NEC Ball Screen: 2/12/22
Today's Games (All games can be seen on NEC FrontRow):
Merrimack at Wagner, 1pm
Sacred Heart at Fairleigh Dickinson, 1pm
St. Francis-Brooklyn at Central Connecticut, 1pm
Bryant at Long Island, 2pm
Mount St. Mary's at St. Francis (PA), 4pm
MC at WC
Well, Wagner passed its first test in the post-Elijah Ford era. On Thursday night the Seahawks whooped up on Mount St. Mary's; the final score was 69-57, but the lead ballooned to as many as 20 in the 2nd half, and Wagner was never threatened. As I expected Jahbril Price-Noel got the lion's share of the minutes at the '4', logging 34 minutes and making 2 of 4 from three (9 points) while adding 5 rebounds. Now up is a completely different test; the Merrimack zone. Yeah, I know the Warriors haven't been as good defensively this season as in the previous two years, but it's a different challenge nonetheless. When these two played back on January 23rd, it was Ford who had the game's biggest offensive impact; 20 points (including 6 of 6 at the rim). That zone can be soft in the middle, and having dynamic forwards who can do a number of different things can cause problems. Can Price-Noel provide that for Wagner? Elijah Ford he is not; he's made just 39% of his career 2-point tries, and his career assist rate is just 12.7%. This may be the type of game where Mason goes small more often than not, with Alex Morales and Will Martinez combining to man the 3 and 4 spots. Merrimack's cold outside shooting has continued; they were just 5 of 21 at home against CCSU frmo deep on Thursday with only Mykel Derring (3) making more than one three-pointer. Another thing I'd be worried about from the Warriors' perspective; backup big Justin Connolly is in a walking boot, which means Jordan Minor is Joe Gallo's lone big man right now. Thursday he played 39 minutes and picked up just 3 fouls. But managing to defend Raekwon Rogers and not fouling is a whole different animal all together.
BU at LIU
We all know what happened two weeks ago when these two matched up; can cooler heads prevail this time? Bryant has won 9-straight since it's 84-81 overtime loss at the Spiro Center and have been rolling offensively; their 111.6 offensive efficiency in league play is by far tops in the league (Wagner is 2nd at 109.1), and part of that is how frequently they get to the charity stripe. As a team, the Bulldogs have made 218 free throws in NEC games, which is more than all but 4 NEC teams have attempted (Long Island is 2nd at 169 made free throws). After some struggles early on from the charity stripe, Peter Kiss is shooting 82% in league play, while Charles Pride is checking in at 79%. They don't just score, they get to the line and knock them down. Can defenders like Eral Penn and Kyndall Davis keep those guys in front of them? Pride was just 5 of 12 from the field in the 1st game, but did have 5 assists and 0 turnovers, while Kiss went for 30, including 11 of 14 from the free throw line. The Sharks need to limit the freebies, and the refs need set the tone from the opening tip.
SFC at CCSU
A game that may be over-looked but has massive seeding implications; CCSU is currently 5-8 and, as things currently stand, sit in 5th place while the Terriers are a game back at 4-9. And don't forget; the Blue Devils own a win at the Pope Center back on New Year's Eve. What can we take away from that one? Absolutely nothing; Central Connecticut was without Nigel Scantlebury, Tre Mitchell, and Jayden Brown, while SFC was sans Michael Cubbage and Patrick Emilien, all of whom were out due to covid. St. Francis-Brooklyn really struggles with ball-screen coverage; per Shot Quality, they're allowing 0.86 SQPPP in ball screens (2nd worst), and teams have gone to it a lot (23% against them, most in the NEC). Why? Well big-man Jack Hemphill is not the most agile '5' in the league, and as a team they've had a tough time closing out on shooters, allowing opponents to take nearly 31% of their shots from deep. CCSU's Nigel Scantlebury has caught fire of late; last Saturday vs. FDU he scored a career-high 27 points, then on Thursday night he had 12 points and 8 assists (3 turnovers) in the win over Merrimack. Of course the same could be said for Michael Cubbage, who is averaging 19.4 ppg over his last 5 games, including a career-high 23 in the loss at LIU on Thursday night. Cubbage is shooting 32% from deep in league play, which forces the defense to honor the perimeter shot just enough for him to get into the lane where he can be deadly.
