NEC Daily Ball Screen: 11/25/21
I know it's cliche to start a post on Thanksgiving like this, but I have a lot to be thankful for; largely the health, happiness, and support of my incredible family. I have an amazing wife who couldn't give a lick about sports, yet encouraged me to do this blog thing (and is at every one of our kids' baseball soccer, and hoops games), and a 10 year old son who I get to do everything with. Life's pretty great.
I'm also grateful for what we've got in the Northeast Conference this season; the interesting story lines (can Bashir Mason or Jared Grasso break through?), the great players (including the Morales vs. Kiss battle for POY), and the incredible coaching we get to watch in a night-in and night-out basis.
Let's begin in upstate New York, where a Ramiir Dixon-Conover-less Red Flash team lost a 76 possession track meet to Cornell, 93-80. Despite not having RDC, Saint Francis was able to eclipse the 1.00ppp mark for the first time all season (against D1 competition) thanks to taking care of the basketball (just 11 turnovers, or 14.5%) and getting to the free throw line 24 times, making 19. After coming off the bench in SFU's first 3 games, Josh Cohen started and played a season-high 18 minutes, scoring 18 points on 6 of 9 shooting (and 6 of 6 from the charity stripe), and adding 7 boards and 2 assists. Ronell Giles, Jr. added a season-high 19, though it took 22 shots to get there, and also chipped in 6 boards and 5 steals. Marlon Hargis had his 2nd big scoring game in a row; 17 points (including 6 of 7 from the free throw line).
However, last night we saw what happens defensively when you take RDC out of the lineup. Last season, according to Hoop-Explorer, when Dixon-Conover was off the floor, SFU had an Adjusted Defensive Efficiency of 112.4 points/100 possessions, compared to 105.9 with him. And so far this season, that spread is even larger; 132.2 without, 95.3 with. Sure, it's a small sample size, but the point remains; he's incredibly important to them, and more-so on the defensive side of the basketball.
A thing to watch going forward; is the Cohen/Flagg 50/50 split here to stay? Flagg has been really good in his career, but Cohen has been much more efficient offensively this season. And I think at least part of that is due to free throw shooting; Cohen is a career 67% FT shooter, including 83.3% this season, while Flagg has made just 56.5% in his 4+ year career. Flagg is a great defensive rebounder, a solid rim protector, can pass out of the post, and has been good at finishing around the rim in his career. Cohen isn't quite the defender Flagg is, but he's got a career 66.3% eFG%, and has a high IQ. It's a nice problem to have, if you're Rob Krimmel. Unfortunately playing them together is not an option, or at least not a good one.
Down in Jersey, Fairleigh Dickinson dropped to 0-4 with a 62-54 loss at NJIT. Sebastien Lamaute, a 1st year sophomore, had a team-high 14 points thanks to 4 of 6 from downtown. Freshman Ibrahim Wattara continues to look impressive; he was just 3 of 8 from the field, but grabbed 10 boards and made both of his free throw attempts. He's bouncy and versatile, and at 6'5" can be both a "big wing" and "small ball 4".
Brandon Rush continued his slow start; he was just 3 of 12 from the field, and his eFG% is just 34.4% so far this season (it was 59.2% a year ago). Look, it's still a small sample, but the primary difference between seasons is that, in 20-21, Rush was largely a 3rd option offensively, as he could defer to Jahlil Jenkins and Elyjah Williams. Now? Defenses are trying to figure out a way to stop Rush, and so far it's worked. Empirically; the issue has been shot selection. Last season, per ShotQuality, Rush was in the 89th percentile in terms of Shot Quality PPP (1.05 SQ PPP). This year? He's in the 19th percentile (0.74 PPP). His Rim & 3 Rate are close to the same (94%, compared to 91%), but he's taking more difficult shots, and not making them.
The Knights, as a team, have had a tough time scoring, specifically inside the arc; they're making just 36% of their twos, which is 354th nationally (just 10 of 35 last night). The issue for FDU is that they're making below 40% of their field goal attempts at the rim, after making just 7 of 23 yesterday.
Also worth noting; after starting and playing at least 13 minutes in every game this season, P.O. Racine played just 1 minute yesterday. Racine has really struggled from the field (just 2 of 8), and committed 2 fouls in that 1 minute of action. Joe Munden did not play, and Mikey Square logged just 11 minutes, but did grab 7 boards (5 on the offensive end).
No games, but lots of food and drink. Enjoy it, ya'll.