NEC Ball Screen: 1/21/22
A 5-game Friday night slate? Lezz go.
Today's Games (All games can be seen on NEC FrontRow):
Wagner at Long Island, 7pm
Bryant at Merrimack, 7pm
Sacred Heart at Mount St. Mary's, 7pm
St. Francis-Brooklyn at Fairleigh Dickinson, 7pm
Central Connecticut at St. Francis (PA), 7pm
WC at LIU
Wagner has exactly two games, according to Kenpom, in which they have less than a 74% chance to win; Friday at LIU, and 2/26 at Bryant. So; can the Seahawks get got? Ryan Peters wrote about the Wagner offense and the Sharks defense, so I'd encourage to go read that prior to this big-time NEC matchup. One thing I'll be watching; can Long Island take care of the basketball? They've done an nice job protecting the rock so far during league play (16.4% turnover rate), but Wagner is a whole other animal; on the season they're forcing turnovers on 23.3% of their defensive possessions (26th nationally), which often leads to transition baskets. It sounds counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to limit Wagner's offensive efficiency is to protect the basketball.
BU at MC
This is a battle of the league's two best big men in Merrimack's Jordan Minor and Bryant's Hall Elisias. The two 6'8" bigs are the only two NEC players with block rates north of 7% (Elisias is at 11%, Minor 10.3%), and both get the majority of their offense around the rim. For Minor the questions are; can he stay out of foul trouble (5.2 fouls per 40 minutes), and can he knock down free throws? On the season he's made just 66.3%, which is an improvement over last season's 58.3% mark, but he's just 6 for 16 from the charity stripe over his last three games and 15 of 31 (48.4%) in league play. He's been streaky there at times; during a stretch of five games in November/December, he made 29 of his 32 free throw opportunities. Elisias has dealt with similar fouling issues (5.5 fouls per 40 minutes), but has improved to become a 77% free throw shooter. Obviously the two players' roles are completely different; Minor is the featured offensive player for Merrimack with a usage rate of 31.3%, while Elisias gets most of his offense via lobs and put-backs. I'd expect both coaches to go right at the opposing big man early and often.
SHU at MSMU
Despite rolling with what most would be a considered an under-sized front line, Sacred Heart leads the NEC in league play with a 37.7% offensive rebounding rate, as Nico Galette (9.9%), Bryce Johnson (8.6%), and Cantavio Dutreil (13%) have done a nice job crashing the boards. Despite boasting one of the biggest frontcourts, with a triumvirate of 6'8"+ bigs in Mezie Offurum, Nana Opoku, and Malik Jefferson, the Mount is grabbing just 21.3% of their misses (last in the league), and has allowed opponents to offensive rebound at a 30.4% clip (just 6th). Dan Engelstad has one of the league's best defenses in the league, but if the Pios are able to get work done on the offensive boards, they have a chance to put up a efficient offensive numbers tonight.
SFC at FDU
This matchup features one of the most experienced teams in the NEC against one of the youngest. Here's the thing about St. Francis-Brooklyn; they haven't been at full-strength very often this season. In fact, just two players...Trey Quartlebaum and Jack Hemphill...have played in every game this season, and after a 23 point outburst at Wagner last Friday, 6'7" forward Patrick Emilien was noticeably absent against LIU on Monday. If he's back, the Emilien vs. Mikey Square match-up is an intriguing one. Both combine significant size (Square is 6'6" 195 lbs.) with skill and athleticism, and both have shot it well from inside the arc.
CCSU at SFU
The Blue Devils have done a nice shot from deep; in 5 league games, they've made 35.8% of their 3s, and according to Shot Quality they've had the NEC's best SQPPP in both "Catch and Shoot 3's" (1.19ppp) and off the dribble 3s (0.94ppp). The problem has been CCSU's general inability to attack the paint with the dribble. If SFU continues to play multiple bigs together (Josh Cohen, Mark Flagg, Jeriah Coleman), watch for Andre Snoddy's ability to attack the rim. Another player to watch; the Blue Devils' Davonte Sweatman, who was key in helping CCSU's late comeback at Sacred Heart on Monday. Sweatman reminds me a lot of Merrimack's Malik Edmead as a freshman; talented and explosive, yet at times out of control. For SFU; Maxwell Land was really good in the close loss at LIU (20 points, 8 boards) and the win over Merrimack (13 and 9). However, at Bryant he was just 2 for 9 from the field and had 4 turnovers. If Land plays well, the Red Flash play well.
NEC Worst Bets
Season Record: 24-31
My "leans" are recorded below. I'll post any official bets to my Twitter feed.
1) CCSU (+7.5) at SFU
Ronell Giles has been out of the Red Flash, and I'm not bullish on the idea of SFU playing multiple bigs together.
2) SHU at Mount (-2.5)
The Mount's defense is stout, and I think their size will give the Pio forwards issues. Plus; I like the way Mount St. Mary's' stable of wings (Dakota Leffew, Josh Reaves, Jaylin Gibson, Deandre Thomas).
3) SFC (+1.5) at FDU
I just don't believe in FDU right now. If Emilien, or any other key players, are out then all bets are off. However, at full strength I believe the Terriers win this one going away.
4) BU (-2.5) at MC
I wrote about Merrimack's Jeckyll and Hide shooting numbers in this week's MRJ. If the Warriors make something like 12 of 24 from three, sure they are going to win this one. But I don't believe they will, and Bryant is playing very good basketball right now. Plus; can Jordan Minor have a big offensive game against Hall Elisias and Greg Calixte?
5) BU at MC, u132.5
If they hit the over it means that Merrimack got hot from outside. Joe Gallo won't let Bryant get out in transition, and the Bryant defense won't leave many open shots available.
6) Wagner (-4.5) at LIU
I don't like the number, but if it comes down at all then I would consider it. I think Wagner wins, but it's not more than a 2-possession game.