Third seed slips through St. Francis’ fingers

St. Francis (NY) got the chance it needed. It just couldn’t capitalize.

Coming into Saturday the Terriers needed two things to happen in order for them to grab the #3 seed in the NEC conference tournament. First, Robert Morris had to lose to Quinnipiac on EPSNU at 11 a.m. Second, SFC had to win at Fairleigh Dickinson, a team that was 2-26 and 1-16 in the NEC on the season.

Once the Bobcats knocked off the Colonials 73-69 to claim in the #5 seed in the conference tournament the possibility of the Terriers earning the third seed, and avoiding a pretty hot Quinnipiac team in the first round, seemed likely.

Except that in the NEC nothing is ever guaranteed. St. Francis shot 28% from the field and just 4-21 from three (19%) as they fell 45-44 at FDU. It’s a bad loss that leaves Glenn Braica’s club at 15-14 and 12-6 in the NEC on the season.

This loss is going to have long reverberating effects around the NEC. First off, it means that the Pope Center is going to host what should be the best game of the first round of the NEC tournament. SFC vs. Quinnipiac is going to be a great game. Yes, the Terriers just won by eight the last time these two teams played a few weeks ago, but the Bobcats are still one of the most dangerous teams in the league.

I also wonder if this is going to cost a few St. Francis (NY) players postseason awards. Obviously those shouldn’t be the main concern, because making the NCAA tournament is the ultimate reward, but Braica and Jalen Cannon are definitely in hotly contested races for Coach of the Year and Rookie of the Year. This slip could cost them both.

If (and this is a big if) Wagner can get past Central Connecticut today Dan Hurley’s Seahawks would be 16-2 and have a full four-game lead on the Terriers in the standings. I understand that Hurley has a lot of talent on Staten Island, but he also recruited and developed most of it. It just makes the decision that much harder. The other guys in the race here are Monmouth’s King Rice (record won’t be good enough, but he’s done amazing stuff) and LIU’s Jim Ferry (the victim of expectations). It still comes down to Braica vs. Hurley and that four-game edge in the conference standings would be difficult to reconcile.

Then there’s the ROY award. Jalen Cannon is just one of many players that could win the award. Unfortunately the loss to the Knights highlighted his biggest strengths (he had 20 rebounds) and weaknesses (five points). Cannon still needs to work on his offensive game. Most of his points come from tip-ins and dunks in transition. It’s possible that a freshman with a more developed offensive game, like Kyle Vinales of CCSU or Lucky Jones of RMU, might be able to sneak into this spot instead. Ultimately I think Cannon still deserves the award (despite what Ryan said).

Now Robert Morris will wait for the conclusion of two games tonight before it learns its opponent. The Colonials though can wait a little longer with the knowledge that they’ve got the #3 locked up.

Assist Tracker: Dec. 23

Going into the Christmas break a couple guys blew up with double-digit assist efforts, including one forward. Here’s a look at the Assist Tracker for Dec. 23.

Zack Rosen (G, Penn) — Rosen had 12 assists and 13 points as Penn defeated Marist 84-71 on Friday. The majority of Rosen’s assists went to either to Rob Belcore (4) or Tyler Bernardini (5). Just one of his assists was on a jumper and the majority (7) of his assists went for threes. All five of Rosen’s assists to Bernardini were for threes as he shot 8-11 from beyond the arc and scored 30 points. Thus, even though Rosen only scored 13 points, well below his season average of 20.2, he contributed to 44 of Penn’s 84 points.

Oscar Bellfield (G, UNLV) — With 11 points and 11 assists Bellfield helped the Runnin’ Rebels stomp Cal 85-68. There were four threes, three dunks, three layups and a jumper. All three of Brice Massamba’s baskets came off assists from Bellfield. Anthony Marshall led the team with 22 points, but only two of those baskets came from Bellfield assists.

Brian Voelkel (F, Vermont) — Voelkel is probably the best passing big man in college basketball. It’s a pity he’s hidden in Vermont. The Catamounts defeated Towson 65-49 on Friday and Voelkel had 11 assists, eight rebounds and four points. A lot of Voelkel’s assists got for threes to the talented shooters that surround him. Against the Tigers five went for threes and five went for layups.

Matthew Dellavedova (G, Saint Mary’s) — Delladova had eight assists on Friday night as Saint Mary’s defeated Missouri State 77-61. He also had 17 points in 39 minutes for the Gaels. Five of his eight assists went for layups.

Jordan Theodore (G, Seton Hall) — The Pirates took a chance and went to Longwood on Friday for an 87-61 win. Theodore scored 26 points, including the 1,000th of his career, in the win. He also had six assists. Four of those assists went to teammate Fuquan Edwin who scored 20 points. Theodore’s assists were evenly split between threes and layups.

Kenneth Ortiz (G, Wagner) — Playing against Pittsburgh it’s no surprise that none of Ortiz’s assists went for a close range bucket. His seven assists came from four jumpers and three threes. Latif Rivers hit three of those baskets. One of the most critical assists came on a fast break at the end of the game when Ortiz passed out to Rivers on the wing for an easy basket.