Last season I did a weekly post in which we previewed a couple games each week (typically one on Thursday, one on Saturday). This year's schedule is obviously Weird, but I want to bring it back and give it a go.
Note: There are non-conference games scheduled this weekend for Central Connecticut (Fordham), Fairleigh Dickinson (Drexel), and Mount St. Mary's (St. Joseph's). The Forecaster is all about NEC on NEC action.
All point spreads courtesy of Kenpom
Tuesday's Game (12/15):
St. Francis-Brooklyn (-2) at Central Connecticut, 5pm
Wednesday's Games (12/16):
St. Francis-Brooklyn (-2) at Central Connecticut, 1pm
Wagner at Bryant (-5), 4pm
Long Island (-1) at Sacred Heart, 7pm
Thursday's Games (12/17):
Long Island (-1) at Sacred Heart, 4pm
Wagner at Bryant (-5), 4pm
Series 2 Watch #1: SFC at CCSU
Things 2 Watch
Track Meet- The Terriers first game of the season came last Tuesday, a 101-82 loss to Bryant. The narrative could have been all "the team is out of game shape and couldn't keep up with the Bulldogs", except that SFC bounced back and won the next night, 93-91. Game 1 was played at 87 possessions, while the 2nd game was a slightly slower 81 possessions. While this week's matchups in New Britain won't be played at that kind of pace, it'll still be uptempo. CCSU is playing at a 74.5 possession per 40 minute pace, which is good for 83rd nationally, while SFC was 70th in the nation last season in Adjusted Tempo, per Kenpom. Maybe this game won't be in the 90s, but first to 80 wins?
Depth- Through 5 games, Donyell Marshall has allotted 40.6% of his team's minutes to bench players, which is the 14th highest in the country. In watching CCSU, it feels like Marshall manages this rotation like an NBA coach; No CCSU player averages more than 25.8 mpg, and ten players average at least 11.6 mpg. The good? Fresh legs. The bad? Leaving your best players on the bench may not be ideal. Glenn Braica played 7 players at least 18.5 mpg in the Terriers' first two games, though can go deeper if need be.
Athletic Wings- Both teams like to play "small", as SFC and CCSU typically employ three wings alongside a big and a point guard. Last week, 6'5" Travis Atson led the Terriers in rebounding with 9.5 per game, while 6'2" Unique McLean was 2nd with 7 per game. For CCSU, 6'4" wing Greg Outlaw is the team's leading rebounder with 6.5 rpg. Playing versatile, non-positional basketball allows both teams to spread the defense out and use their athleticism to get into the paint.
Chauncey Hawkins- Senior point guard Chauncey Hawkins had a frustrating opening week to his season; he scored just 15 points in 42 minutes, as he struggled from the floor in Game 1, then was limited due to foul trouble on Wednesday. However, one thing I like to see if I'm a Terriers fan; Hawkins had 10 assists against just 4 turnovers, and also 4 steals. If he's passing up less than ideal shots in order to get the ball to his teammates, the team will be better off for it.
Ian Krishnan- It's strange to see a talent like Ian Krishnan averaging just 24.4 mpg. The junior sharp-shooter scored 17 points (3 of 5 from three) in 31 minutes on Tuesday, then played just 18 minutes on Wednesday despite making 3 of 6 from three. That follows up a December 4th loss at Hartford where Krishnan played just 17 minutes (foul trouble was not a factor in either game). After a rough first three games of the season, Krishnan's eFG% is up to 52.6% (it was 53.3% a season ago), and he's 8 for 24 from three after shooting 44.6% from deep in 2019-20. The Blue Devils have 3 other players shooting better than 33.3% from beyond the arc; Jamir Reed (46.2%), Myles Baker (37.5%), and Tre Mitchell (36.8%). But Krishnan is the best of the bunch, and CCSU needs him to be on the floor.
Series 2 Watch #2: LIU at SHU
Things 2 Watch
Layoff rust- Wednesday will mark Long Island's first game of the season after announcing during the pre-season that they would not participate in non-conference play. Meanwhile, the Pioneers played just one game (an 86-63 loss at Rutgers on 11/25) around two covid-related shutdowns. LIU was picked to finish 2nd by the coaches in the pre-season (yours truly picked them #1), but it should be expected that there will be some sloppy play this week on both sides.
LIU's new guys- Derek Kellogg brought in two transfers who sat out last season in Alex Rivera (UMass Lowell) and Tre Wood (UMass). Rivera, a wing, averaged 9.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists for UML as a freshman, shooting 33.3% from three. Wood, a pure point guard, appeared in 22 games for the Minutemen averaging 3.2 points and 2.4 assists. I'll be watching to see how Kellogg integrates them into the rotation, and how they fit with Jermaine Jackson, Jr. in the backcourt.
Sacred Heart's Freshmen- In SHU's lone game, Anthony Latina leaned heavily on his group of freshmen; 7 first year players appeared in the game, with shooter Mike Sixsmith (11 points on 3 of 4 from deep), forward Nico Galette (9 points, 4 boards in 24 minutes), forward Bryce Johnson (6 points, 8 boards in 18 minutes) and big wing Matas Spokas (10 points on 3 of 6 from three) looking particularly impressive.
Battle up front- On paper, there is a major mismatch in the frontcourt; the Sharks rely upon 6'9" senior stretch-4 Ty Flowers, perhaps a frontrunner for league POY, and junior Eral Penn, who returns after sitting out last season due to an injury. However, Derek Kellogg also has experienced depth in 6'9" Jack Ballantyne and 7'0" Ousmane Ndim, in addition to 6'8" versatile freshman Anthony Kabala. The Pios, meanwhile, are incredibly young up front; junior Contavio Dutreil, who began his career at North Alabama, had 11 boards in 22 minutes in game 1 but is the only frontcourt player with any D1 experience for Anthony Latina. Galette, Johnson, and Spokas will get a lot of run, and could have difficulty handling what LIU can throw at them..
Ty Flowers- Flowers, who shot 39.3% from deep in his first season on Long Island, made just 58 of his 195 attempts (29.7%) last season, though remained one of the best players in the league thanks to his ability to score in multiple ways, rebound, and block shots. Perhaps explaining Flowers' struggles shooting the ball in 2019-20 was the fact that he played a lot of the '5' given the injury to Eral Penn. Assuming Penn is back and healthy, Flowers will likely not have to guard opponents bigs as much this season, which could help keep his legs more fresh and into his jumper.