NEC Mid-Range Jumper: 11/29/21

Standings: As always during non-conference play, sorted by Adjusted Efficiency Margin (aka Kenpom rankings)

NEC Team of the Week: Merrimack

This was a tough one this week, as no teams really stood out. Bryant looked great in their win over a tough Brown team, then struggled to score in a home loss to Dartmouth. I also considered LIU, SFU and CCSU, which got their first win of the season, but ultimately went with the Warriors.

Merrimack destroyed UHart 75-60, then blew a late lead at Boston University, which was short-handed and without multiple rotation players. However, if you're Joe Gallo, you're feeling good that the offense finally started to come alive, scoring 1.14ppp. On the week, Merrimack improved 23 spots at Kenpom.

NEC Team Performance of the Week: Long Island 99, Delaware St. 65

I get it. Delaware St., which was ranked #349 at Kenpom coming into this one, is not good. But when you beat a team by 34 points, it says something about your talent.

Derek Kellogg got his group to turn it up on both sides of the basketball, holding DSU to 5 of 28 from three (39% eFG%), though it was on offense that the Sharks truly dominated. Long Island made 14 of 38 from downtown, grabbed an obnoxious 46.7% of their offensive rebounding opportunities, and turned it over just 9 times (against 24 assists).

Every LIU player had an O-Rating over 106, with 5 players in double-figures. Ty Flowers (19 points, 5 boards, 4 assists, 2 blocks) made 5 of 10 as his hot start continued, but he wasn't alone; Kyndall Davis put up 21 points in just 18 minutes thanks to making 7 of 11 from the field (including 3 of 6 from deep), and added 7 boards, Alex Rivera was 4 of 7 from beyond the arc, and both Isaac Kante (10 points, 14 boards) and Eral Penn (14p, 10r) put up double-doubles.

Ty Flowers has been really good for LIU in the early going; he's shooting 44/44/86 so far. His per game numbers are down quite a bit, but he's scoring more efficiently than he has the last two seasons.

NEC Player of the Week: Jordan Minor, Merrimack

After a somewhat slow start for the junior big man, Jordan Minor was huge for Merrimack this week. In two games, Minor averaged 20.5 points, 9.5 boards, and was 12 for 17 from the field. Perhaps most impressive was his 17 of 19 from the free throw line, after shooting below 54% in each of his first two collegiate seasons.

NEC Rookie of the Week: Sebastien Lamaute, Fairleigh Dickinson

Lamaute, who is listed as a sophomore, is in his first collegiate season and therefore eligible for this award.

At NJIT on Wednesday, Lamaute played a season-high 32 minutes due to the absence of Joe Munden, Jr., and capitalized; 14 points on 4 of 6 from downtown. Then Sunday, in the loss at Princeton, Lamaute had 9 points and 5 boards in 17 minutes. On the week he was 7 of 9 from downtown, and is shooting a cool 61.5% from three so far.

Worried about Mount

Coming into the season, I picked Mount St. Mary's 4th in the NEC, with my optimism predicated on three things; 1) the defense continues to be at, or near, the top of the NEC; 2) Jalen Benjamin adequately replaces Damian Chong Qui, and 3) Mezie Offurum makes strides shooting the basketball.

Well, Benjamin has been solid so far (23 points at Ohio), and Offurum has yet to see an improvement offensively. However, it's the first thing that has me scratching my head.

Quite frankly, the defense hasn't been good, as opponents have had no issue making threes, shooting them at a 43.8% clip. However, it's more than that, as nearly every defensive metric is worse this year than it was last season. Check it:

They're forcing more turnovers, but suffering for it as opponents are making shots and killing Mount St. Mary's on the boards. Sure, the Mount hasn't exactly played an easy non-conference schedule; per Kenpom, they've had the 34th most difficult slate. So yes, these numbers will improve as they play more mid-majors (and their fellow NEC schools). But they've already allowed more than 1.06ppp four times this season. Last season they did that just once. The biggest difference is what opponents have been able to do at the rim:

Same coach, and largely the same personnel, especially in the frontcourt. For now, I'm willing to chalk this up to bad matchups in November. But this bears watching.

The Merrimack 'O' Comes Alive

I touched on it above, but let's repeat; Merrimack's suddenly knocking down shots.

