We are more than halfway finished with the NEC regular season, therefore I felt it was a good time to ditch The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly recap this week for our first ever NEC Power Rankings. We ranked the teams appropriately, highlighted the good and bad from their season, and even interjected with our end of season predictions. Today, we’ll cover teams 12 through 7 and then post Part II tomorrow with our top six teams of the conference. Let’s begin…
12) St. Francis (PA) Red Flash, 2-19 (2-8 NEC)
High Point: Defeated CCSU, 77-67 in their NEC home opener. It was Rob Krimmel’s first victory as St. Francis’ head coach.
Low Point: When a team has two separate losing streaks of at least eight games, there are plenty of low points to choose from. I’ll leave it at that.
Team MVP: Earl Brown. The 6’6″ sophomore has emerged as the best rebounder in the NEC at 12.4 rpg and is fifth nationally in defensive rebounding rate. The tenacious forward also has seven double-doubles in ten conference games.
Moving Forward: Fresh off a shocking road win over St. Francis Brooklyn, the youthful Red Flash have shown they possess a little fight. Umar Shannon and Stephon Mosley are back healthy, and along with Brown, make up a top six with Ollie Jackson, Ronnie Drinnon, and Ben Millaud-Meunier that possesses decent upside. The team, however, is still at least two seasons away from reasonably cracking the top half of the conference.
End of Season Projection: Unless Krimmel’s group can string together some road upsets, there’s little chance the Red Flash will be playing in the NEC tournament in Krimmel’s inaugural season. We’ll stick by our original projection of three to four total conference wins. It’s sadly another season of disappointment in Loretto.
11) Fairleigh Dickinson Knights, 7-16 (2-8 NEC)
High Point: It seems so long ago, but FDU’s NEC season opening win over Mount St. Mary’s displayed the true potential of Greg Vetrone’s Knights. In the win, FDU scored 1.13 points per possession, shot 55% from the floor, and truly looked like a team that could slip into the NEC tournament.
Low Point: FDU picked a bad time to suffer their longest losing streak of the season, but here they are on a seven game skid. They’ve lost their eight NEC setbacks by an average of 14.4 points.
Team MVP: Kinu Rochford. The athletic senior has been a revelation in the frontcourt, averaging 14.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. It’s a shame he probably only has eight games left in his collegiate career at this point.
Moving Forward: The immediate future doesn’t look bright, especially when weak depth and inconsistent effort infects much of the roster. The tenth worst defensive efficiency rating in the nation hasn’t helped and makes a turnaround unlikely. They are who they are.
End of Season Projection: With eight losses in the NEC, FDU has little margin for error if they wish to end their two-year NEC postseason drought. Frankly, we give the Knights little chance to win six or seven of their final eight games and that puts Vetrone squarely on the hot seat.
10) Monmouth Hawks, 8-15 (3-7 NEC)
High Point: A four game winning streak over South Alabama, Tennessee St, Lafayette, and Binghamton elevated King Rice’s Hawks to their high water record of the season, 5-3.
Low Point: Their recent home stand yielded two lopsided losses to CCSU and Bryant and placed Monmouth two games out of a NEC playoff spot with eight games left.
Team MVP: Andrew Nicholas. Before his injury, Nicholas was leading the Hawks with 13.9 ppg, although he hasn’t been the most efficient of scorers. Then again, finding an efficient scorer on this roster is tough to do.
Moving Forward: There have been too many injuries for this team to overcome its offensive inefficiencies, especially without Nicholas, Christian White, and Khalil Brown. After breaking through by winning nine of their last 13 games last season, the Hawks will logically miss their final opportunity to compete in the NEC postseason. Things won’t get any easier with their move to the MAAC.
End of Season Projection: I never wanted it to end like this, but here it goes: I told you so. The lack of a go-to-scorer has made the Hawks scratch and crawl for every win, which makes life extremely difficult in the super competitive NEC. I think Rice’s group may have an upset or two left in them, but we’re projecting the Hawks to be on the outside looking in as far as the NEC postseason is concerned.
