NEC Daily Ball Screen: 12/5/21
So, Wagner's pretty good, huh?
Last night on Long Island, the Seahawks blew the doors off the team many people expected to challenge Vermont for the America East title; Wagner 78, Stony Brook 49.
With the win, Bashir Mason & Co. have risen from #192 at Kenpom in the pre-season to 135 as we sit here this morning. That's after just 4 games. Only 3 of which included Alex Morales and Will Martinez (and Mason).
Morales, who missed the loss at Seton Hall due to covid-protocols, continued to look like a shoe-in for NEC Player of the Year; 19 points (9 of14 shooting), 9 rebounds, 6 assists (3 turnovers), and 2 steals. The shot has improved, the shot selection has improved, and he appears to be fully committed defensively.
Boogie Ford added 14 points and 4 boards in just 18 minutes, while Raekwon Rogers went for 10 and 8. Ashton Miller, playing in just his 2nd game for Wagner after sitting out last season following a transfer from Duquesne, added 8 points on 4 of 5 shooting.
While the offense is rolling, I continue to be more impressed on the defensive side of the ball; Wagner held the Seawolves to a 37.3% eFG%, including allowing nearly nothing at the rim (just 6 of 14, 10 of 30 from two overall). Wagner doesn't really have rim protectors, but their zone is containing penetration and pushing opponents into the mid-range.
Old friend Jahlil Jenkins led Stony Brook with 12 points (5 of 11 from the field), but was 0 for 3 from the charity stripe and, while he did play 30 minutes, he came off the bench.
A few weeks ago one of my bold predictions was that the NEC champion would be something other than a 16-seed for the first time since 2011. According to Bart Torvik, Wagner's projected seed would be "14.4". It's early, small sample, blah blah blah, but this Seahawks team looks like it could have a historic NEC season.
UMass Lowell 61, Merrimack 57
For the 2nd game in a row, Merrimack lost a game that it looked like they may win with ease. The Warriors led by as many as 14 points late in the 1st half, and led 55-52 with 3:21 left before Lowell closed out the game on a 9-2 run to steal a win at Lawler Arena. Per Kenpom, late in the 1st half Merrimack had a 92.5% chance to win this one.
Jordan Minor continues to lead the Warriors; 19 points on 8 of 15 from the field, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists in 29 minutes. Malik Edmead was really good once again off the bench; 11 points in 22 minutes, including 4 of 7 from the field and 2 of 2 from the free throw line. He also had 4 assists against 2 turnovers.
Unfortunately, it's been the final 10 minutes of the game that has done Merrimack in. The Warriors were outscored 19-10 in the last 10 minutes in last Sunday's loss at Boston University, and 18-8 last night.
On the game, Merrimack managed just 0.87ppp, and lost despite holding UML to 2 of 15 from downtown
Ohio 78, St. Francis (PA) 75
Facing a major deficit, which at one point ballooned to 18 late in the 1st half, the Red Flash outscored Ohio by 8-points in the 2nd half, nearly coming all the way back to stun the Bobcats. After a Max Land steal, with 2 seconds left Ramiir Dixon-Conover missed a layup, and Josh Cohen missed the ensuing put-back, either of which would have given SFU the win.
RDC struggled; just 8 points (3 of 10 from the field), 5 assists and 5 turnovers, but Myles Thompson stepped up huge; 19 points on 11 field goal attempts. The 6'6" senior, who was one of my keys for SFU coming into the year, has his eFG% up near 51% after sitting at 41% last season.
Sophomore big Josh Cohen continues to be impressive; 16 points on 7 of 9 shooting in 27 minutes, plus 6 boards. The sophomore tandem of Land and Ronell Giles added 15 and 12 points, respectively.
SFU really struggled from the perimeter (just 3 of 13), but were able to get to the rim and finish (20 of 34) in the fast-paced 72-possession game. The Red Flash also forced 20 Ohio turnovers (27.8%).
The Bobcats are currently ranked #103 at Kenpom, and are the 2nd highest rated team in the MAC behind Buffalo (#82).
Loyola (MD) 61, Mount St. Mary's 55
The Greyhounds got 26 points from Cam Spencer, as Loyola held off Mount St. Mary's in a game that never saw a lead larger than 7-points.
Despite having a size advantage, the Mount took just 13 field goals at the rim (making 5), instead settling for a heavy mid-range game (8 of 20). On the night, their eFG% was just 44%, which is the 6th time in 8 D1 games that they were below 48% (D1 average is 49.6%).
