NEC Trade Value – The First Edition

Every once in a while we like to have fun here at Big Apple Buckets. It doesn’t always have to be “make fun of Jon Rothstein’s optimism until he blocks me on Twitter” kind of fun, but more like the “well this doesn’t make a ton of sense” kind of fun. This time, please allow me to channel my inner Bill Simmons. Continue reading “NEC Trade Value – The First Edition”

Thoughts on Bryant, Dyami Starks’ Shooting Slump

After putting a legitimate scare into Notre Dame a few days ago, the Bryant Bulldogs laid an egg against Ohio State. The lopsided defeat wasn’t all that surprising; after all, Corey Maynard sat out the contest due to a bum wrist. It left Tim O’Shea with the inexperienced point guard combo of Shane McLaughlin and Declan Soukup, never an easy proposition against a top five KenPom opponent. Continue reading “Thoughts on Bryant, Dyami Starks’ Shooting Slump”

Wednesday Evening Recap – A Lost Night for the NEC

Half of the NEC was in action on Wednesday night, so let’s recap each contest. In all, it was a mostly disappointing evening for the league with four teams failing to come out victorious.

Bryant 87, Dartmouth 77
Let’s begin with the good news. Bryant recovered nicely from their drubbing out west to Gonzaga by handling the Green Wave on the road. Dartmouth, behind the efforts of all-league talent Gabas Maldunas (14 points, 11 rebounds), managed to keep the game close before succumbing late. Dyami Starks scored 35 points once again, this time on a very efficient 18 shots. In fact, all of the Bulldogs were tremendously efficient in this one, posting a splendid scoring line of 59% FG%/43% 3PT%/82% FT%. Bryant’s superb shooting allowed them to overcome 15 turnovers. The big four of Starks, Alex Francis, Joe O’Shea, and Corey Maynard combined to impressively score 79 of their 89 points.

Holy Cross 122, Sacred Heart 118
After a wild, back-and-forth affair in Worcester, Holy Cross held on after ten minutes of free basketball to earn their first win of the season over Anthony Latina’s Pioneers. This will be a cruel bus ride back for Sacred Heart – they had a seemingly commanding five point lead late before a three-point play by Dave Dudzinski evened the score with just three seconds left in regulation. In the end, Cullen Hamilton’s 35 points on 21 shots and Dudzinski’s interior presence (26 points, 15 rebounds, 2 blocks) was enough to outlast the feisty Pioneers. Sacred Heart imposed their will for much of the game – attacking the rim, pushing the pace (there were 192 total possessions in the game), and forcing careless errors out of the Crusaders. In spite of this, Holy Cross found a way to win their third straight against their New England rivals. Evan Kelley was excellent in the loss, scoring a career high 32 points. His final efficiency rating of 33 was the best individual performance for an NEC player this young season. Steve Glowiak was also terrific, scoring 28 points by sinking seven out of nine three-pointers.

Villanova 90, Mount St. Mary’s 59
It may be against two teams from the power conferences, yet Jamion Christian can’t be pleased with his team’s effort early in the season, especially defensively. Tonight, the Mount gave up 1.22 points per possession (ppp) after allowing West Virginia to score 1.27 ppp on opening night. Really, it was an ugly effort in Philadephia any way you slice it – Villanova shot 63% from the floor, won the rebounding margin by 15, had 11 more assists, and outscored the Mount 60-16 in the paint. Ouch. Julian Norfleet has been the only glimmer of hope thus far, as he led the team tonight with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists. Rashad Whack and Sam Prescott have been ice-cold early on; both guards have combined to miss 30 of 41 shots in two games.

Purdue 103, Central Connecticut 73
If you were expecting an encore to LIU Brooklyn’s terrific effort last night in Indiana, then you came away disappointed. After jumping out to an early 17-14 lead thanks to Faronte Drakeford’s eight points, CCSU was shutdown for the next 5:17. The prolonged slump allowed Purdue to extend their lead to double digits and they never looked back. The Boilermakers scored 1.36 ppp, which was buoyed by 22 assists versus a mere nine turnovers. For the second straight game, Kyle Vinales led the Blue Devils in scoring with 22 points, but it was acquired by jacking up 21 attempts. This time, however, Vinales was afforded more rest; in fact, nine Blue Devils logged 14+ minutes in the game. Of the bench guys, freshman Matt Mobley was quite active with 10 points and four rebounds in limited time.

