It’s tournament time! Continue reading “The 2016 NEC Tournament Preview”
BROOKLYN – LIU Brooklyn has passed the eye test as NEC contenders pretty much all season long, but alas that only works in multi-bid conferences when you’re canvasing for an at-large handout from the NCAA Selection Committee.
In one-bid leagues, it’s just the cold, hard, facts, ma’am, and the bottom line is the Blackbirds looked about as far from being NEC contenders as the local weathermen were in their forecasts back on Jan. 23, when LIU and St. Francis Brooklyn played on despite travel bans and two feet of snow outside.
FAIRFIELD, Conn. – In the sometimes alternate universe that is the NEC, a 10-game losing streak like Sacred Heart endured in November and December is not all that concerning. There were a couple of bad losses in there and the defense was porous at times, but Tevin Falzon was just getting back into form, and, well, it’s not like anyone in the NEC is getting an automatic bid or anything.
But after a decent split of the annual western Pennsylvania trip to open conference play, Sacred Heart was run off its own court by Fairleigh Dickinson and blown out by Wagner. Looking for a response the next week, the Pioneers were extremely fortunate to survive Central Connecticut and then were blown out again at St. Francis Brooklyn.
NEW BRITAIN, Conn. – It shouldn’t be terribly surprising that St. Francis Brooklyn is getting by with its defense this season. A quick check of the numbers shows that the Terriers have been in the top three of defensive efficiency in NEC play in each of Glenn Braica’s first five seasons at the helm in Brooklyn Heights, which is also the biggest reason why the Terriers are 54-34 in that span, never missing the NEC Tournament and winning the regular-season crown in 2014-15.
Even without Jalen Cannon and Brent Jones, St. Francis Brooklyn is moving slowly toward the top of the NEC defensive ratings (if it weren’t for two poor games against Wagner, it would be past Mount St. Mary’s and long there already). As I’ve talked about before, Tyreek Jewell is a fantastic defender and held Central Connecticut’s biggest offensive threat, Austin Nehls, without a field goal until the game was decided in a 60-49 smothering win for the Terriers (9-14, 5-5) at Detrick Gym Saturday afternoon.
SMITHFIELD, R.I. – In an NEC race that seems to pretty clearly up for grabs this season, it’s nice to have a guy like Shane McLaughlin around. The Bryant senior captain leads the conference in assists, and although he averages just 7.4 points per game can almost always be counted on to do the right thing down the stretch.
And with seemingly every NEC game going to the wire in 2015-16, he’s a big reason why the Bulldogs have shaken off a frustrating non-conference campaign to sit atop the NEC at 4-1 thus far. Thursday night in a tie game with the clock running down, Tim O’Shea put the ball in McLaughlin’s hands and hoped he could find an open teammate. When the tough St. Francis Brooklyn defense wouldn’t let him, McLaughlin – despite being just 1-5 from the field for two points at the time – took it upon himself, draining a fade away 18-footer with 1.3 seconds left to give Bryant a hard-fought 61-59 win at the Chace Athletic Center.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Sometimes, we all just need a break, don’t we? College basketball teams have been going since late September, and with Christmas fast approaching, almost everyone appeared in need of some time off Wednesday afternoon at the Yanitelli Center. Saint Peter’s and St. Francis Brooklyn had plenty of will, and eventually it will go down as a solid 56-45 win for the Peacocks, who will resume MAAC play next week at 2-0, but it was far from pretty.
To be fair, when we talk about taking a little break, we’re talking about everybody. It was not the best of days for the officials. This is the time of year where it will become difficult to continue with the freedom of movement initiative as the game was marred with interesting calls, numerous lengthy reviews, and technical fouls. Neither John Dunne nor Glenn Braica are among the more demonstrative coaches around (although Dunne does have his moments, it’s usually not directed at the officials).
NEW YORK, NY – Glenn Braica decided not to dive into his Dennis Green impression, but there was still lingering disappointment from the St. Francis Brooklyn contingent following Sunday’s 63-56 loss to St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. Continue reading “St. Francis Brooklyn Let St. John’s Off The Hook”
NEW YORK, NY – St. John’s proved they are very much still a work in progress with a 63-56 win over St. Francis Brooklyn Sunday afternoon in the first game of the Holiday Festival doubleheader which marked head coach Chris Mullin’s return to Madison Square Garden.
Continue reading “Pieces Starting To Fit For St. John’s”
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – The last time reigning Atlantic Sun champions North Florida saw a team from the NEC, it was on a neutral court, just as it was Saturday at Hartford’s Chase Family Arena.
Of course, there were quite a few more people in attendance back in March when Robert Morris upended North Florida in an NCAA Tournament play-in game. It could have been St. Francis Brooklyn with a break here or there in the NEC finals, remember.
But a season later, North Florida – with most of its core group returning – appears ready to make a return NCAA run, while the Terriers – like most of the NEC – are still trying to find their way, as the Ospreys scored a whopping 1.63 points per possession in the first half to build a huge lead and coasted to a 78-65 win in front of about 100 diehards on a neutral floor.
A few weeks ago, I posted my Way Too Early NEC All-Conference Teams thoughts. Given the turnover and roster youth in the NEC, narrowing down my top 15 players of 2015-16 was rather difficult. In particular, one player heading into his senior season, St. Francis Brooklyn’s Tyreek Jewell, wasn’t really considered as a candidate by yours truly. But after interviewing head coach Glenn Braica nearly two weeks ago, I’m starting to have serious doubts. Continue reading “Is St. Francis Brooklyn’s Tyreek Jewell Underrated?”