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The Mid-Range Jumper: 12/7/20

Another light week in our world; there were just seven games featuring teams from the Northeast Conference. However, as I'll keep saying, that's 7 more than we had in any week since March. I'll take it!

Normally I wouldn't post a Mid-Ranger after such a light week, but we have NEC on NEC action starting up on Tuesday and that's something we definitely need to discuss.

Team of the Week: Bryant

Slim pickins' for sure, but the Bulldogs repeat as our Team of the Week. The reason is simple; the NEC went 1-6 last week, with Jared Grasso...I mean, Phil Martelli, Jr.'s...charges putting up the lone win, a 93-85 win over a New Hampshire team that is expected to finish in the top half of the America East. Sure, the Wildcats were playing without their best player, big wing Sean Sutherlin who is dealing with an injury, but a win is a win is a win. Plus, while I rarely acknowledge games against non-D1 teams, Bryant scored 138 points against Rhode Island College, earning some positive publicity while breaking their single-game scoring record. As of Sunday night, Bryant's 89.7 possessions per 40 minutes ranks 2nd nationally behind Murray St. (according to Sports-Reference). People are talking about the Bulldogs, which is a good thing.

Win of the Week: Bryant 93, New Hampshire 85

The Bulldogs scored 1.13PPP thanks to some solid outside shooting (7 for 20 from three, 50.8% eFG%) and just 9 turnovers in 82 possessions (11% rate). Michael Green III led the way with 23 points, while Peter Kiss added 22 on just 14 shots and Charles Pride went for 17 and 8. Oh, and Hall Elisias put up a 13 point, 11 board double-double in just 18 minutes due to foul trouble. This was the first game after it was announced that Melo Eggleston would miss the remainder of the season due to injury, and the coaching staff (Grasso missed this game due to a back injury) adjusted by going "small" with generally three wing players on the floor. It worked.

Player of the Week: Peter Kiss, Bryant

In Bryant's win over New Hampshire, the transfer from Rutgers was stellar; 22 points on 9 of 14 shooting (2 for 5 from downtown), to go along with 9 rebounds and just 2 turnovers in 36 minutes. What's particularly impressive is the number of minutes Kiss was able to play; in an 82 possession game, that's a lot of running up and down the floor.

Others Considered: Tre Mitchel, Central Connecticut; Charles Pride, Bryant

Freshman of the Week: Dakota Leffew, Mount St. Mary's

The 6'5" wing has given Dan Engelstad exactly what he has needed; outside shooting. In the Mount's loss to VCU on Saturday, Leffew was 3 for 5 from deep (5-7 overall) in scoring 14 points in 28 minutes. Sure, there were 6 turnovers, but in four games Leffew has put up a 76.5% eFG% (6 for 13 from three, 4 for 4 from two).

Others Considered: Maxwell Land, St. Francis (PA); Joe Munden, Jr., Fairleigh Dickinson

Red Flash Struggles

Since their season-opening win at Pittsburgh, St. Francis (PA) was largely non-competitive in three losses in a row; 80-65 to UMBC, 76-51 at Virginia, and 78-62 at Liberty. Obviously all three teams are more than solid; UVA is #17 at Kenpom, Liberty #121, and UMBC #209. However, it's been a struggle on both sides of the ball, as seen below:

Virginia is Virginia, but one would think that SFU would be more competitive against solid mid-major programs like UMBC and Liberty. Should Red Flash fans be concerned? No; 1) it's early, and these games really do not matter, and 2) Ramiir Dixon-Conovor has been out since early in the 2nd half of the UMBC game.

The senior point guard had 21 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds in 35 minutes at Pitt, then had 4 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in 21 minutes before getting injured. When he went out, SFU trailed UMBC only 41-35 with ~16 minutes left. The Retrievers closed on a 39-25 run with RDC out.

The good news? Freshmen like Zahree Harrison and Ronell Giles, Jr. have gotten an opportunity to develop, while Krimmel has had to rely more upon Max Land and Bryce Laskey on the offensive end. The better news? It's sounds like Dixon-Conover will be back soon. Better times likely await the Red Flash.

Bryant Offense

Yeah, yeah; Bryant is running at one of the fastest tempo's in the nation. That's fun and all, but it doesn't really mean anything. However, what does mean something; Bryant's eFG% through two games against D1 opponents is 51.9%, which ranks in the top 100 nationally, and they're turning the ball over on just 17.8% of their possessions (#101 in the country). Both are tops in the NEC so far, and have helped produce 1.05 PPP.

According to Shot Quality, Bryant's has been the best in the NEC thus far, ranking in the 78th percentile in all of D1 in shot quality. Over 42% of their shots have been from three, and they've made those at a 35% clip. However, what their doing at the rim is even more impressive; they're making 75% of their "close twos", according to Bart Torvik. How? Pushing the tempo and attacking the rim for either a layup or kicking to an open three-point shooter. Hall Elisias is 9 for 11 near the rim, Green III 7 for 9, Kiss 7 for 8, and Charles Pride is 4 for 5. Get your rim protectors ready.