Dayton 70, St. Francis (PA) 57
It’s been a tough stretch for Rob Krimmel’s Red Flash. Tonight was their third game in six days, although St. Francis didn’t appear tired throughout much of the contest. Dayton was only up three at the under four minute timeout for the second half, but a 13-2 run sealed the deal for the Flyers. Four Red Flash players – Earl Brown, Ronnie Drinnon, Ollie Jackson, and Malik Harmon – finished in double figures for the night. 17 turnovers inevitably did St. Francis in, with three of those coming in the final three minutes. Dayton sank almost as many free throws (21) as they did field goals (23) in the victory.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

NEC Team Primer: #5 Bryant Bulldogs

Head Coach: Tim O’Shea, 6th year (39-111)
Last Season: 19-12, 12-6 (NEC), Lost First Round of the CIT to Richmond, 76-71
RPI/KenPom: 242/182
NEC Preseason Poll: 2nd out of 10 teams (tied with Robert Morris)
State of Programs: NEC Contender
Starters Returning: 3

Key Loss(es): Frankie Dobbs (13.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.2 A/TO), Vlad Kondratyev (5.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 58.5% FG%)
Incoming Players: Bosko Kostur (F), Declan Soukup (G), Daniel Garvin (F), Ellis Williams (PF/C), Justin Brickman (PG)

Bulldog_headProjected Starting Lineup:
PG: Corey Maynard (9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.0 A/TO)
G: Dyami Starks (17.7 ppg, 40.8% 3PT%, 84.8% FT%)
F: Joe O’Shea (8.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
PF: Alex Francis (17.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 56.9% FG%)
PF: Claybrin McMath (0.9 ppg, 0.8 rpg)

Key Reserves: Shane McLaughlin (PG), Bosko Kostur (F), Declan Soukup (G), Andrew Scocca (PF/C), Ellis Williams (PF), Daniel Garvin (F), Curtis Oakley (F)

Major Storylines:

  • A New Floor General – With the underrated Frankie Dobbs no longer in Smithfield, Tim O’Shea will rely on a familar face to handle the point: Corey Maynard. The senior guard is more than capable – last season he posted an assist to turnover ratio of 2.0 while stuffing the stat sheet elsewhere. Now with the ball in his hands all the time, however, the question remains if he can lead a high octane Bryant attack. Health will also be a moderate concern; last season Maynard struggled throughout the year with a bum ankle.
  • Shoring Up The Depth – After racing out to a 6-0 start in the NEC, the Bulldogs began to breakdown, and with good reason. O’Shea was forced to rotate six to seven players every game night and over time the team’s performance predictability began to wane. Now in his sixth season at the helm, O’Shea has a roster full of Division I talent for the first time ever. The second team may go through some growing pains early, but O’Shea fully expects to have a very capable eight to nine man rotation by January. Those legs will feel a little better come February, which could go a long way toward making a run at the title.
  • Surviving the Non-Conference Slate – I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Bryant possesses a fantastic, yet very difficult non-conference schedule. O’Shea isn’t shy about challenging his team in November and December, but with games versus Gonzaga, Ohio State, Notre Dame, North Dakota State, Vermont, and Harvard, his Bulldogs could get overexposed with a rough stretch of games.

The Skinny:
The Bryant Bulldogs greatly exceeded expectations in their first season of full Division I eligibility. Paired with veterans Alex Francis, Dobbs, and Maynard, transfers Dyami Starks and Joe O’Shea helped transformed the Bulldogs from a laughing-stock into a contender, essentially overnight. After shocking the nation with road upsets over Boston College and Lehigh, Bryant carried the momentum into the conference season, eventually earning a home game in the first round of the NEC tournament.

The offense, in particular, was outstanding with the Bulldogs scoring 117 points per 100 possessions, easily the best mark in the league. They had a dynamic playmaker (Dobbs), a three-point assassin (Starks), two glue guys (O’Shea and Maynard), and a double double waiting to happen every night (Francis). Quite simply, everything was clicking on that side of the ball.

In order to make that next jump, however, Bryant will need to bolster their depth and defense. Yes, their offensive firepower is impressive, but giving up 109.4 points per 100 possessions and allowing opponents to shoot 51.1% from inside the arc is problematic. Luckily for O’Shea, he’s collected an intriguing group of young interior big men who could possibly protect around the rim. Fifth year senior Claybrin McMath will start, but it’s the young guys behind him that may have the bigger impact. It remains to be seen who will contribute down low out of the Andrew Scocca (he was a medical red-shirt last season after only playing eight games), Daniel Garvin, and Ellis Williams combo. All three are long and in Garvin’s case, incredibly athletic.

