It’s nearly a month into the 2015-16 season, and it’s been a rough go for the NEC. The top three teams of the NEC Preseason Coaches Poll—Mount St. Mary’s, Robert Morris and Bryant–have combined to post a ghastly record of 4-21 against Division I competition, with none of those victories coming against a team inside KenPom’s top 250. Continue reading
As the NEC writer for the upcoming Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, I’ve started my deep analysis for each individual program. I still have several coaches to speak with throughout the summer, but I wanted to convey my current thoughts on the conference’s returning individual talent. Because 10 of 15 players have graduated or transferred from last year’s Big Apple Buckets all-NEC teams, this Way Too Early exercise would surely garner a ton of differing opinions. Continue reading
As we enter into the month of February, it’s now abundantly clear who the contenders and pretenders are of the Northeast Conference. With more than half of the league game in the books, the standings have separated into tiers. Let’s sift through the action on the final January slate. Continue reading
With four conference games in the books, the teams are beginning to separate into tiers that are indicative of their potential. Let’s recap all of the action from Saturday. Continue reading
For a team residing in a one-bid conference, the final months of the calendar year are about lineup and rotation construction more so than wins and losses. Continue reading
For the second part of our extensive NEC midseason preview (here’s part 1 in case you missed it), John and I present our midseason awards. There were surprises on each team, and as a result, plenty of notable players who didn’t make the cut. While past performance in previous seasons plays a small role in our determination, we aren’t in the business of issuing “lifetime achievement” awards like some voters (ahem, Velton Jones for the first team last year, ahem) do. Therefore, you won’t find guys like Kyle Vinales, Latif Rivers, and E.J. Reed on these teams – these players simply haven’t been consistent enough through the first 13-15 games of the season to warrant a selection.
Midseason All-Conference First Team
PG: Jason Brickman, LIU Brooklyn (12.2 ppg, 9.8 apg, 83.9% FT%, 3.0 A/TO)
PG: Julian Norfleet, Mount St. Mary’s (19.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 5.6 apg, 1.9 A/TO)
G: Karvel Anderson, Robert Morris (17.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 45.4% 3PT%)
PF: Alex Francis, Bryant (17.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 55.7% FG%)
PF: Jalen Cannon, St. Francis NY (14.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg)
Allow us to expound on Jason Brickman’s mastery later on. Heading south, another fantastic point guard has been Julian Norfleet, who has the second best efficiency rating in the conference behind Brickman. It’s with good reason, Norfleet is setting career highs in most statistical categories and without him, the Mount would have trouble qualifying for the NEC playoffs. The wrist is fully healthy for Karvel Anderson, I mean, how else would you explain his wonderful shooting percentages? He’s been a big time scorer and leader for Andy Toole. Trying to decide between the best NEC power forward would be virtually impossible, given the remarkable play of both Alex Francis and Jalen Cannon. Both present matchup nightmares for any opponent.
Midseason All-Conference Second Team
PG: Sidney Sanders, Jr., Fairleigh Dickinson (19.6 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.6 spg, 2.0 A/TO)
PG: Kenneth Ortiz, Wagner (13.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.4 spg)
G: Dyami Starks, Bryant (21.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 88.3% FT%)
F: Lucky Jones, Robert Morris (14.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.5 apg, 40.5% 3PT%)
PF: Earl Brown, St. Francis (PA) (14.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 54.2% FG%)
Sidney Sanders, Jr. has been a godsend for Greg Herenda. He’s quadrupled his scoring from a season ago, yet he’s also posting the best A/TO ratio of his career. In 11 of 13 games, Kenneth Ortiz has posted an efficiency rating of 9 or better, making him the stable force on an otherwise inconsistent Wagner team. Dyami Starks leads the conference in scoring and has made a bigger contribution on the defensive end (improved steal rate from 0.9% to 1.8%). While Lucky Jones’ stats are virtually identical from a season ago, they’re still all-conference second team worthy. He is, after all, nationally ranked in several KenPom categories. Finally, Earl Brown could be wasting away in Loretto, but rather he’s expanded his offensive repertoire while taking on more possessions. It’s not easy to post a 104.6 ORtg on a team that ranks 339th nationally in offense efficiency, yet Brown is somehow pulling it off. Plus, he’s an absolute beast on the glass.
