NEC Daily Ball Screen: 11/23/21

Yep, I've already changed the name of this daily post. Why? Well, I initially started doing it with the intention of discussing betting, yet I ended up wanting to talk about the games from the previous night, as well as previewing the day ahead. So why not combine them?


Yesterday


Last night there were two Northeast Conference games in action; Mount St. Mary's fell to Ohio 73-59 and Sacred Heart blew a late lead at Stony Brook, falling 75-72 after Anthony Roberts nailed a 3-pointer as time expired.


Let's start with the Pios; I know some Sacred Heart alums were heart-broken last night and I get it. With 4:30 left, SHU was up 71-62 and, according to Torvik, had ~90% chance to win the game. Then, the Seawolves went on a 13-1 run to close the game, which included some questionable shot choices by the Pios. However give SBU credit; they went 5 for 6 from the field down the stretch, with ol' friend Jahlil Jenkins making multiple big plays.


But let's not lose the forest through the trees here; Sacred Heart was playing on the road against one of the top teams in the America East, and probably should have won the game. That's not nothing! In what may have been the most complete game the Pioneers have put together this season, the defense finally stepped up, holding Stony Brook to 7 of 22 from deep (49.2% eFG%), and limiting the 2nd chance opportunities. Tyler Thomas did struggle; 4 for 11 from the field and 3 turnovers, and at times it felt like he tried to do too much. Ultimately; a team with a backcourt of Thomas, Aaron Clarke (who appears healthy and was really good at times last night), Alex Watson, and Mike Sixsmith is going to score, while the frontcourt of Bryce Johnson and Nico Galette is pretty dynamic (they combined for 24 rebounds last night). If they can defend even a little bit, they will be hosting an NEC Quarterfinal game.


Out in Ohio, the Mount did their best to keep it close, but ultimately just didn't have enough firepower against the probable best team in the MAC. The Mount cut the lead to 7 with 12 minutes left after point guard Jalen Benjamin got hot, but a 17-4 Ohio run put the game away before Mount St. Mary's made the final score look closer during garbage time.


Ohio is really good, and one thing I noticed; I'm not sure I've ever seen a team more willing to dive on the floor for loose balls. Like; they looked like football players going after fumbles multiple times. Anyway, after Mount St. Mary's held Robert Morris to below 0.90ppp last Friday, Ohio scored 1.14ppp largely thanks to their work on the offensive boards (14 of 'em, or 41.2%). From what I've seen, the Mount struggles against teams that can match their physicality up front. However, it was nice to see Jalen Benjamin have his best game in his new threads; 23 points on 10 field goal attempts. Sure, he had 5 turnovers, but at times it felt like he was the only offensive option for Dan Engelstad. Overall the Mount turned it over 20 times (31%), and got to the free throw line just 10 times.


Today

4 teams in action tonight, 3 of which are against fellow mid-majors; Merrimack hosts Hartford, while Central Connecticut heads to Maine and Long Island is at Saint Peter's. The one buy game of the night is St. Francis-Brooklyn at Long Island.


Things to watch:

1) Can Merrimack start making shots? As a team, its 39.9% eFG% is 340th in the nation. Mikey Watkins, Devin Jensen, Malik Edmead, and Ziggy Reid are all shooting below 27% from three. UHart has really struggled defensively during their 0-4 start (all against mid-majors), though it's largely been getting killed inside. Maybe Jordan Minor can go off tonight, which might open it up for the shooters.


2) I know it feels like CCSU should have a decent chance to get its first win of the season at Maine tonight, but I'm concerned about the Black Bears' front line; 6'9" 4 Stephane Ingo and his 10.6 points and 8.6 boards returned, while Richard Barron added 7'1" grad transfer Chris Efretuei from UL Monroe. The Blue Devils' bigs are young and have struggled to rebound and protect the rim, but with Jayden Brown now healthy, perhaps Central Connecticut can turn that around.


3) Derek Kellogg has committed to playing Ty Flowers, Eral Penn, and Isaac Kante together, and for good reason; they are LIU's three best players. However, Shaheen Holloway's group can match their size, with 6'7" MAAC DPOY KC Ndefo paired with the Drame twins up front. However, keep an eye on the backcourt, specifically; can LIU take care of the basketball? Saint Peter's likes to apply the pressure on defense, forcing turnovers on 23% of its defensive possessions. LIU has coughed it up nearly 27% of the time (350th nationally), with PG Tre Wood averaging nearly 5 turnovers per game (and just 2 assists).


4) St. Francis-Brooklyn is probably not going to beat the Johnnies; St. John's is favored by 27.5, and is 3-0 with its lone loss at Indiana by 2. However, FDU was able to keep it close last week (losing 87-74), so you never know! To pull of an upset (or at least keep it manageable), SFC will need to hit threes, something they haven't done much of in the early going, making just 26.7% of their attempts against D1 competition. Michael Cubbage is just 1 of 9, Rob Higgins 2 for 12, Patrick Emilien 1 for 6, and Jack Hemphill 2 for 10. It'd be nice to see at least two of these guys get going from beyond the arc.


Best Bets

Last night was my first bad break of the season; Mount St. Mary's scored the game's final 6 points during garbage time, with Ohio winning by 14; yeah, I had Ohio -14.5. Brutal!


A reminder; this is not gambling or financial advice, and I'm not suggesting anyone copy me. These are my bets, and my bets only.


Season Record: 7-6


Today's Bets: 1) Hartford at Merrimack (under 123); 2) St. Francis-Brooklyn (+27.5) at St. John's.


Look, let's not overthink this; taking the under when Merrimack is playing will often (always?) result in a win. Sure, that 123 number feels low, but UHart, which is still integrating numerous transfers, is the kind of team that will struggle with the Merrimack defense, even more than most.


As for St. Francis-Brooklyn at St. John's; 27.5 is a really large number; in fact, it's the 3rd largest spread we've seen all season. Last week, St. John's was favored by 30 against Fairleigh Dickinson, and the final score was 87-74. Glenn Braica has a veteran roster, many of whom played at higher levels than the NEC in the past, so they will not be intimidated going up against a Big East team. St. John's is really good, and should win this one handily, but SFC will keep the final spread in the low 20s.