NEC Tournament Championship Preview: Mount St. Mary's at Bryant

Here we go, folks.

Tuesday at 7pm, the Mount will travel to Smithfield to take on a full-strength Bulldogs team for all the marbles. These two did not play this year (Bryant was on pause and their series was never made-up), and Kenpom has Bryant as 6-point favorites.

What should we be watching for?

  1. The Point Guards- Last week, the Mount's Damian Chong Qui was named to the NEC's All-Conference 1st team, while Michael Green III (Bryant) found himself on the 2nd team. Simply put; these are two of the most dynamic players in the Northeast Conference, and both are the perfect lead guys for their respective teams. MG3 has the speed to get up and down in transition, and can really shoot it (34% from three). DCQ is always in control, adept with the shot clock winding down, and takes over games down the stretch.

  2. The Tempo- Of course this is going to get talked about a lot during the broadcast; Bryant has the nation's 14th fastest adjusted tempo (73.7 poss/40 mins), while Mount St. Mary's has the 2nd slowest (62.3 poss/40 mins). Can Bryant beat the Mount down the floor in transition? Mount St. Mary's likes to send their bigs to the offensive glass (2nd in the NEC in OR rate). The Mount will certainly be deliberate on the other end of the floor, but will the Bryant press force them into quick/bad shots?

  3. Mount's Frontline- Dan Engelstad is one of the few coaches at this level who like to play big; between Malik Jefferson (6'9" 230), Mezie Offurum (6'8" 230), Nana Opoku (6'9" 210), and Frantisek Barton (6'7" 210), Mount St. Mary's plays three guys with significant size about 40% of the time. If I'm a Mount fan, I worry about Bryant's quickness given their small-ball lineup. It's worth noting that Engelstad has been more willing, lately, to play a lineup featuring both Josh Reaves and DeAndre Thomas on the wings (in addition to Chong Qui). Both provide significant shooting (Reaves is at 38% from three, Thomas at 41.7%), though the trade-off is that neither are particularly good rebounders.

  4. Offense vs. Defense- Because of the pace at which they play, Bryant's offense gets ***overrated a bit; they finished 4th in the NEC in offensive efficiency (105.8 pts/100 poss), largely because a high turnover rate (21.4%, worst in the league), but the fact of the matter is Jared Grasso has a ton of scoring options as five players averaged in double-figures (Peter Kiss, MG3, Chris Childs, Charles Pride, and Hall Elisias). However, Dan Engelstad had by far the best defensive team in the NEC; they allowed just 94.8 pts/100 poss, which is nearly 3 points better than both Merrimack and Bryant, who tied for 2nd at 97.4 pts/100 poss. ***(And because of that pace, their defense is underrated despite finishing 3rd in defensive efficiency).

  5. Transfers- Both programs have seen an infusion of transfers that helped these teams get to this point. Four of Jared Grasso's top 6 in minutes began their careers elsewhere (Peter Kiss and Luis Hurtado are D1 transfers, while Childs and Elisias began their careers at non-D1 schools and spent time in Junior College). For Mount St. Mary's, both Mezie Offurum (George Washington) and Deandre Thomas (Samford) are in their first seasons in Emmitsburg.

  6. Young Coaches- Both Grasso and Engelstad are young and rising stars in the coaching profession; Engelstad graduated from St. Mary's (MD) in 2007, putting him in his mid-30s, while Grasso is just 40. Both will be part of the coaching carousel for years based on their pedigrees and ability.