 A/TO) and make more than half your shots, the head coach will probably smile during the post game. Not bad for a bunch of prima donna players led by a prima donna coach! (sorry I couldn’t help myself)

Guest contributor Ray Floriani had these observations on Thursday:

Robert Morris rang up 88 points en route to a rout of FDU. Forget the offense for a minute. The 88-54 wipe out was courtesy of defense. Close outs, ball pressure, communication etc. The Colonials came in and dominated on the defensive end.

The Colonials finished 8-5 in pre-NEC contests. They squandered a great opportunity for a solid start by losing home contests to Bryant and Central Connecticut.

“I think our guys got a wake up call.” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said following the win at FDU’s Rothman Center.  “We were reminded that in this league there are good teams and you have to be ready and play every night.”

Against FDU they did just that. In non-conference games, Robert Morris showed a 98 defensive efficiency. It fell considerably with a 114 in the recent ‘lost weekend’. Against FDU, the Colonials were outstanding. They limited FDU to an 86 efficiency in a 63 possession contest. On the offensive end, Robert Morris posted an outstanding 140 efficiency. A 21-7 turnover scoring advantage largely contributed as the Colonials forced FDU into a 27% turnover rate. A classic example of defense creating and energizing the offense. And on the offensive end, the Colonials scorched the nets with a 67 effective field goal percentage mark made possible in part by a gaudy 14% turnover rate.

Individually, the Colonials had five players in double figures. Coron Williams led the way with 27 points, shooting a torrid 8-10 from beyond the arc.

Melquan Bolding led the way with 17 points for FDU, now 1-2 in conference play. Despite the one sided affair, Toole sees improvement in FDU. “We watched a few of their games on tape,” he said. “They have a few good seniors like Bolding and (Lonnie) Robinson plus they really play well together from what we have seen.”

Next up for Robert Morris on the ‘Garden State’ swing is a visit to Monmouth on Saturday. “It will be tough,” Toole admitted. “They play very hard.”

Central Connecticut 84, Sacred Heart 78
Sacred Heart jumped out to a double digit lead in the first half, but it was mainly because of the Blue Devils’ incompetence on offense, as CCSU missed nine of ten three pointers (several were open looks) in the first half. After Kyle Vinales went scoreless in the first 20 minutes, the sophomore exploded for 15 points, 7 assists, and two rebounds pushing CCSU to their second straight NEC victory. The Pioneers lost the lead midway through the second half, after Shane Gibson exited with four fouls. Brandon Peel had the game of his life (although there will be many more for this freshman) registering a career high 17 points and 17 rebounds. No one down low for Sacred Heart could keep Peel off the boards and it cost them dearly. What also cost the Pioneers dearly was their transition defense, as CCSU outscored SHU 14-4 in fast break points. Shane Gibson and Steve Glowiak – playing in his hometown of New Britain – each had a team high 22 points, although both players needed a combined 40 shots just to get there.

Bryant 103, Quinnipiac 95
This is not a typo, I repeat this is not a typo. Bryant dropped 103 points on Quinnipiac, as the Bulldogs continue their torrid display of offensive basketball. I didn’t see much of the game, but here are the wonderful statistics: Bryant shot 60.7% from the floor, made 12 of 19 three-pointers, had 24 assists against ten turnovers, and scored 1.38 points per possession! Wow. Every Bulldog starter scored at least 14 points with Frankie Dobbs leading the way. The fifth year senior netted 20 points (his 10th game of the season in double figures), 6 assists, and 2 rebounds. Despite their defensive ineptness, Quinnipiac actually hung around in this one, but a Bulldog 14-4 run midway through the 2nd half essentially sealed the deal. Now winners of five straight, Bryant is 3-0 in the conference for the first time ever, while Quinnipiac drops to 1-2.