9) Mount St. Mary’s, 9-12 (4-6 NEC)
High Point: Defeated A10 foe George Washington, 65-56 in late November. In the win, the Mount forced 25 GW turnovers and officially introduced the nation to Mount Mayhem.
Low Point: The aforementioned NEC opening loss to FDU had Christian’s team reeling with four losses in their last five games. Although the Mount would eventually fall to 2-5 in the conference, at least some of those losses could have gone either way.
Team MVP: Rashad Whack. Kudos to former head coach Robert Burke for rescuing Whack off of George Mason’s bench. The junior transfer leads the teams in points per game (13.0), three-pointers made (48), and steals per game (2.2).
Moving Forward: There are plenty of playmakers at the backcourt and wing positions, but unfortunately for Christian, a majority of them are upperclassmen in Whack, Julian Norfleet, and Sam Prescott. Still, next season should be a successful one in Emmitsburg, but Christian will need to recruit well and develop players like freshman Shivaughn Wiggins. It’s essential in order to elevate his program to a perpetual winner.
End of Season Projection: The schedule is favorable and with tiebreaking wins over Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac, the Mount are in decent position should they climb back to 0.500 in the conference. We still think they fall just short, but it’s anybody’s race at this point.
8) Quinnipiac Bobcats, 9-13 (5-5 NEC)
High Point: After upsetting Iona in OT at the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam tournament, Tom Moore’s Bobcats had UConn on the ropes in the semifinals, before falling in double OT. Despite the loss, Quinnipiac certainly turned some heads.
Low Point: After getting smoked by Bryant in Smithfield, Quinnipiac returned home only to watch Sacred Heart’s Shane Gibson and Steve Glowiak outproduce the Bobcats’ entire offense (at least it seemed like that). The loss lowered Quinnipiac’s NEC record to 1-3, and put Moore squad in another early season hole.
Team MVP: Ike Azotam. The relentless 6’7″ junior has been far and away the most consistent Bobcat this season. He has nine double doubles this season.
Moving Forward: It should come as no surprise that Quinnipiac is one of the most volatile teams in the NEC, given the youth and inexperience in the backcourt. We always targeted next season as the year the Bobcats could legitimately contend with another year of development out of Zaid Hearst, Kendrick Ray, James Ford, and Ousmane Drame. But that was in the NEC, not the MAAC, so it’s tough to project how Quinnipiac will respond in the next couple of seasons.
End of Season Projection: Nothing would surprise us with this team. They could finish 5th and find themselves in the NEC postseason semifinals, or they could finish 8-10 and finish ninth in the standings. We say the defense and rebounding is good enough to earn them a playoff spot.
7) St. Francis Brooklyn, 9-12 (5-5 NEC)
High Point: After undergoing a somewhat arduous non-conference tilt, the Terriers opened their NEC season with a 3-1 record, punctuated by a 71-52 road thrashing of Wagner. Jalen Cannon and Travis Nichols were dominant and Mockford was draining threes. At the time, everything was clicking on all cylinders in Brooklyn.
Low Point: Losing to their namesake, St. Francis at home. Giving up a game to a two-win team in your own building could come back to haunt you, especially when the Terriers are only one game ahead of #9 seeded Mount St. Mary’s.
Team MVP: Jalen Cannon. At 16.6 ppg and 9.5 rpg, Cannon is a virtual lock for an All-NEC First Team selection and could very well be the player of the year as a mere sophomore. If his team hovers in the middle of the conference, however, it’s unlikely Cannon wins the award over someone like Alex Francis or Jamal Olasewere. (See Shane Gibson vs. Julian Boyd last year.)
Moving Forward: With Cannon and Akeem Johnson anchoring the middle, teams are daring St. Francis’ guards to beat them. As long as Brent Jones and Anthony White can continue to develop and reduce their turnovers, this is a team that will be in contention for the next few seasons.
End of Season Projection: Losing to two teams in the bottom quarter of the NEC at home (St. Francis, Monmouth) isn’t recommended, but we feel the Terriers will find a way to sneak into the postseason. As the best defensive team in the conference (94.1 points allowed per 100 possessions) currently, they’ll be a tough out in the first round, especially if Nichols and Mockford are hitting their outside jumpers.
For part II on the NEC power rankings, go here.