NEC Daily Ball Screen: 12/7/21
No games last night as we begin a light week, with some schools beginning their finals.
Sacred Heart at Rhode Island, 6pm, ESPN+
Brown at Merrimack, 7pm, NEC FrontRow
Fairleigh Dickinson at La Salle, 7pm, ESPN+
Mount St. Mary's at Santa Clara, 9pm, WCC Network
Things to Watch:
1) Can the Pios get hot from outside? Quite frankly, that's their only chance to keep this one close. Rhode Island has elite shot blocking; they're tops in the nation with a 22.2% block rate, largely thanks to the (literal) twin towers of Makhel and Makhi Mitchell. Sacred Heart has been an average 3P shooting team (33.2%), but would get a boost if Mike Sixsmith could get going. The sophomore sharpshooter made 32 of his 59 3P attempts last season (54.2%, 2nd nationally), but is just 5 of 22 so far this year. I'm looking for a 5 for 7 night from Sixsmith, like he did last January 8th in at win at Merrimack.
2) Which defense is best? According to Kenpom, Merrimack's Adjusted Defensive Efficiency is 98.5 pts/100 possessions, good for 116th nationally. Well, Brown has a 98.4 mark, which is 112th. The Bears are 2-1 against the NEC (beating SHU and CCSU, losing to Bryant), and held all three schools to fewer than 0.98ppp. In fact, only Creighton has scored more than 0.99ppp in a game against Brown this season. Both teams are forcing turnovers on more than 22% of their defensive possessions, which means this could be an ugly affair.
3) Can Mikey Square stay hot? The FDU sophomore ha scored 33 points over his past two games, and has been super efficient inside; 13 of 17 from the field. Plus, he's got a 9.4% offensive rebounding rate on the season. Despite being 0-7, FDU has played decently as of late; they gave St. John's all they could handle, ditto NJIT and Manhattan. La Salle is a bottom of the barrel A-10 squad with losses already to Sacred Heart, Delaware, and Temple. The Explorers can get got, but FDU will need someone other than Brandon Rush to get buckets. Square could be that guy.
4) Can Mount St. Mary's shut down Jalen Williams? The 6'6" wing is averaging 20.1 ppg and has been efficient everywhere, putting up a ridiculous 54/38/86 shooting line (39% eFG%) on 26.6% usage. As a team, the Broncos have a 56.4% eFG%, and they rarely turn it over (16.8%).
Season Record: 13-13
Today's Bets: 1) Brown at Merrimack (under 118.5)
Again, I'm not overthinking Merrimack until I've been proven otherwise. The Warriors (and their opponents) have hit the 'under' in 7 of their 8 games. The one? Merrimack got hot offensively in a 75-60 win over UHart. The 118.5 number tonight feels like Vegas is begging me to take the over, but I'm not going to be fooled. Both Brown and MC are killers defensively. The first to 55 wins this one
I was all prepared to take the Mount +18.5 at Santa Clara, but I just went back into Fanduel and the line is down to +16.5. While I can't pull the trigger at that number, I'll continue checking throughout the day to see if it gets back above 18. While not part of Today's Bets, I feel compelled to not delete what I just wrote:
I just can't help myself when it comes to the Mount. Maybe it's because I remember that run through the NEC Tournament last season? Or I just really believe in Dan Engelstad. Either way, I just feel like there's a bunch of value with a Mount St. Mary's team that's underperformed expectations so far (and has covered just twice in 8 games). On the other side, Santa Clara has really struggled since 6'9" senior Josip Vrankic has been sidelined with mono. The Broncs have lost 3 of 4 (2 of 3 at home), including to Kenpom #212 Hawaii. I don't see the Mount winning this one, but I feel like they're built to be able to defend the big frontline of Santa Clara and keep this relatively close.