Monmouth 65, St. Francis (PA) 60
It was another mediocre offensive performance by the Hawks, but these days King Rice will take any victory he can get. The Hawks only shot 40.7% from the field, but forced 18 Red Flash turnovers to earn their first NEC win. Monmouth did convert nine of their 20 three-point attempts on the night, including perhaps a slump busting performance by Jesse Steele. The senior did take 15 shots to register 17 points, yet he drained five of eight from downtown. The youthful Red Flash were only trailing by three points with less than five minutes remaining (I’m sure the MAC crowd was loving that), but missed seven of their final eight shots in the closing minutes. Earl Brown continued his mastery on the boards, registering his four straight double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Not bad for a kid who only had eight points and ten rebounds in the first five games of the season!

St. Francis 70, Mount St. Mary’s 55
Ben Mockford had a season high 19 points, including five threes, as St. Francis (NY) earned their second NEC victory of the season over Jamion Christian’s squad. Once again, the Mountaineers awful perimeter defense came back to haunt them, with the Terriers sinking more than half (51.0%) of their field goals attempts, while draining seven of 15 from behind the arc. The Mountaineers jumped out to a 25-17 lead, but were outscored 53-30 the rest of the way. Jalen Cannon had perhaps his worst game of the season, only scoring seven points to go along with three rebounds. St. Francis did cough the ball up 16 times, but still had two less turnovers than the Mountaineers, who have now lost five of their last seven games.

Wagner 86, LIU Brooklyn 75
In a surprising development, it was the Seahawks offense (1.18 points per possession) that snapped the Blackbirds 27 game winning streak at the WRAC tonight. Mario Moody, Kenneth Ortiz, and Latif Rivers combined for 59 points and led an surprisingly efficient Seahawk attack even without their star wing Jonathan Williams (hip). LIU sinks to 0-3 in the NEC and has a really important game versus the Mount coming up. John has a complete game recap here.

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

A Holiday Special: NEC, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

With the NEC – and most of college basketball – off for the past couple of days, I broke out my periodic review of all things NEC. Unfortunately, I had some difficultly finding an equal amount of good and bad stories, so I did my best to sprinkle in some positive news. To be quite frank, it hasn’t been the greatest non-conference season for the NEC. The Ken Pomeroy rating for the conference has dipped from #19, at the start of the season, to #25. With little time left before conference play begins, it appears the NEC is destined for a maximum of two combined NCAA and NIT bids, at best. Continue reading “A Holiday Special: NEC, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”

NEC Team Capsules: Robert Morris Colonials

Head Coach: Andy Toole, 3rd year (44-25)
Last Season: 26-11 (13-5 NEC), lost in the NEC finals to LIU, 90-73
NEC Preseason Coach’s Poll: 2nd out of 12 teams
State of Program: Win-now mode
Key Players Lost: Lawrence Bridges (3.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 57.6% FG%)
Incoming Players: Karvel Anderson (G), Vaughn Morgan (PF), Stephan Hawkins (PF)
Previous Posts: Robert Morris Recruiting Recap, RMU Prepares for Life After Velton Jones

Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Velton Jones (16.0 PPG, 2.8 APG, 4.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.7 A/TO)
G: Coron Williams (10.8 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 41.0% 3PT%, 82.0% FT%)
F: Lucky Jones (8.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
F: Vaughn Morgan (played junior college)
F: Mike McFadden (8.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 53.9% FG%)

Key Reserves: Russell Johnson (F), Karvel Anderson (G), Anthony Myers (PG), Stephan Hawkins (PF), Keith Armstrong (F)

Major Storylines:

