NEC Ball Screen: 11/28/21

Well, that's more like it.


After making just 28% of its three-pointers in its first four games, Long Island exploded from the perimeter, making 14 of 38 in a 99-65 dismantling of Delaware St. on Sunday. Ty Flowers (19 points, 5 boards, 4 assists, 2 blocks) made 5 of 10 as his hot start continued, but he wasn't alone; Kyndall Davis put up 21 points in just 18 minutes thanks to making 7 of 11 from the field (including 3 of 6 from deep), and added 7 boards, Alex Rivera was 4 of 7 from beyond the arc, and both Isaac Kante (10 points, 14 boards) and Eral Penn (14p, 10r) put up double-doubles.


For LIU, it wasn't just the threes; Derek Kellogg leaned on that big front line, which grabbed nearly 46.7% of its misses, and as a team the Sharks turned it over just 9 times. I've been critical of the backcourt, but on Sunday it played well; Rivera not only made his first 4 three-pointers, but had 4 assists against 1 turnover, while Tre Wood had 5 assists and 0 turnovers, and was 3 for 6 from the field in 26 minutes. Long Island doesn't need those guys to be studs, but if they can take care of the basketball and hit open threes, they'll be fine.


It wasn't just that Long Island won, but that they did it so convincingly. The Hornets were just 5 of 28 from three, and didn't get much done in the paint (just 11 attempts). I'm not ready to call LIU contenders after one very good 40-minute basketball game, but I'm less worried about them than I was yesterday.


In Emmitsburg, Mount St. Mary's fell to 1-5 against D1 programs, falling to Navy 67-40. The Mount has really struggled offensively to start the season, but this might be the low point. In yesterday's Ball Screen, I was concerned that MSMU would struggle to grab offensive rebounds given Navy's ability to control the boards, and that if that was going to be the case, they'd have to figure out other ways to score efficiently. Well, not only were offensive rebounding opportunities not there (just 9, or 23%), they converted just 2 of 20 from three and 3 of 10 at the rim, which all correlated with a 0.61ppp. The lone efficient Mountaineer was Malik Jefferson, who was 3 of 6 from the field for a team-high 9 points, to go along with 9 boards. Dan Engelstad's defense continues to play well; Navy scored just 1.02ppp, though had some success at the rim (13 of 21). However, they have to figure out a way to score the basketball more consistently; their season-high is 0.93ppp in the win over Robert Morris.


And finally, St. Francis-Brooklyn lost the consolation game of the 4-team Emerald Coast Classic, 73-67 to North Carolina A&T. After falling down 61-46 with under 9-minutes left, the Terriers did battle back but it was too little too late.


Patrick Emilien led SFC with 14 points and 6 boards, while Michael Cubbage (11) and Tedrick Wilcox (10) were also in double-figures. Wilcox added 6 boards, while Cubbage had 4 rebounds and 2 steals. Bahaide Haidara continues to be an interesting player for Glenn Braica; the 6'6" forward had 9 points on 3 of 6 shooting to go along with 7 rebounds in 21 minutes. Rob Higgins, who did not play Saturday, did play 12 minutes off the bench in this one (just 2 points on 1 of 3 shooting).


The Achilles Heel for St. Francis was turnovers; 17 of them (24.3%), including 3 each from Cubbage and Wilcox. They also made just 5 of 19 from deep.


Marcus Watson, a wing who played 12 games for New Mexico St. last season, scored 28 points on 12 field goal attempts for NC A&T.


Today

Five teams in action, with a dreaded Sunday evening tip.


At 1pm, Merrimack heads to Boston University to take on the Terriers, who have risen 50 points at Kenpom thanks to some solid wins (UHart, Sam Houston St.), plus a pair of 1-point road losses at Northeastern and Florida St.


Also at 1, Central Connecticut has its first game at Detrick Gym against a Fordham team coming off an 84-74 win over Rise. Of course; Fordham also lost to Kenpom #350 Maryland-Eastern Shore.


At 4pm, Bryant and Fairleigh Dickinson hit the road to take on Ivy League opponents in Dartmouth and Princeton, respectively. Dartmouth, #262 at Kenpom, has only played two D1 games, including a 69-60 win at Georgetown. In that one, 6'1" guard Taurus Samuels went for 23 on 6 of 10 from downtown. Princeton, expected to challenge Yale for the Ivy League crown, already has two power-5 wins on its ledger; South Carolina on a neutral, and at Oregon St. (they also lost to Minnesota in double OT).


And at 7pm, St. Francis (PA) plays at Lehigh, which is 1-5 with its lone win at home against Kenpom #337 Columbia.


Things to watch:


1) Boston University is big for a Patriot League squad; their most used lineup includes Javante McCoy (6'5") Fletcher Tynen (6'7"), Walter Whyte (6'6"), and Sukhmail Mathon (6'10"). So it's no surprise that, as a team, the Terriers have a 53.8% eFG%, good for 67th nationally, and are converting 56% of their twos. However, they've also had turnover issues (23.4%). Can Merrimack turn them over enough to combat that big front line?


2) CCSU is coming off its best defensive performance in its win over Maine; can they keep it up? The Blue Devils don't have the rim protection you'd want from a good defensive team, so they have to force turnovers, something they were able to do earlier this week (Maine turned it over on 28% of its possessions). Fordham has done a good job taking care of the ball so far this season (below 18% turnover rate), but did struggle in that department in their loss to Manhattan.


3) Can Bryant find some depth? In Friday's win over Brown, Jared Grasso played just 6 players more than 9 minutes. When you play at the tempo that Bryant likes to play at (72.6 possessions/40 minutes, 25th fastest nationally), I'm not sure that's sustainable long-term. The top 6 on the Bryant roster have been really good, but it'd be nice to see at least a couple of other guys step up and make an impact.


4) Princetown is bombs away from downtown; 49.5% of their shots come from beyond the arc (17th highest nationally), and they're making those shots at a 35% clip. Combine that with a low 16.8% turnover rate, and the Tigers are tough to stop. FDU has certainly had its struggled on the defensive side of the ball, but it's coming off holding NJIT to 0.94ppp, largely thanks to holding them to 3 of 13 from three and controlling the boards. Can they do it again?


5) Is Ramiir Dixon-Conover back for SFU? Kenpom gives SFU a 45% chance of getting a road win on Sunday, but that assumes the Red Flash's star PG is back.


Best Bets


Season Record: 9-8


Today's Bet: Merrimack at Boston U. (under 122.5)


That's an awfully low number; in fact, it's the lost O/U we've seen on a Merrimack game this season. And for good reason; the Warriors defense has been nails so far, and while BU has been very efficient offensively, they like to slow the pace to a crawl (their 19.3 seconds per possession is 329th fastest, per Kenpom).


Kenpom projects this game to have 62 possessions, which...yeah, that's not exactly a fun game. If you want to take the over, you're assuming these teams average ~1.00ppp which, sure, that's possible. But Merrimack has scored above that exactly once (in their win over UHart last week), and allowed a team to score more than that just twice (Virginia Tech and Army, at just 1.03ppp). Sure, MC broke out in a big way offensively against Hartford, but I'm not ready to call that a trend.


Even though 122.5 is uncomfortably low, I'm taking it.


Bonus: this one doesn't count for my standings, but if I see that Ramiir Dixon-Conover is not in the starting lineup for St. Francis (PA), I'll be taking Lehigh -3.5 if I can get it. RDC is just so important for that team, and Fanduel isn't baking his absence into the line.