Or are they? Of the 16 made three-pointers over that 2-game span, junior sharp-shooter Mykel Derring had 9 of them; dude went 9 of 12 from deep, scoring 24 points on the week.

But where are his teammates? Fellow starters Ziggy Reid (8 for 31), Mikey Watkins (4 for 18) and Devin Jensen (6 for 27) are all under 26% from deep. Merrimack needs more than just Derring to make shots if they are going to challenge for a regular season crown.

The Red Flash Bigs

Imagine having two really good big men? That's the "problem" Rob Krimmel has. Last season, 6'10" Josh Cohen was something of a surprise for the Red Flash; the redshirt freshman came on late in the season and proved to be an efficient offensive player (65.3% eFG%), strong rebounder (15.1% OR%), and solid defender thanks to a high IQ. But coming into this season, the question was; where would the minutes be for Cohen? After all, super senior Mark Flagg was back, and healthy.

Well, Cohen's seen his minutes increase in each game this season, and on Sunday played a season high 25 minutes. His last two games have been downright ridiculous; 36 points on 13 of 18 shooting (and 10 of 11 from the free throw line), 17 boards, 5 assists, and 2 blocks. Player comp time!

Mark Flagg has had a great career in Loretto, and is a really good player in his own right. But the Red Flash is a better team with Cohen on the floor, right? Flagg is the better defender, but Cohen has been downright dominant offensively.

Before you suggest playing them together; both guys get most of their offense at the rim, neither stretches the defense, and neither of them have the quickness to defend modern-day '4s' on the perimeter.

The New Guy in Brooklyn

A 6'6" wing out of Pawtucket, RI, Tedrick Wilcox played two seasons at D2 Dominican College, earning CACC Rookie of the Year two seasons ago, and making the All-CACC All-Conference 3rd team as a sophomore, putting up a 57/36/78 shooting line.

After averaging less than 13 minutes per game in the first three games, Wilcox has settled in as a significant piece of Glenn Braica's rotation. Over the last three games he's averaged over 30 minutes per game, knocking down 8 of 17 from downtown, and he scored in double-figures in all three (including 19 in SFC's loss to St. John's). And he's not just making shots; he's got a 24% DR%, which is 5th in the Northeast Conference.

FDU's frosh

Last week I covered Central Connecticut's freshmen, and while Pat Sellers has the most impressive rookie class in the NEC, Greg Herenda's group isn't far behind.

Sebastien Lamaute- A Canadian who is technically a sophomore after he previously committed to play at McGill University in Toronto, which did not play in 20-21 due to the pandemic. Lamaute's calling card is his jump shot; he's made 8 of 13 from deep this year. He's a capable ball-handler who has 5 assists and 7 turnovers this season, though he's struggled inside the arc; just 1 of 9 at the rim. An NEC Rookie of the Year candidate, especially if he continues to log significant minutes.

Ibrahim Wattara- A bouncy 6'5" "small-ball-4", Wattara uses his impressive leaping ability finish at the rim (7 of 12) and to put up strong defensive rebounding rates (23.5%). While he's taken (and made) just 1 three-pointer, the shot looks smooth; he's 6 of 9 at the free throw line and 7 of 17 in the mid-range.

Antoine Jacks- The lone pure PG on the FDU roster, Jacks has struggled to find his footing, which is normal for freshmen 1's. He does have 7 assists off the bench, but has turned it over 9 times and is just 2 for 12 from the field. However, the talent is there; he's comfortable in the open floor, and has the quickness to be a PG at this level.

Anquan Hill- Long and athletic at 6'9", Hill has 4 blocks and is averaging 3.2 rpg in limited minutes. His offensive game maybe isn't quite there yet; he's just 7 of 23 from the field, but is a capable backup big who should improve.

