NEC Reset: Week 1
Week 1 of Northeast Conference play is done and, well, things are already weird. Sacred Heart and Robert Morris are both 2-0, St. Francis U. lost a home game by 18-points, and CCSU, which looked like a title contender in November, is currently 0-2.
If you're looking for some "over-reaction theatre", you came to the wrong place. While the first week of conference play did open some eyes, it's still just 11% of the league schedule. There's a lot of basketball left to play. Plus, winning on the road is where teams prove their meddle, and the two undefeated teams both won two home games apiece.
TBDD Rankings (1/6/19):
1. Fairleigh Dickinson (1-1)
Oh, hello...we have a new #1. The schedule-makers did FDU no favors by sending them on the western Pennsylvania road trip during the first week of conference play, and I'd bet if you gave coach Greg Herenda truth serum, he would have been thrilled to start out 1-1.
Which makes what they did in Loretto on Saturday evening all the more impressive. After falling at RMU on Thursday (they had an uncharacteristic 22 turnovers), the Knights punched the Red Flash right in the mouth, eventually holding a 26-point second half lead.
2. St. Francis U. (1-1)
No, the Red Flash didn't look like the top team in the league last week...and perhaps not even a top tier team. After jumping out to a 15-point lead in the first half against Mount St. Mary's, they let the Mount come-back and eventually take the lead early in the second half. Sure, SFU won the game, but it wasn't the performance you would expect.
Then on Saturday...wtf? FDU is really good but I don't think anyone saw that coming. They turned it over 26% of the time and made just 5 of their 21 three-point attempts while allowing the Knights to score 1.15 PPP. The talent is still there however.
3. LIU Brooklyn (1-1)
The Blackbirds opened with two road games, and played well enough to win both of them. They were up one with 1:25 left at Sacred Heart only to let the game slip away, then they jumped out to a big lead at Bryant and let them back into the game, making it closer than it should have been.
LIU-Brooklyn is favored in each of their next five games, which includes four home games and a road game at the Mount. They could easily be sitting at 5-2 (or even 6-1) two weeks from now.
4. Wagner (1-1)
If you said Wagner would be 1-1 after the first week, you'd assume they lost at CCSU, then beat St. Francis Brooklyn at home, right?
The Seahawks got a bit lucky with CCSU's Tyler Kohl missing the season opener, but what the did offensively in that game was super impressive; they made 15 of 35 from three on their way to putting up 1.14 PPP. However, they turned around and managed just 0.88 PPP against SFC. They (probably) have a top 2 defense in this league, which will bring them places.
5. St. Francis-Brooklyn (1-1)
You sensing a trend here? I'm never going to ding a team for losing on the road, even when they are playing teams projected to be near the bottom of the conference. So when the Terriers dropped a road game at Bryant on opening night, it wasn't a shock.
But turning around and winning a road game at Wagner? That's impressive. SFC gets Robert Morris, St. Francis U., and Sacred Heart at home in their next three.
6. Sacred Heart (2-0)
Quick, which team has the 2nd best defensive efficiency ratio through two games of NEC play? Yep, it's the Pioneers...the same team that struggled to get stops during all of non-conference play.
Now let's not get crazy; they won two home games, and they weren't very impressive in their win over CCSU (I'd argue that if the Blue Devils hadn't been ice cold from three, Central Connecticut probably wins the game). But Latina's freshmen don't play like freshmen, and they have the talent to beat anyone in the league.
7. Robert Morris (2-0)
A team can only win the games on their schedule, and for that I will salute Andy Toole and the Colonials. However, per Kenpom they have had the easiest conference schedule to date (home games against FDU and Mount St. Mary's), and they've yet to show they can score it consistently.
But much like Wagner, that defense is going to take them places, and all Andy Toole does is win. They kick off a four-game roadie at St. Francis Brooklyn on Thursday, and if they can steal a couple of them, they'll be for real.
8. Central Connecticut St. (0-2)
Through two games, the Blue Devils have the league's worst offensive efficiency, and the league's worst defensive efficiency. They are 7 for 46 from three in two games, and haven't played a good 40-minutes of basketball since before Thanksgiving.
On the flip side, Tyler Kohl didn't play in the blowout loss to Wagner, and no team in America is likely to continue to shoot that poorly from downtown. I think there are a lot of questions to be answered in New Britain, but they aren't nearly has bad as they played last week, and will likely get this thing turned around.
9. Bryant (1-1)
Jared Grasso has this team improving, and they proved on opening night that they aren't going to be a pushover, beating St. Francis Brooklyn, and playing LIU tough on Saturday.
However, in two home games they allowed 1.05 PPP, and unless they can get stops they are going to struggle to rack up wins. But I don't think anyone will look forward to the trip to Smithfield.
10. Mount St. Mary's (0-2)
Similar to Bryant, the Mount will not be a pushover, as they proved in both of their opening week road games. They held leads against both SFU and RMU in the second half, including being up one with 39 seconds left in Moon Township.
The Mount has been okay defensively but have really struggled to score it. Mount fans have to be happy with their competitiveness in Year 1 of the Engelstad era, however.