  1. Getting Back to the Dance – Since Andy Toole has inherited this team, the Colonials have won 44 games and made two appearances in the NEC title game, in as many years. Not too shabby. It’s been one game, however, that has Robert Morris fans bitterly looking back at both seasons. Can the Colonials, who return their top 7 most efficient players and bring in 3 capable newcomers, finally get over the LIU hump? Winning the regular season title is the first step, since it would ensure home court advantage. This year it’s NCAA tournament or bust for Robert Morris.
  2. Strong Frontcourt Play – Overall, it’s one of the deepest rosters in the league, although that depth in the frontcourt will be tested early with the season-ending ACL tear of senior Lijah Thompson. Now, junior college transfer Vaughn Morgan slots into the starter role, and 6’9″ freshman Stephan Hawkins and sophomore Keith Armstrong will be leaned upon a little more. Along with Mike McFadden, can this group play well enough so Toole has the option to play big (with Morgan/Hawkins at power forward) or small (with Lucky Jones at power forward)? The emergence of the frontcourt newcomers could be critical in giving Toole some important lineup flexibility late in the season.
  3. Consistency Defending the Ball – One look at the defensive numbers indicate a stout Colonial defense. At 0.95 points allowed per possession last season, only Wagner was better in that regard. The problem is Robert Morris needs to defend more consistently. There were several periods last season where Toole’s squad would simply suffer from defensive lapses. The team can get away with the inconsistency against the bottom half of the league, but if they want to climb past LIU for the first time in three seasons, they’ll have to string it together for 40 minutes.

Lineup Analysis: As mentioned earlier, it’s been a fantastic run for a Colonials team ready to win now. Senior leader Velton Jones has one more season of eligibility and will look to return to the Big Dance for the second time in his career. The underrated Anthony Myers backs him up at the point, although both Jones and Myers can play on the floor together at certain points. Coron Williams and transfer Karvel Anderson will likely split duties at the “2”. Both are money behind the arch and will look to improve Robert Morris’ three-point shooting from a year ago. Sophomore Lucky Jones, coming off a freshman season where he finished in the top 15 in rebounding and steal rate, is primed for a breakout year, given his outside shot improves. Senior Russell Johnson will also play meaningful minutes at forward. The frontcourt is rather unproven, with Vaughn Morgan and Stephan Hawkins expected to replace Lawrence Bridge’s minutes. The 6’8″ Mike McFadden will anchor the “5”, and needs to improve his production. Overall, it’s a roster that’s still 9-10 deep, even without the services of Lijah Thompson. Most of the players should average 18-30 per game in an attempt to keep everyone fresh late in the season.

Coach’s Quotes:

“He’s getting better each day and I think for him that’s the most important thing. I think he has to change his mindset a little bit in how hard he needs to play and how detailed he has to be. Because of his athletic ability, he’s been able to get by on his athletic ability, yet you’re not going to get much more athletic than Jamal Olasewere. So you better figure out if you’re going to match up with him, you better figure out how to play the game as well. He’s getting better, with Lijah [Thompson] out the spotlight shines on him a little bit brighter.”
– Toole on the development of Vaughn Morgan

“It’s definitely a huge advantage to host the [NEC title game]. It’s a huge advantage to have experience in that tournament. I think sometimes that’s why we’ve been able to get to four straight championship games, but you still have to perform in that game. And LIU has performed well the last two years.”
– Toole, on how important home court advantage and experience is when competing in the NEC tournament


Ryan – It’s no secret I’m on the Robert Morris bandwagon heading into Toole’s third season. Ken Pomeroy and Dan Hanner project the Colonials as the NEC champions too. Ultimately, I feel the LIU two game suspension will be just enough to give Robert Morris the regular season title. If that happens, everything goes through Moon Township, and I love their chances if that’s the case.

John – Robert Morris has a great young coach, a veteran leader in Velton Jones and all the pieces you want in a mid-major program on the rise. So why are they picked second? The Colonials can’t finish. It’ll be close. RMU might even win the regular season, but it’s wait till next year one more time in terms of an NCAA berth.

Previous NEC Team Capsules:
October 24: St. Francis (PA) Red Flash
October 25: Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
October 26: Bryant Bulldogs
October 29: Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers
October 30: Central Connecticut Blue Devils
October 31: Monmouth Hawks
November 1: Sacred Heart Pioneers
November 2: St. Francis (NY) Terriers
November 5: Quinnipiac Bobcats
November 6: Wagner Seahawks