Curiosities, Surprises, and Musings: Last season, CCSU's Tre Mitchell was really good; he had a 51% eFG%, had an uber-low 10.9% turnover rate, and was one of the Blue Devil's most indispensable players. So far this year, it's been quite different. Mitchell's eFG% has cratered to 20.5%, he's turning the ball over more, and anecdotally there's been too many off the dribble jump shots and times when he's tried to do too much. When Central Connecticut was in overtime against Fordham on Sunday, head coach Patrick Sellers opted for Zach Newkirk over Mitchell...LIU wing Kyndall Davis is 7 for 19 from three so far this sason, after making just 3 of 22 as a freshman. Davis can't help Derek Kellogg with his point guard problems, but he's becoming a very good all-around wing...Wagner is supposed to take on Seton Hall on Wednesday and Stony Brook on Saturday. I think we're all hoping to see them back on the court soon...How excited are Pios fans about the sophomore frontcourt of Bryce Johnson and Nico Galette? The two combined for 24 points and 24 boards in SHU's 75-72 loss at Stony Brook last Monday. Neither provides rim protection, but they do everything else; rebound, finish inside, and can stretch the defense a bit. Both can even put the ball on the floor and make a play...St. Francis-Brooklyn is 0-6 this season and it's especially been difficult on the defensive end. Opponents have a 56.9% eFG%, which is 339th nationally. There's no rim protection to speak of, and Glenn Braica's guards have had trouble containing penetration...SFC's Bahaide Haidara has an interesting profile. A 6'6" George Mason transfer, Haidara doesn't shoot it (just 4 jump shots all season), but has been very good at the rim (10 for 14), is a long and versatile defender, and has had success on the offensive boards. Non-shooting wings are tough to fit into a rotation, but Haidara's been good...In 57 minutes this week, Devin Jensen never took a field goal attempt. It's very odd from a guy who made 43.3% of his 141 three-point attempts two seasons ago...I've still yet to watch a Long Island game, but Isaac Kante's shooting stats are concerning. He's taking more jump shots this season and it's not paid off; he's 0 for 9 from three and 1 for 9 from the mid-range...Patrick Sellers got his first career win as a head coach when CCSU beat Maine 64-56 last Tuesday. On Sunday they nearly beat Fordham, from the A-10, losing in double OT. The Blue Devils have made progress on the defensive end as they learn Sellers' "no middle" defense...I'm certainly not ready to give up on Bryant as a title contender, but I'm concerned about the lack of depth. Jared Grasso is leaning heavily on his top 6 players, and after a pre-season full of talk about how Grasso killed it in the Transfer Portal, just one of the transfers (Adham Eleeda) is playing more than 42% of available minutes... @NCAAHoopsdigest pointed out to this to me on Twitter; Bryant had ~94% chance to win on Sunday against Dartmouth late in regulation, per Kenpom...Peter Kiss leads the league in assist rate at 37.8%. However, he's turned it over 20 times over the last three games. I think this team misses Michael Green III...Hall Elisias' 11.4% block rate is good for 29th in the nation...I got a good look at CCSU freshman Jayden Brown on Sunday at Detrick Gym. I'm not one for hyperbole, but he's the most impressive big man I've seen at CCSU since Corsley Edwards. He's 6'9" 215 lbs. with impressive footwork, athleticism, and an ability to turn over either shoulder in the post. He needs to get stronger and seek out contact a bit more, but this guy could be a star in this league...A few heart-breaking losses in the league this week. Stony Brook over Sacred Heart, Dartmouth over Bryant, Fordham over CCSU. What could have been for the league...Aaron Clarke looks healthy after missing two games with an ankle injury. Over his last two games, he's averaging 19 points and 2.5 assists per game...Did Brandon Rush have his break-out on Sunday? 27 points on 19 shots in FDU's loss to Princeton. I think the Knights need that kind of performance every night for them to surprise in NEC play...Speaking of FDU, head coach Greg Herenda was not on the sidelines on Sunday due to a "non-covid illness". I'm certainly rooting for a speedy recovery...After missing the Cornell game with an injury, SFU point guard Ramiir Dixon-Conover returned on Sunday to score 16 points in the Red Flash's win over Lehigh...In that same game, Myles Thompson scored a season-high 17 points by going a perfect 3 for 3 from deep and 4 for 4 from the free throw line. The senior also had 6 boards...And finally, shouts to CCSU walk-on Kyle Rocker's father, who called Ian Krishnan's game-tying, buzzer-beating 30-footer on Sunday just as the ball was released. The best thing about being in the gym is meeting new people and talking hoops.