The backcourt, on the other hand will be productive and somewhat deep. Shane McLaughlin will back up Maynard ant the point and looks to rebound after a somewhat disappointing freshman campaign. Dyami Starks is primed to have a monster season. And perhaps the biggest wildcard of this team is the coach’s nephew, Joe O’Shea. All preseason reports indicate that the versatile 6’5″ stretch forward will have a breakout type of year. Then again, O’Shea was the most efficient player on Bryant’s roster last season, despite being surrounded by three all-conference players.

Finally there’s Alex Francis, who may have the best opportunity of anyone in the NEC to average a double double. He’s a star offensively; a player who’s crafty around the rim yet can blow by opponents off the dribble. If he can somehow improve his free throw percentage – he does a great job of getting to the line – then the sky’s the limit for the Bronx native. Backing him up will be Bosko Kostur, who O’Shea gushed about during NEC Media Day. He has a chance, playing the “3” and “4”, to have an impact season as a red-shirt freshman.

Coach’s Quotes:

“If I started Shane McLaughlin (at the point), that makes us really small. And my nephew, Joe O’Shea has been playing so well that it was imperative to get him into the starting lineup to give us some real size. So I talked to Corey (Maynard) about playing the point… so he was really comfortable making that move.”
– O’Shea, on why he decided to start Corey Maynard at the point guard position

“Bosko Kostur is a kid that has a chance to really have an impact as a freshman. He’s a real talent.”
– O’Shea, when asked who out of his freshmen class with contribute in their first season

“We needed to get bigger in the interior… Alex Francis used to score at will in practice, now he has a hard time scoring because of the added size and length that we brought in.”
– O’Shea, talking about why he believes his interior defense will be much improved compared to last season


Ryan – I was really concerned about their point guard position, until O’Shea unleashed his plan to insert Maynard there. With a core four of Maynard, Starks, O’Shea, and Francis, this team will absolutely be in contention. How much so? I think they’ll land in the top four and find themselves in the NEC title game. (17 wins, 10-6 NEC)

John – Sure, Maynard is going to play the point. He’ll probably do well there. I’m just worried that Bryant’s lack of depth will catch up again with them this season. Teams that take a big leap forward one season often take a little step back the next. The Bulldogs are talented, but could definitely end up in that category. (16 wins, 9-7 NEC)

Other NEC Team Primers:
#10 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
#9 St. Francis (PA) Red Flash
#8 Sacred Heart Pioneers

#7 St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers
#6 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds

Big Apple Bucket’s NEC All-Conference Second and Third Teams

With nearly half of the 2013 NEC all-conference selections no longer residing inside the conference, there’s plenty of opportunity for players to emerge into the limelight. Estimating who lands in the top 15 won’t be easy, but Big Apple Buckets will begin the process today by naming our all-conference second and third teams as the first installment of our two-part series. Tomorrow, we’ll present our NEC first team along with our player, rookie, coach, and defensive player of the year selections. Continue reading “Big Apple Bucket’s NEC All-Conference Second and Third Teams”

NEC All-Conference Teams: The Way Too Early Edition

In keeping with the spirit of those “way too early ratings” for the upcoming 2013-14 season, I decided to unveil my all-conference teams for the NEC. Mainly because I had nothing better to do. Plus it’s fun to speculate with over five months left before the season begins! Here we go, and of course feel free to disagree with me in the comments section.

All-NEC Preseason First Team
PG: Jason Brickman, LIU Brooklyn
SG: Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut
F: Alex Francis, Bryant
PF: Julian Boyd, LIU Brooklyn
PF: Jalen Cannon, St. Francis Brooklyn

Well so much for Kyle Vinales leaving. With the graduations of Jamal Olasewere, Shane Gibson, and Velton Jones, I strongly felt these five players will represent the preseason All-NEC team. In my opinion, all five are virtual locks to make the preseason first team, barring injury of course. Let’s see, we have an assist leader in the NCAA (Jason Brickman), a former NEC Player of the Year (Julian Boyd), a former NEC Rookie of the Year and leading scorer in the conference (Vinales), and two forwards in Alex Francis and Jalen Cannon that are so difficult to guard for NEC competition. This is a loaded first team.