SHU at FDU
The Pios are allowing a league-worst 111.9 points per 100 possessions in league play, including 52.6% from two. FDU is 2nd in the league with a defensive efficiency of 107.8. There will be lots of points in this one! How does SHU match-up with Anquan Hill? The FDU freshman big has been really good of late, and is coming off a 16 point, 8 rebound, 3 assist performance against SFU on Thursday night. At 6'9", he will have at least 2 inches on any defender Anthony Latina chooses to throw at him, and he can pull any opposing big away from the basket given that he's made 7 of 14 from beyond the arc in NEC play. This feels like a game that Tyler Thomas needs to step up. The junior wing did have 16 points on Thursday night in the loss to Bryant, but needed 18 field goal attempts to do it, and also had 4 turnovers. He, Aaron Clarke, and Nico Galette have become Sacred Heart's 3-headed monster on offense, and those three need to be successful if the Pio's are going to be efficient scoring the ball like on Thursday, when they they scored 1.09 PPP and that triumvirate combined to score 53 points.
MSMU at SFU
After winning 6-straight, the Mount are losers of their last two games and will look to get on track on Saturday in Loretto. Of course, those two losses are understandable; a 1-point setback at home to Bryant, and a loss at Wagner. Nothing to hang your head over, that's for sure. If I had to point to one reason for Mount St. Mary's' loss at Wagner on Thursday night (there were many things), it was that Wagner made 8 of 18 from three. Yes, the same Wagner team that has had numerous articles written about how they the 3-ball isn't a big part of their game. To me, that's one of those "tip the cap" things that you have to move on from. SFU got a road win at FDU on Thursday night thanks to 21 points from 6'6" walk-on Brad McCabe, who prior to last weekend had never played more than 4 minutes in a D1 game. The Red Flash have been without Ronell Giles since early January, and on Thursday didn't have Myles Thompson. If SFU is going to pull this one out, they will need more from Ramiir Dixon-Conover. St. Francis (PA)'s star guard has been inconsistent, and his O-Rating is just 86.7 (on 23.5% usage) in league play, which pales in comparison to last season's 98.3 (27.7% usage) mark. That Jalen Benjamin-RDC matchup could be a fun one.
NEC Worst Bets
This gambling thing is tough, man.
Season Record: 35-41
Below are my "leans". I'll post official bets to my Twitter feed.
1) CCSU +2.5 vs. St. Francis-Brooklyn
Central Connecticut is at home where they've played well; they're 2-3 in league play which includes a 2-point loss to Wagner and 4-point loss to Bryant. Plus I think their "no middle" defense does well in keeping Michael Cubbage away from his spots.
2) Merrimack +12.5 at Wagner
As I wrote above; Elijah Ford was a key player against this Merrimack zone, and good luck trying to get out in transition. I didn't bet against Wagner in their first game without Ford, and I may not do it here unless that line creeps up towards Wagner -15, which is how both Kenpom and Torvik see this one.
3) Bryant -1.5 at Long Island
I honestly do not think there's any stopping Bryant right now; did you know they've covered their last 8 games? Plus I don't trust LIU in a big game right now. We'll see if they can change that today.
4) Mount St. Mary's -2.5 at SFU
Is Brad McCabe going to rescue the Red Flash again? SFU played without Myles Thompson on Thursday night and Rob Krimmel really has some depth issues. The Mount is on a 2-game losing streak and they are likely angry. Mount rolls.
5) Sacred Heart -2.5 at FDU
I'm not going to trust FDU until Greg Herenda starts utilizing his rotation on a consistent basis. Last weekend it was Mikey Square logging just 3 minutes at CCSU, Thursday night Joe Munden took a DNP and Brandon Rush played just 19 minutes. I'm cool with Herenda looking towards the future; this is a talented group of first-year players and it makes sense to get them seasoning. But I'm done betting on them at this point.