NEC Ball Screen: 2/5/22
Today's Games (All games can be seen on NEC FrontRow):
Long Island at Wagner, 1pm
Fairleigh Dickinson at Central Connecticut, 1pm
Merrimack at St. Francis (PA), 2pm Bryant at Mount St. Mary's, 4pm
Sacred Heart at St. Francis-Brooklyn, 4pm
LIU at WC
A re-match from a classic, overtime thriller in Brooklyn where the Sharks probably did enough to win yet a couple of unlikely three-pointers (one in regulation by Raekwon Rogers, and one in overtime by Elijah Ford) did LIU in. Here's the truth about Wagner; they're not playing as well as they were earlier in the season. Of course, they're still good...I mean, they're undefeated in league play for crying out loud...but nearly giving up a 41-19 lead at CCSU on Thursday, or winning by just three against St. Francis-Brooklyn last Sunday...doesn't give me a lot of confidence that they can finish this thing out undefeated. When these teams played on January 21, LIU was bombing away from three, ultimately finishing 14 for 34 though they got next to nothing from inside the arc (14 of 39). Eral Penn and Isaac Kante will need to do better than 6 for 18 from two if the Sharks are going to pull this off.
FDU at CCSU
If you're looking for a probable 8/9 game in the NEC Tournament, this is it. Both teams are projected by Torvik to finish 5-13, and the Knights already own a victory over CCSU. Win this one and they own the tie-breaker, which could potentially mean hosting that game (both teams want to avoid the 8/9 game, obviously). Last Sunday in Teaneck, FDU held CCSU to just 0.82ppp thanks to 3 of 19 from three. In watching that game it wasn't just that the shots weren't falling; Greg Herenda made a clear effort to take away any perimeter shots, daring the CCSU guards to penetrate and finish around the rim, something they haven't been able to do consistently this season. Can Nigel Scantlebury get going for Central? The guy I ranked my #3 point guard in the league a little over a month ago has not been good in league play; his O-Rating is just 83.2 (23.2% usage) thanks to a 37.3% eFG%. Sellers went with freshman walk-on Joe Ostrowsky down the stretch Thursday night and for good reason; he was 5 for 7 from the field and had 3 assists against 1 turnover.
MC at SFU
Despite shooting just 4 of 17 from three back on January 15th, SFU rolled Merrimack 62-46 as they were able to able to make 12 of 18 at the rim, including 4 of 5 for Marlon Hargis and 4 of 7 for Josh Cohen. SFU gets a lot done inside the arc (56.7% of their points, 3rd most in the NEC). Merrimack has had issues defending the rim, and that continued on Thursday as Mount St. Mary's was 24 of 46 from two, with a Shot Quality PPP of 1.09 at the rim. The Red Flash have lost 3 in a row, and after they started out as one of the best defenses in the NEC during league play, they've allowed at least 1.05 PPP in each of their past 6 games. Shouts to Brad McCabe, who played 18 minuts and knocked down 3 of 6 from three on Thursday night. McCabe had never played more than 4 minutes in a game, and his shooting really kept them in it against Bryant.
BU at MSMU
The game of the night, as Mount St. Mary's is looking to get back into the race for the #2 seed in the NEC Tournament, which gets you a potential home semifinal game. The Mount, currently 7-4 in league play including forfeits, are the winners of 6-straight and get this one at home. You all know Bryant's story by now; they've won 7 straight, are 10-1 in the league, and tonight represents the 2nd game of Peter Kiss' 2-game suspension. Thursday night's win at St. Francis (PA) was impressive considering the circumstances, as the Bulldogs got 44 points from Charles Pride. No one is a bigger fan of Pride that yours truly, but can he do that a 2nd game in a row? The junior was 16 of 26 from the field and 11 of 11 from the free throw line, and I'm not sure anyone can be consistently efficient with a 38% usage rate. Mount St. Mary's has the defensive ability to take away what Bryant wants to do, and defending the Mount bigs might be problematic if Hall Elisias remains out.
SHU at SFC
After the top 4 teams in the NEC there's quite a logjam battling for seeding, and every spot counts, especially avoiding seeds 6-9. Why? Who wants to go to Staten Island, Smithfield, or Emmitsburg in the 1st round? Not me! St. Francis-Brooklyn already owns a road victory over Sacred Heart, and combine that with the Pio's 4 game winning streak and, while I'm not a "must win" guy, this feels like a "kinda need to win" night for Anthony Latina. Since the calendar has flipped to 2022, Sacred Heart doesn't own a win over a team not named FDU or CCCSU (both home). The Terriers have won 3 of 5, and over that stretch have the league's 3rd best Adjusted OE (102.0); they rarely turn it over (15.8%) and they're shooting 51.2% inside the arc. What's more; in league play, their 75% FG% leads the league. That helps in a close one.
NEC Worst Bets
Season Record: 33-37
My "leans" are recorded below. I'll post any official bets to my Twitter feed.
1) Long Island (+9.5) at Wagner
As I wrote above; I just don't think Wagner is playing quite to the level they were earlier in the season. Are they still the best team in the league? Probably. Are they 10 points better than Long Island with Ty Flowers? I'm not s0 sure. Kenpom has Wagner -11, so the 9.5 is giving me pause.
2) Central Connecticut (-3.5) vs. Fairleigh Dickinson
This is a big one for Pat Sellers to show his coaching chops; the Blue Devils got blasted at FDU a week ago, can they make the necessary adjustments? Similar to the WC/LIU line, I was hoping to get this game somewhere around -1.5. Let's see if there's movement before game-time.
3) Mount St. Mary's (-2.5) vs. Bryant
Pride is great, but he's not getting 44 again and I'm not sure Grasso will be able to contain the Mount bigs.
4) Merrimack (+3.5) at St. Francis (PA)
Neither team is playing well right now but I think this game is even, so give me the underdog.
5) St. Francis-Brooklyn (-3) vs. Sacred Heart
Until the Pios start defending, I can't trust them. SFC is at home with a ton of experience that seems to be gelling as the season goes on.