Jefferson's Improvements

Mount St. Mary's big-man Malik Jefferson made a major jump as a sophomore last season, and it appears he's gotten even better this season. The 6'9" behemoth in the middle is putting up a 65.2% eFG% (he was 54% last season), and it appears he's improved his jumper; he's 5 of 6 from the mid-range after making just 38.5% of such shots last year. His block rate is up to 3.2% (it was 2.1% last season), and he's dropped his fouling rate to 2.3 fouls per 40 minutes (from 3.7).

Jefferson is a big reason why the Mount has been dominant on the boards; through four games, Engelstad's group is allowing opponents to grab just 24% of their misses, which ranks inside the top 70 nationally. While Jefferson's rebounding rates are down a bit from last season, sometimes that can be the case of a guy doing a good job blocking out and allowing teammates to grab the boards. Mezie Offurum, Nana Opoku, and Jefferson all have defensive rebounding rates north of 15%.

Central's New Devils

In a 80-65 loss to Hartford on Friday, Donyell Marshall's two newcomers were the best players on the floor for CCSU. Tre Mitchell, a 6'3" combo-guard from Phoenix, scored 19 points on 7-11 shooting (2 of 5 from three), and also played really strong defense on Hartford's Traci Carter. Meanwhile, new point guard Nigel Scantlebury scored 14 points (4-6 from the field, 4-5 from the charity stripe) and also added 6 rebounds and 4 assists (and 4 turnovers).

Through three games, Scantlebury's 24.8% usage rate is 7th highest in the NEC, though he's really struggled with turnovers (30.7% rate) and hasn't shot the ball well (47.6% eFG%). Mitchell has been arguably CCSU's best player thanks to a 52% eFG% (4 for 13 from three) and strong perimeter defense.

Games 2 Watch

As I mentioned earlier, we've got NEC conference games this week! Not many; just six teams get started this week, and that's assuming games get played as scheduled. But there are some tasty matchups, so let's talk about them.

Bryant at St. Francis-Brooklyn; Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday at 4pm

We've talked a lot about the Bulldogs; they like to run, and they are taking (and making) good shots. One thing to watch with Bryant is the play of point guard Michael Green III; he's got a 30.5% usage rate, which in my opinion is just too high. He's had a quick trigger on his jumper, and he's shooting just 4 of 15 from three (plus 3 of 13 from the mid-range), which has added up to a 43.2% eFG%. He's turned it over 10 times, which isn't horrible when you factor in the pace, but against 9 assists it's not great. He's putting up major counting numbers (19 ppg), but if I'm a Bulldog fan I'd like him to be a bit more efficient, especially when you consider the talent around him.

The Terriers, meanwhile, have yet to play a game. However, at least from a roster-building perspective, SFC looks somewhat similar to Bryant; they will likely go "small" thanks to wings like Unique McLean and Travis Atson, who have the ability to rebound. Can Glenn Braica's group run with Bryant? It'll be a tough test.

Central Connecticut at Fairleigh Dickinson; Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday at 4pm

Both teams come into this game winless; FDU is 0-4, all of which were double-digit losses. The Knights looked good in losses to Rutgers and Providence, while really struggling offensively against Quinnipiac and Hofstra. CCSU, similarly, played a good 1st half at UConn before looking largely lifeless in losses to Army and Hartford.

Also similarly, both teams have star players looking to get on track. Jahlil Jenkins, FDU's all-everything PG, is shooting just 4 for 21 from three (34.4% eFG%). Ian Krishnan, Central Connecticut's junior sharp-shooter, is 2 of 13 from deep (30.4% eFG%). Good news for Jenkins; CCSU is allowing opponents to shoot 43% from deep. Bad news for Krishnan; FDU is holding opponents to 27% from downtown.

The Knights are playing without Xzavier Malone-Key and Devon Dunn, both of whom have opted out of the season (XMK has entered his name into the Transfer Portal), and it's clear they are struggling to figure it out at this stage of the season. CCSU had one of the youngest rosters in the nation last season, and it appears that Donyell Marshall is still trying to come up with a rotation he's comfortable with, as 10 players are averaging between 16 and 26 minutes per game. Depth is nice, but there's something to be said for consistency.

St. Francis (PA) at Mount St. Mary's; Tuesday, 7pm.

I think we all agree that Bryant has been the most impressive team in the NEC through two weeks, right? OK; then it's probably safe to say that the Red Flash and Mount have been in that next "tier". SFU won at Pittsburgh, and the Mount had a shot to win at Maryland until a late Terps run put the game out of reach.

We talked a lot about the Red Flash above, but it's worth repeating; if Ramiir Dixon-Conover is back, SFU is a different team. His ability to pressure the opponents point guard could make for a super fun matchup between he and Damian Chong Qui. The Mount has turned it over a bit more than Dan Engelstad would like (23.1%), while SFU is forcing turnovers on nearly 21% of their defensive possessions.

Up front, Engelstad continues to go "big" at times with a lineup of 6'8" Mezie Offorum, 6'9" Nana Opoku and 6'9" Malik Jefferson. However, Rob Krimmel can go big if he wants as well with 6'6" Myles Thompson, 6'8" Tyler Stewart, and 6'9" Mark Flagg. That matchup between Mark Flagg, who's been perhaps SFU's best player in the early going (69.7% eFG%) and Jefferson should be ultra-fun.

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