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The Forecaster: 2/25 & 2/26

All point spreads per Kenpom

Thursday's Games:

St. Francis-Brooklyn at Merrimack (-4), 4pm

Mount St. Mary's (-1) at St. Francis (PA), 7pm

Wagner (-7) at Central Connecticut, 7pm

Fairleigh Dickinson at Sacred Heart (-3), 7pm

Long Island at Bryant (-9), 7pm

Friday's Games:

Long Island at Bryant (-9), 4pm

St. Francis-Brooklyn at Merrimack (-4), 4pm

Wagner (-7) at Central Connecticut, 4pm

Fairleigh Dickinson at Sacred Heart (-3), 7pm

Series to Watch #1: LIU at BU

  1. LIU's Struggles- Long Island probably needs at least a split this week to get into the NEC Tournament, yet they're trending in the wrong direction. Prior to last weekends home sweep of Central Connecticut, both of which were closer than they should have been, the Sharks had lost 4 out of 5, dropping 30 spots at Kenpom in the process. It's largely been thanks to a defense that has gone from one of the best in the league (0.95ppp over their first 9 games) to merely slightly above average (1.00ppp over their last 7).

  2. Home Cookin'- Bryant is 6-0 at home this season against D1 competition, while LIU is 3-4 on the road.

  3. Bryant's D- While this is likely going to be a high-scoring game thanks to both teams' penchant for playing uptempo, the difference could be a Bryant 'D' that is holding NEC teams to a 47.3% eFG% (2nd in the NEC). Long Island has the league's worst eFG% (47.6%), thanks to making fewer than 30% of their 3-pointers.

  4. Hall Elisias- The senior big was 14-19 from the field last week in averaging 17 points and 7.5 rebounds in a sweep over Merrimack, but it's what he does on the defensive end that makes him a difference maker. Elisias helped hold Warriors' big man Jordan Minor to just 7.5 ppg this past weekend, well below his season average of 12ppg. LIU's Eral Penn has been a stud this season, but he'll need to knock down a couple of perimeter shots early in order to get Elisias, who has the NEC's highest block rate at 8.3%, out of the paint. Otherwise, it could be tough for the Sharks to get anything done inside.

  5. Ty Flowers- Bryant generally operates with 4-guards/wings, which means the 6'9" senior should have a mismatch no matter who is guarding him. Flowers is clearly one of the front-runners for NEC POY...he's in the top 11 in scoring (17.9 ppg, 7th), rebounding (7.6 rpg, 9th), blocks (1.2 bpg, 7th), steals (2.1 spg, 4th), and assists (3.6 apg, 11th)...and this is the time that a talent like that needs to take over. If I'm a Sharks fan, I'm looking for Flowers to not settle for jump shots (he's shooting 27% from three), and instead use his size and craftiness to get to the rim where he's shooting 66%.

Series to Watch #1: FDU at SHU

  1. NECT Implications- Sacred Heart is in a good spot and gets into the NEC Tournament with a split, which would have them finish 9-7. Fairleigh Dickinson? They need a sweep, plus a lot of help.

  2. FDU from deep- The Knights have one of the league's most potent offenses (106.3 points/100 possessions in league play) thanks to some adept 3-point shooting; as a team they're making over 39% from beyond the arc. Brandon Rush (51 made 3's, 41.5%) and Jahlil Jenkins (45, 39.8%) are the heavy lifters, but Elyjah Williams (44.4%), Joe Munden, Jr. (40.5%), and Callum Baker (40%) are also guys that need to be watched, as is Brandon Powell, who has struggled this season (25.9%) but made 42% of his 3P attempts a year ago. And by the way, they're not too bad from two either (49.7%), and their "Rim & 3 Rate" of 72% is tops in the NEC.

  3. First to 85 wins?- The Pios aren't too shabby offensively, either (102.5 pts/100 poss, 5th in the league) despite not being particularly efficient shooting the basketball (48.3% eFG%, 8th). However, they get to the free throw line a ton where they're shooting 75.2% (1st) and they take care of the basketball. One area to watch on this side of the ball? FDU is the league's worst defensive rebounding team, so look for guys like Cantavio Dutreil and Bryce Johnson to feast on 2nd chance points.

  4. Final Curtain Call?- There's a chance that Friday is the final time NEC fans get to watch Jahlil Jenkins and Elyjah Williams ply their trade in the conference. Both seniors were honored by FDU prior to the final home game last weekend, and both have interesting decisions to make; I'd imagine they'd be coveted by more prestigious programs, and both are certainly in-line to make solid money playing professionally overseas. No matter what happens, it's been a pleasure watching these guys; Jahlil Jenkins has been one of my favorite players over the last few years, and Elyjah Williams has grown from a freshman role player to a senior stud. As an objective fan of good basketball, I'm hoping both put up big numbers the next two nights.

  5. Aaron Clarke- Sacred Heart's junior point guard dealt with an injury in January that sapped him of some of his effectiveness; he missed two games, and upon returning averaged 11.5 points and 1 assist in 23.2 mpg across 4 games to close out the the month. Last week in 3 games, we saw vintage Clarke; 19p and 4a in 36.3 mpg. While Tyler Thomas has been the Pios' best player this season, it's Clarke who is the team's engine with his ability to play both on and off the ball, and his career 82% from the charity stripe is big in a close game.

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