All-NEC Second Team
PG: Kenneth Ortiz, Wagner
SG: Dyami Starks, Bryant
SG: Latif Rivers, Wagner
F: Lucky Jones, Robert Morris
F: Matthew Hunter, Central Connecticut

Now it gets a little tricky. I’m still confident in my second group, even though there’s plenty of high upside talent lurking underneath. Kenneth Ortiz is coming off another NEC Defensive Player of the Year title, yet people should also be impressed with his climbing assist rate. Dyami Starks led the NEC in three pointers made and was fourth in scoring last season, so I’m expecting a monster junior season, as long as someone can get Starks the ball with Frankie Dobbs now gone. Latif Rivers had a down season mainly due to a bad wheel. Obviously his knee will need to check in at 100% for a return to the all-conference team, but he sure has the potential given the athletic ability around him. Two do-everything stat fillers, Lucky Jones and Matthew Hunter, have first team potential. Still, given the star power above them, the safe bet is seeing each player settle into the second team.

All-NEC Third Team
PG: Shivaughn Wiggins, Mount St. Mary’s
G: Rashad Whack, Mount St. Mary’s
F: Jay Harris, Wagner
F: Louis Montes, Sacred Heart
PF: Earl Brown, St. Francis (PA)

We are officially in the speculation point of the exercise. If you replace someone here with someone from my “also considered list” below, I would have no qualms. I love the overall game of Shivaughn Wiggins, therefore I’m expecting he’ll catapult into All-NEC contention. With an excellent junior season under his belt, Rashad Whack should continue to produce in Jamion Christian’s shooter friendly system. Jay Harris is the most unfamiliar face in this group of 15, yet I’m expecting the Valpo transfer to have an immediate impact in Staten Island. He may very well be the best skilled athlete in Bashir Mason’s rotation, and that’s saying a lot. I gave some love to Louis Montes, whose numbers were quite impressive down the stretch last season. With a solid core of sharpshooting veterans in the backcourt to stretch defenses, look for Montes to optimize the interior game with his big, wide body. Earl Brown may be the most speculative athlete of this group, but with exceptional rebound rates, we’re looking for continued growth. He could lead the league in double-doubles next season.

Also Considered: Phil Gaetano, Sacred Heart, Karvel Anderson, Robert Morris, E.J. Reed, LIU Brooklyn, Sam Prescott, Mount St. Mary’s, Julian Norfleet, Mount St. Mary’s, Malcolm McMillan, Central Connecticut

Season In Review: Bryant Bulldogs

Losing 99 basketball games in 119 tries will take a lot out of you, even if you have the legitimate excuse of overseeing your program transition from Division II to Division I athletics. Such was the case for Bryant head coach Tim O’Shea, who after succumbing to four seasons of recruiting purgatory, was fighting to stay optimistic. When he signed on the dotted line to become Bryant’s leader in 2008, O’Shea had pegged the program’s transformation as a five-year plan. Year five was supposed to be the pivotal season when Bryant made their move toward competitive basketball inside the Northeast Conference.

To say Bryant made a move would be an understatement. After procuring shocking road wins over Boston College and Lehigh, Bryant sprinted out to a 6-0 start in the NEC. When the smoke finally cleared, the Bulldogs had engineered one of the greatest turnarounds in Division I history. Their 19 wins was a 17 win improvement over a dismal 2011-12 season that found them ranked 333rd out of 345 teams in KenPom’s ratings. Despite the historic turnaround, O’Shea wanted just a little more when he reflects back on the season.

“I’m proud (of Bryant’s season), but honestly I’m also a little disappointed in the sense that we got into position to win the league and we came up a little bit short,” said a candid O’Shea. “I don’t think it was a lack of effort, but whenever you get in position like that – it’s hard to do – you want to finish it off and take it to completion and we didn’t do that.”

O’Shea then added, “In hindsight, after what we’ve been through in this transition, how could I not be proud? Especially for a guy like a Frankie Dobbs who hung in there the whole way and had great leadership. Vlad Kondratyev had a great year for us.”

Even in the lean seasons, Bryant boasted three above average talents in Dobbs, Alex Francis, and Corey Maynard, yet it was their depth, or lack thereof, that made winning such a chore. It’s tough to win when a majority of the roster is comprised of Division II talent, but that was the case for the first four years under O’Shea. For year five, however, the insertion of transfers Dyami Starks and Joe O’Shea – Tim O’Shea’s nephew – did wonders for giving Bryant a complete Division I lineup ready to compete with the likes of Robert Morris, LIU Brooklyn, and Wagner.

