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NEC Daily Ball Screen: 1/15/22

Yesterday was a good day. In the morning, it was announced Tom Pincince was named CCSU's Athletic Director after carrying the interim tag for nearly 2 years. Pincince bleeds blue, and will do (has done) great things for the University. Then, at around noon, we got this:

A 10 game NEC slate Saturday and Monday you say? Sign. Me. Up!

Today's Games (All games can be seen on NEC FrontRow)

St. Francis-Brooklyn at Wagner, 1pm

Mount St. Mary's at Bryant, 1pm

Fairleigh Dickinson at Sacred Heart, 2pm

Central Connecticut at Long Island, 2pm

St. Francis (PA) at Merrimack, 3pm


Over its last three games, Wagner has made just 6 of 38 from distance, yet won all three. The lack of 3P shooting is going to come back to bite them, right? That's likely at some point, but probably not Saturday. While the struggles from the perimeter are real, the Seahawks are shooting 53.2% inside the arc, which is 73rd nationally. St. Francis-Brooklyn has done a nice job forcing turnovers (20.3%, 95th), but defending the interior is not a strength; they've allowed teams to make more than 54% of their 2s, and their 6.1% block rate is just 302nd in the country. Given the presence of Wagner's Raekwon Rogers, Glenn Braica won't be able to play small, which likely means a heavy workload for Jack Hemphill given that Vuk Stevanic has missed the last three games with an injury. Hemphill, who came over from Boston University this season as a grad transfer, has provided some rim protection and can stretch the D a bit (8 of 30 from beyond the arc). SFC needs him to be able to defend and rebound if they are going to have any shot in pulling off this upset.


In three league games, Bryant is 2-1 but that doesn't begin to really tell the story; in their two wins, the Bulldogs looked merely ok. They got a 4-point road win over a CCSU team missing 4 of their top 6 in minutes, then escaped with a 3-point win in Smithfield over Sacred Heart. Of course; taking Wagner to OT on Staten Island was an impressive performance (probably more so than their two wins), but the Seahawks shot just 3 of 19 from three. Two questions that I need to see answered; 1) will Jared Grasso continue to deploy that match-up zone, and 2) can they defend the 3-ball consistently? On the season Bryant is allowing opponents to make 36.5% from deep (303rd nationally), and, while Wagner had issues from the perimeter, CCSU and SHU combined to make 18 of 45 (40%) from beyond the arc. The Mount does have shooters; Jalen Benjamin is making 33% of his 3P attempts, Josh Reaves (37.3%) is coming off a big game where he made 4 of 7 from deep, and Deandre Thomas (40.5%) was back last week after a 2-game absence. If the Mount can get hot from the perimeter early, this could go on upset-watch.


These two have combined to play just three NEC games total, and are both coming off a covid-pause, during which they each had to forfeit two games. So obviously the big question is; who is available? Absent that information, I'm most interested in seeing if Brandon Rush can get going. The FDU star has seen his efficiency take a major hit as he's seen a 10% jump in usage this season, though he had a solid game back on NYE at SFU (22 points, 8 of 17 shooting). In that game he got to the rim 7 times (making 4), and attempted just 1 mid-range jumper. Getting to, and finishing at, the rim should open things up not just for himself, but for teammates like Devon Dunn, who is making 38% of his 3P attempts. Seeing Rush go toe-to-toe with Sacred Heart's Tyler Thomas could be fun.


Merrimack can't stay this hot, right? As I chronicled in my Mid-Range Jumper this week, the Warriors are shooting 50% from three in their 3 NEC games, having scored 1.19ppp, by far tops in the NEC. Of course, in November and December, Merrimack had the league's worst offense (but best defense). What what's going on here? Well, a small sample size for one. But the flip side is; MC played just 4 home games against D1 competition outside of league play. They've been scorching the nets at Hammel Court, which is where this one will be played. One aspect of Saturday's game from the Red Flash side; is Ronell Giles back? Giles appeared to injure his knee in the 1st half of SFU's loss at Long Island. Per Hoop-Explorer, SFU's Adjusted OE is 97.8 with Giles on the floor, and just 92.1 with him off it. Defensively it's the same story; 109.1 Adjusted DE when he plays, 112.5 without. Does that sound like gibberish to you? How about this; Giles is immensely important to what the Red Flash do on both sides of the ball.


Perhaps no team has a wider difference in terms of how they've played at home than Long Island; at the Steinberg Wellness Center, the Sharks have an Adjusted OE of 103.7 and an Adjusted DE of 94.2. Away from home? The numbers are significantly worse; 92.6 and 106.8, respectively. On Saturday that big LIU front-line is going up against an experienced and under-sized CCSU frontcourt. The Blue Devils have allowed opponents to make 55.1% of their 2-point attempts (324th nationally). Super senior Isaac Kante might be licking his chops, while Ty Flowers and Eral Penn will have the size/experience advantage most of the night. Patrick Sellers has shown a willingness to play zone at times recently, and I can't help but wonder if they try that on Saturday. LIU has made just 30% from deep on the whole this season, and if you can force them into becoming a jump-shooting team, they can be beaten.

NEC Worst Bets

Season Record: 19-29

My "leans" are recorded below. I'll post any official bets to Twitter. Feel free to fade whatever it is I do. I won't be offended.

1) St. Francis (PA) at Merrimack, under 1285

You knew that was coming.

2) SFU at MC (-4.5)

Again, is Ronell Giles back? I have no idea, but I'd probably like the Warriors at this number anyway.

3) St. Francis-Brooklyn (+18) at Wagner

Wagner wins this game, but SFC should be able to muck this game up defensively enough to keep it close. Plus; I like SFC's athleticism on the wings (just not their offensive efficiency).

4) Mount St. Mary's (+8) at Bryant

8 points is a big number, and Bryant hasn't done well against the spread. Dan Engelstad knows how to game-plan defensively, and the Mount does have shooters. I'd love to see this creep up to around 10.

5) Fairleigh Dickinson at Sacred Heart (-8)

If you told me SHU would be giving just 8 points at home against FDU in January before the season started, I would have jumped on it. Now? Both teams are coming off a pause and the fear of the unknown has me worried. If this drops a bit (to, say, like 6.5?) I'd be in.

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