NEC Mid-Range Jumper: The Awards Edition

Let's face it, all you care about are awards and the NEC Tournament. Well guess what? Same here! So let's get it.

Standings: But first, here are your final 2022 NEC Standings sorted by Efficiency Margin. This will be a nice resource if you start looking ahead towards next season.

Below are my award winners, not my prediction of who will win the real awards. If you've read my stuff this season, you'll know that I lean towards the analytics.

NEC Coach of the Year: Jared Grasso, Bryant

Let's not overthink this; in college sports, generally speaking the best coaches have the best teams. You want to award someone for doing "more with less"? Fine, but recruiting is (the biggest?) part of the job. Grasso has completely rebuilt this program, and even if Bryant hadn't beaten Wagner last Saturday night, did you see that crowd? A regular-season sellout in Smithfield? He's created excitement at that school like never seen before.

After a slow-ish start to the season, Bryant has home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, and he'll soon hang a banner at The Chace as he promised when he was introduced to the gig. That's Coach of the Year stuff, as far as I'm concerned.

Next two: Bashir Mason, Wagner; Joe Gallo, Merrimack

NEC Player of the Year: Alex Morales, Wagner

I explained my thought process for picking the NEC POY in last week's Mid-Ranger, which you can read here. And no, I'm not changing my mind after Wagner lost both of its games last week; two games does not a season make, plus it's not like Morales struggled in those losses. Dude averaged 24.5 points, 11 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in the two games.

I've watched plenty of NEC basketball since November, and my eyes have told me that there's not a better player in this league than Wagner's 6'6" wing. Am I allowing any bias I may have to seep in? Nah, the advanced metrics back me up. Check it:

  • PORPAGATU! (Bart Torvik): 1st with 3.9 (Peter Kiss is 2nd at 3.8)

  • PER: 27.4, 2nd behind Jordan Minor's 28.0.

  • Win Shares: His 4.6 is 2nd behind Charles Pride's 4.7 (Kiss is at 3.2)

  • Box Plus/Minus: First at 7.4 (Ty Flowers is 2nd at 5.6)

  • #1 at Kenpom.

If Peter Kiss or Charles Pride win this award you will not hear me screaming about it on Twitter as both would be worthy winners. However, Morales is the guy for me.

NEC Rookie of the Year: Andre Snoddy, Central Connecticut

CCSU's 6'6" small-ball-4 led all freshmen in minutes, points, rebounds, and assists per game, all while providing defensive versatility. Since day 1, no team has relied on a rookie more than the Blue Devils did Snoddy.

NEC Most Improved Player: Nico Galette, Sacred Heart

Once I sat down and looked at this, the answer became obvious; in a league where the majority of programs returned their rotations from a year ago, Nico Galette increased his playing time more than any player in the NEC (24.5% last season, 70.7% this year). Of course, just getting minutes isn't deserving of an award, it's what you do with them. As a freshman, Galette struggled shooting the ball all over the floor; he was 3 for 17 from deep and 48% at the rim (38.4%). As a sophomore, the 6'6" stretchy 4 looked like a different dude; he made 32% of his 3P attempts, shot 56% at the rim (50% eFG%), and was one of the best rebounders in the conference.

Next two: Josh Cohen, Saint Francis (PA); Jordan Minor, Merrimack

All-NEC 1st Team:

Ty Flowers, Long Island

Peter Kiss, Bryant

Jordan Minor, Merrimack

Alex Morales, Wagner

Charles Pride, Bryant

I'm not sure this grouping even needs a narrative. As I wrote above; Morales, Kiss, and Pride would all be worthy POYs, while Minor was the league's most dominant big man and Flowers was also great on both sides of the ball. When I sat down to do this I picked out those five without even delving into the numbers, and the metrics only further justified that I was on point.

All-NEC 2nd Team:

Jalen Benjamin, Mount St. Mary's

Aaron Clarke, Sacred Heart

Will Martinez, Wagner

Nana Opoku, Mount St. Mary's

Eral Penn, Long Island

Based on the data, both Eral Penn and Aaron Clarke deserved consideration for the 1st team as both had tremendous seasons. Clarke, specifically, was knocked down a notch due to Sacred Heart's struggles. Jalen Benjamin's numbers are a bit underwhelming, however he logged a lot of minutes and was the best offensive player on a good Mount St. Mary's squad, and he was much better in league play. Martinez was probably a 3rd team guy until Ford went down, when he stepped up when Wagner needed him most. And Opoku is an unsung hero who provides so much for the league's best defensive unit.

All-NEC 3rd Team:

Michael Cubbage, St. Francis-Brooklyn

Josh Cohen, St. Francis (PA)

Elijah Ford, Wagner

Raekwon Rogers, Wagner

Nigel Scantlebury, Central Connecticut

Both Cohen and Rogers had numbers that warranted consideration for the 2nd team, however both played less than 60% of their team's available minutes. Scantlebury is in a similar boat as Aaron Clarke; really good player on a bad team. There weren't any St. Francis-Brooklyn players whose numbers really pop (neither Cubbage nor Emilien were particularly efficient offensively). However, Cubbage's ability to provide versatility on the defensive end while being the team's go-to scorer earned him a spot here. And finally; Elijah Ford deserves this, right? Ultimately he didn't quite get to 50% of his team's minutes thanks to his knee injury, but he was clearly tracking toward at least being a 2nd teamer, and his absence shows just how much he meant to the Seahawks.

All-NEC Rookie Team:

Oscar Berry, Fairleigh Dickinson

Jayden Brown, Central Connecticut

Anquan Hill, Fairleigh Dickinson

Sebastien Lamaute, Fairleigh Dickinson

Andre Snoddy, Central Connecticut

Anquan Hill would have been the Rookie of the Year if he had been a larger part of the rotation earlier in the season; prior to January 1st, he played just 37% of the team's minutes and wasn't particularly effective when he was on the floor. His late push is certainly admirable, and he's surely the best long-term prospect of the bunch, but he didn't do enough to unseat Snoddy. Lamaute was good all-around as a 1st year sophomore, finishing 4th among rookies in scoring, 4th in rebounds, and 3rd in assists. Oscar Berry is an interesting case; similar to Mike Sixsmith last season, the advanced metrics love Berry and his 61.2% eFG%, and he was 3rd among rookies in scoring at 6.2 ppg. And finally, Jayden Brown edged out teammate Trenton McLaughlin and Wagner's Zaire Williams for the 5th and final spot thanks to his ability to rebound (his 8.8 OR% led all rookies) and protect the rim.

If you're interested, a few weeks ago I went over my NEC's top prospects, which included a few guys on this list (and I accidentally omitted Zaire Williams, who is definitely a prospect to watch going forward).