NEC Ball Screen: 2/10/22
Today's Games (All games can be seen via NEC FrontRow):
Mount St. Mary's (7-5) at Wagner (12-0), 5pm, ESPNU
Bryant (11-1) at Sacred Heart (4-7), 7pm
St. Francis-Brooklyn (4-8) at Long Island (6-6), 7pm
Central Connecticut (4-8) at Merrimack (5-6), 7pm
St. Francis (PA) (3-9) at Fairleigh Dickinson (3-9), 7pm
MSMU at WC
In case you missed it, Wagner's Elijah Ford is done for the year with an injury. Yesterday I wrote about what the Seahawks may look like going forward. TLDR; expect to see Jahbril Price-Noel, a sharp-shooting senior transfer from Pacific, get the majority of the minutes at the '4', while Bashir Mason will probably be forced to try out a small lineup (with, say, Zaire Williams, Will Martinez, and Alex Morales on the wings) at times as well. One thing to note; Wagner's Nigel Jackson has been in a walking boot these past few weeks. If he can get back to health, he would probably see time as a stretch-4 as well.
How will the Ford injury impact this evening's game? Mount St. Mary's utilizes ball screens as much as anyone in the league and while Engelstad will generally use Nana Opoku as his "roller", he can look for mismatches by utilizing Malik Jefferson and/or Mezie Offurum in that spot as well. With Ford Wagner was much more switchable on the perimeter than they are now; can Price-Noel (or Nigel Jackson) keep a ball-handler like Jalen Benjamin in front of them? Can a small lineup adequately protect the rim against the likes of Offurum, Opoku, and Jefferson? We are going to learn a lot about the new-look Seahawks tonight.
BU at SHU
If you thought Peter Kiss played with a chip on his shoulder before his suspension, what's in store now? The Bulldogs get their star wing back and I can't help but wonder; might his usage rate come down a bit? Charles Pride showed he can be more than a "glue guy" last week in scoring 76 points in two games, but he was also efficient in doing so. Either way, Jared Grasso will likely rely on those two to provide the bulk of the scoring. Sacred Heart has a league-worst 110.3 Defensive Efficiency in NEC play, so I'm not sure they will be able to get consistent stops, which means they will need to keep up in the scoring column. Aaron Clarke has struggled to shoot it lately (3 for his last 25 from three), and if he can't find the bottom of the net it could be a long night.
SFC at LIU
Back on January 17th, LIU blew out St. Francis at the Pope Center 80-65 in a game in which the Terriers managed just 0.88ppp. However, Patrick Emilien did not play in that one, and Michael Cubbage was just 2 of 13 from the field. Cubbage has been on fire over the past 4 games, averaging 18.5 ppg, and last week he was 14 of 27 from two and 3 of 5 from three. As a guy who relies on the mid-range more than any other player in the league (his 102 mid-range attempts are the most in the NEC, with teammate Patrick Emilien right behind him with 98), Cubbage can be inconsistent which is why his eFG% is just 41.4%. LIU forced him into tough shots the 1st time around, can they do that again? And will Cubbage (and Emilien) make tough shots?
CCSU at MC
Central Connecticut is coming off a hard-fought overtime win at home over FDU, and the star of that show was Nigel Scantlebury. The 4th year PG played 38 minutes, scoring 27 points on 7 of 11 from the field and 10 of 11 from the free throw line, but he also had 5 assists against just 1 turnover. Scantlebury, who was great in the non-conference, has struggled since missing three games due to covid; his O-Rating, which was 103.8 (on 23.7% usage) prior to going out is just 96.7 on 23.9% usage since January 8th, and his eFG% is 42.9% (9 of 29 from three). Merrimack beat CCSU in Detrick Gym when Scantlebury returned to the lineup on 1/8, and while Ian Krishnan was 4 of 8 from downtown, the starting frontcourt of Andre Snoddy and Jayden Brown combined for 10 points on 3 of 12 shooting. Good, experienced bigs have had success against Merrimack's zone defense, so watch for Stephane Ayangma, who had 8 points and 4 boards in 18 minutes in the first matchup. For Merrimack, can Malik Edmead bounce back from a tough week? After scoring in double-figures in his previous 5 games, the sophomore combo-guard scored just 8 points in each game last week, going 5 of 19 from the field with 5 assists and 7 turnovers.
SFU at FDU
Two teams battling to stay out of the Play-in-game, Fairleigh Dickinson already owns a win in Loretto so this is a massive game for the Red Flash. As I mentioned above; FDU lost at CCSU on Saturday, but there were some unique circumstances in that Mikey Square played just 3 minutes. Square has been, perhaps, the best player on the Knights roster this season, so it's reasonable to question what's going on here. Greg Herenda has had an inconsistent rotation all season long; he's used 12 different starting lineups, and players have gone from playing single-digit minutes to 25+ in the matter of a game or two. My guess? Herenda is trying to instill a culture in his young program and is using minutes as a primary motivator. SFU has had a rough go of it since losing Ronell Giles; their Adjusted OE is just 93.0 since then (97.2 prior) as Rob Krimmel does have shooters he can put on the floor (Luke Ruggery, Brad McCabe), but not the kind of versatile athleticism that Giles offers. Since Giles went out the Red Flash are shooting just 29.3% from three and could use someone like Ruggery (just 14 for 46 from deep) to knock down shots.
NEC Worst Bets
Season Record: 34-39
Below are my "leans". I'll post official bets to my Twitter feed.
1) Mount St. Mary's (+8) at Wagner
What an interesting line! Kenpom has Wagner -11; is Elijah Ford worth 3 points? This almost feels exactly right to me. I'm leaning Mount here, as I think there are some matchup issues that the Wagner staff will have to work through, but I'm hopeful some money goes towards the Seahawks and gets this line to 9.5 or so.
2) Long Island (-6.5) vs. St. Francis-Brooklyn
SFC's shot selection is poor, and LIU has been really good at the WRAC. The Sharks have only covered twice in their last 5 games, but they were favored by 3 at the Pope Center and won by 15.
3) Fairleigh Dickinson (+2.5) vs. St. Francis (PA)
I just can't help myself with FDU. They would have covered the 3.5 at CCSU on Saturday had that game not gone into overtime, and they've played significantly better than their 2-17 record. But this team is hard to trust when Herenda is playing around with that rotation. With that said, I think FDU gets a win here at home.
4) Merrimack (-6) vs. Central Connecticut
That's a steep number for a couple of offensively-challenged teams, but I just don't like how CCSU matches up here. Plus; the Blue Devils have continually fallen behind in the 1st half, and if you do that against Merrimack, there may not be enough 2nd half possessions to come back.
5) Bryant (-4.5) at Sacred Heart
The Bulldogs smell blood in the water with Wagner losing Elijah Ford. Peter Kiss is back, Charles Pride is a stud, and SHU won't be able to defend the dribble-drive.