Deandre Thomas stayed hot after hitting the game-winner last Tuesday against Howard, scoring 14 points (4 of 7 from three). Loyola really shut down Jalen Benjamin, who took just 8 shots (making 3). Nana Opoku and Mezie Offurum combined to go 6 for 23 from the field with 7 turnovers. Malik Jefferson scored 7 points but did have 10 boards.
Interesting; after starting the season's first 7 games, Josh Reaves did not play against Howard, and logged just 1 minute last night. I'm not sure if it's an injury situation, or if Reaves is in Dan Engelstad's doghouse. However, he has struggled so far this season, seeing his eFG% drop from 50% to 39%, including just 4 of 15 from inside the three-point line.
New Hampshire 67, Central Connecticut 45
After seeing clear improvements over the past two weeks, last night was a step back for the Blue Devils, as they made just 4 of 23 from deep and had a difficult time containing UNH point guard Blondreau Tchoukuiegno, who finished with 20 points and 5 assists.
Nigel Scantlebury continued his breakout season, scoring 15 points (including 3 of 6 from downtown) to go along with 5 rebounds in 4 assists (1 turnover) in a season-high 35 minutes. However no one else scored more than 8 points, and the numbers were disturbing; non-Scantlebury Blue Devils combined to put up a 28/06/58 shooting line, with 2 assists and 10 turnovers.
Freshman big Jayden Brown,, who has done a nice job offensively (53.6% eFG% on the season), played just 9 minutes yesterday due to foul trouble, and is averaging 6 fouls/40 minutes.
The silver lining, if you're a Blue Devils fan; yesterday's 103.3 Adjusted Defensive efficiency was their 2nd best on the season, as they held a high-powered UNH offense to 1.08ppp. Not great, mind you, but a step in the right direction. However, defense rebounding continues to be a concern, as the Wildcats grabbed 17 ORs (46%).
Sacred Heart at Brown, 2pm, ESPN+
Hartford at St. Francis-Brooklyn, 2pm, NEC FrontRow
Bryant at Cincinnati, 7pm, ESPN+
Things to Watch:
1) Can the Pios get stops? On the season, SHU's 109.6 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency rating ranks 9th in the NEC and 331st nationally. They've really struggled to contain perimeter shooting; opponents are taking 43% of their shots from beyond the arc, and making them at a 36.3% clip. Brown is more defense than offense, despite 87 points at North Carolina. However, Sacred Heart will have their hands full with do-it-all forward Tamenang Choh. who comes in averaging nearly 10 points and 8 boards a contest. Notable; point guard Dan Friday did not play in Brown's 73-63 win over UMass-Lowell on Wednesday.
2) Someone is going to get their first win in Brooklyn today. UHart, who was expected to be a challenger in the America East, comes into this one 0-7, as do the Terriers. While Glenn Braica has leaned heavily on transfers, the same can't be said for John Gallagher; Jared Kimbrough, a 6'8" big from La Salle who has been UHart's best offensive player, has missed the last two games, while DeJuan Clayton, who averaged 15ppg at Coppin St. last season, has missed the last 5. I'm not sure if these are injury related or not, but if those two are back it gives the Hawks a different look.
3) On Friday night, Bryant really struggled to get decent looks against the top-ranked Houston defense. Well, Cincinnati isn't quite Houston, but their the 4th best in the country in defensive eFG% (40.4%), including holding opponents to 39.5% from inside the arc thanks to a trio of bigs (Abdul Ado, Hayden Koval, and Victor Lakhin) who stand at least 6'11" and have block rates north of 6%. If Bryant isn't able to knock down a high percentage of three-pointers, this one could get ugly fast.
I split last night, as I took Ohio -13.5 over SFU and Merrimack-Lowell under 124.5 (they got to 118). I thought I was losing the Merrimack bet as well until the Warriors went on their 2nd half drought.
Season Record: 13-12
Today's Bet: Sacred Heart (+9) at Brown
I have no idea if Dan Friday is going to play in this one, but clearly the line doesn't include his potential absence. Friday is Brown's 2nd leading scorer at 10.8ppg, and leading assist man (2.8 apg).
When they've been able to convert in the paint, like they did in a 75-72 loss at Stony Brook and a 74-67 win at Lafayette, Sacred Heart has been really tough to stop. Brown does have some rim protection, namely 6'9" Jaylan Gainey, but on the season teams have shot nearly 51% inside the rim on the Bears.
Brown probably pulls this one out, but I'll take SHU to cover the 9.
Note: I can't bet this one on Fanduel because I'm in CT, so I'm getting the line from the CBS Sports app.