NEC Ball Screen: Play-In Game Breakdown
I know today is technically February 28th, but March. Is. Here!
After what I believe was a very good regular season in the NEC with a pair of dominant teams, a couple of potential spoilers, and some young, hungry squads. Do we believe this year's version of the NEC Tournament will be chalky? History tells us to expect the unexpected even though the league plays the games on the home court of the higher seed.
Here's the bracket, courtesy of the Northeast Conference:
Play-In Game: #9 Central Connecticut at #8 Fairleigh Dickinson
Over at Kenpom, CCSU is the 321st most experienced team in the nation, while FDU is 348th. Two very young teams that have played like very young teams at times this season. However, ideally when you have a team dominated by under-classmen you'll see an improvement as the season goes on. Is that happening here? Let's take a look at both teams side-by-side:
The numbers show that both teams have gotten worse on the defensive side of the ball as the season has gone on. However, the Knights have seen a clear improvement offensively as the young frontcourt of Mikey Square and Anquan Hill have really come into their own, while it appears that Brandon Rush appears to be out of Greg Herenda's doghouse after exploding for 36 points in 43 minutes in FDU's upset win over Wagner.
In taking a glance at CCSU's numbers, it's clear that things haven't headed in the right direction this season; after some encouraging signs early in the season, the Blue Devils' defense has gone south as teams have attacked Patrick Sellers' no-middle defense with skip passes, which have led to wide open looks from three. To further explain how these two teams finished the season, check out their last five games:
While Fairleigh Dickinson notched a wins over Wagner and Sacred Heart, and also played LIU close on Saturday, Central Connecticut lost all 5 by at least 10 points, three of which were at home.
These two split their regular season matchups, with the Knights winning 75-55 in Teaneck, then losing 91-82 in overtime in New Britain one week later. The biggest difference between those two games? Central Connecticut shot 3 of 19 from three in its loss and 11 of 22 in its win.
Brandon Rush, who I listed as one of my top 10 players in the NEC coming into the season, appears to have his mojo back (he added 18 at LIU on Saturday), and Herenda seems to have settled on a clear 7-man rotation here down the stretch. One guy to watch in this one; Oscar Berry. The 6'4" freshman sharp-shooter torched CCSU in New Britain by making 4 of 5 from deep, and he's a guy who has the potential to kill defenses from the corner.
For Central Connecticut, getting out on shooters has been a problem all season; they've allowed a league worst 36.2% 3P%, and 39.4% of opponents shots come from beyond the arc, which is 2nd most in the NEC. Put that together, and no team gives up more 3-balls. However, the problems are on both sides of the ball; Nigel Scantlebury has been one of the better players in the league this season, and Ian Krishnan is one of the NEC's best shooters. However, Patrick Sellers desperately needs someone else to step-up and be a consistent option offensively.