Due to insertion of Starks – an All-NEC second team selection at season’s end who made 40.8% of his three-point attempts – Bryant’s offense posted a league best 1.14 points per possession (PPP) in NEC play, a stark improvement over their 0.90 PPP mark for the 2011-12 season. The Bulldogs shot 47.9% from the floor, aided by Francis’ excellent 56.9% mark on 371 shot attempts. After several seasons of serving as the NEC’s doormat, Bryant was lighting up opponents on the offensive end.

Near the end though, Bryant’s short bench and average defense struggled to close out games late, but it was a masterful season nonetheless. Bryant finished in a three-way tie for second place in the conference, and hosted a game in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) tournament, falling to Atlantic-10 foe Richmond after a hard-fought battle.

With the arduous transition to Division I now in the rear view, O’Shea can rest easier knowing that he has guided the Bulldogs into the thick of the NEC elite. He may be a little disappointed Bryant couldn’t finish their otherwise spectacular season off, but it was surely an unforgettable year in O’Shea’s eyes. “Other than making the NCAA tournament or the NIT, I don’t know if it could have gone much better.”

Best Moment – Take your pick. I select their 80-79 victory over the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, the same Mountain Hawks who had upended Duke in the second round of the 2012 NCAA tournament the previous season. Shortly thereafter, Bryant surprised a hot Robert Morris club with a terrific offense display at Moon Township. The normally stout Colonials defense gave up 1.15 points per possession in the contest, thanks to the outside shooting capabilities of Starks and Dobbs. The Bulldogs were now officially relevant in the eyes of everyone.

Worst Moment – When recapping a drastically improved team, it’s difficult to pinpoint a truly awful moment. But if I had to choose a setback, it would be their home loss to Robert Morris in the last week of the regular season. A victory would have inevitably secured a #1 seed in the NEC tournament, not to mention drew a much weaker opponent in the first round (as opposed to a scorching Mount St. Mary’s club). Unfortunately for Bryant, Robert Morris’ execution down the stretch sent the vociferous sellout crowd in Smithfield home disappointed.

Saying Goodbye

Frankie Dobbs – Words can’t truly capture the sincere gratitude O’Shea has towards Dobbs, who patiently spent three long seasons – one as a redshirt – on an undermanned Bryant team waiting for relevancy. Dobbs’ decision to transfer to Bryant surely was pushed by the presence of D.J. Cooper on Ohio, yet the point guard could have chosen a different program nonetheless. In Dobbs’ fifth and final season, he was selected to the All-NEC third team selection for his excellent efforts. Bryant’s remarkable turnaround wouldn’t have occurred without the leadership of Dobbs, who O’Shea says is the definition of a program cornerstone. (13.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.2 spg, 2.2 A/TO)

Vlad Kondratyev – The overlooked big man made his presence felt throughout the season with terrific rebounding rates of 8.8% (offensive) and 18.3% (defensive). He was practically the only cog in the paint when freshman Andrew Scocca went down. Kondratyev may have been foul prone, committing nearly six fouls per 40 minutes, but his overall steadiness made things easier for O’Shea in dealing with a short bench. Along with his team, the 6’8” center exceeded expectations as a Bulldog his senior year. (5.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 58.5% FG%)

Looking Ahead to the 2013-14 Season
In spite of the late heartbreak, Bryant will come back in year six of O’Shea’s master plan with much higher expectations. Maynard, Starks and Francis are all returning, so the talent is there to continue a run of excellence. Of course, Dobbs’ departure raises a deserving question regarding their point guard position, but O’Shea is confident that someone from the three-man competition of sophomore Shane McLaughlin, freshman Justin Brickman (you may know his brother, Jason Brickman of LIU Brooklyn) and redshirt freshman and fellow Australian Declan Sukoup will emerge. If one of those three does just that, and O’Shea’s freshmen and sophomore class helps solidify their depth, Bryant has as good a chance as any to capture their first NEC crown. A difficult, yet compelling non-conference schedule including road matchups versus Gonzaga, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Delaware and home tilts with Lehigh, North Dakota State, and Vermont should harden the Bulldogs’ resolve heading into NEC play for January of 2014.