Midseason All-Conference Rookie Team
PG: Malik Harmon, St. Francis (PA) (8.8 ppg, 3.7 apg, 2.2 A/TO)
F: De’von Barnett, Sacred Heart (10.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 62.8% FG%)
F: Wayne Martin, St. Francis Brooklyn (8.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 50.0% FG%)
F: Jeremiah Worthem, Robert Morris (8.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
PF: Daniel Garvin, Bryant (6.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.3 bpg)
This was the easiest team to select out of the bunch. Because he’s only played seven games thus far, I could have left De’von Barnett off the team in place of FDU’s Matt MacDonald, yet Barnett has been incredibly efficient scoring the basketball. As a collegiate novice, he already possesses a terrific mid-range game. Playing 30 minutes per night as a freshman point guard isn’t for the faint of heart, but Malik Harmon has handled the role incredibly well. His quickness allows him to create off the dribble, sometimes with ease. After an amazing start, Wayne Martin has cooled off recently. Nevertheless, the freshman bulldog has been fearless in the paint, while giving Glenn Braica another valuable piece in the Terrier’s rotation. Jeremiah Worthem, a preseason ROY pick of Big Apple Buckets, has been the solid inside/outside player we envisioned from the start. It wouldn’t shock us if Toole adds more to Worthem’s plate for the conference season. Even though Tim O’Shea has plenty of options off his bench, it speaks volumes that Daniel Garvin is now starting on most nights alongside Francis.
Midseason Player of the Year — Jason Brickman
This was a two man race for me, but Brickman barely earned the nod over Norfleet. Brickman has a chance to do a couple of remarkable things this season you may already be aware of: 1) become only the fourth player in NCAA history to post 1,000 career assists and 2) average at least 10.0 assists per game in a season for the first time this century. Did I also mention that Brickman is EASILY setting career highs in scoring, rebounding, and steals as well? He’s special, folks.
Midseason Rookie of the Year — Daniel Garvin
It’s difficult to make the case against Garvin, despite the fact that he barely played in Bryant’s first three games. Since his breakout performance versus Harvard, Garvin has been a revelation, and surprisingly so. The 6’6″ wing flashed his big time athleticism in high school, but O’Shea worried that the lower level of competition would force Garvin to play catchup as a rookie. That hasn’t been the case at all; in fact, he possesses the best efficiency rating of any freshman in the NEC.
Midseason Coach of the Year — Glenn Braica
Few expected Glenn Braica’s Terriers to be challenging for a NEC title in October. But two months in, the Terriers boast the best defense in the conference (0.94 points allowed per possession) and should be placed in the league’s top tier, no questions asked. Braica has a lot of athletic pieces to work with, and the veteran coach has used them masterfully in the early going.
Midseason Surprise of the Year — The Point Guard Production
With efficiency rating as the barometer, five point guards (Brickman, Norfleet, Sanders, Ortiz, Corey Maynard) comprise the top 11 individuals in the league, and I’m not even including Malcolm McMillan and Phil Gaetano, who’ve had productive seasons too. More often than not, quality point guard play is hard to come by, but most NEC teams are doing just fine.
After putting a legitimate scare into Notre Dame a few days ago, the Bryant Bulldogs laid an egg against Ohio State. The lopsided defeat wasn’t all that surprising; after all, Corey Maynard sat out the contest due to a bum wrist. It left Tim O’Shea with the inexperienced point guard combo of Shane McLaughlin and Declan Soukup, never an easy proposition against a top five KenPom opponent. Continue reading
With the possible lone exception of Mount St. Mary’s, no team in the NEC surprised pundits more than the Bryant Bulldogs last season. A veteran lineup supplemented with two promising transfers in Dyami Starks and Joe O’Shea helped elevate Bryant to an unprecedented 19-win season.
The 17-win turnaround from the season prior made NCAA history, even though Bryant finished their 2012-13 campaign with only six victories in their final 14 games. A small rotation and average at best athleticism inevitably did Tim O’Shea’s group in, and that was no more evident than during their February road loss to the aforementioned Mountaineers. After the defeat, a candid O’Shea admitted his team’s athleticism, depth, and defensive prowess wasn’t where it needed to be.
Now, however, O’Shea could be faced with a new “problem”. The sixth Division I season in Bryant’s history may result in the most depth the program has ever seen. After struggling to find production off the bench, is it possible O’Shea has too many backup options?
“It’s amazing how things have changed in just a couple of seasons, because in the past I couldn’t scrap together what I thought was a credible top five, let alone a top eight,” said O’Shea. “Now I think I have good players, one through 13 on scholarship. I have a lot of options. I guess it’s a problem, but it’s a good one.”
Of course, there’s the top four of Starks, Alex Francis, Corey Maynard, and Joe O’Shea, but after that it’s an open competition for rotation spots five through ten.
The biggest question heading into the offseason is how O’Shea compensates for the loss of All-NEC third teamer Frankie Dobbs. The point guard was instrumental in Bryant’s success, so the challenge will be replacing his minutes, and superb production. Sophomore Shane McLaughin, who averaged 1.0 point and 1.3 assists per game as a freshman, will have an opportunity to make an impact. Red-shirt freshman Declan Soukup, an Australian native, should also compete for minutes at the point.
The third member of the point guard competition happens to be the most notable freshman of O’Shea’s incoming class – 5’9″ point guard Justin Brickman. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Justin’s older brother, Jason, has been terrorizing NEC opponents for the past three seasons as a member of the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds.
While it seems lazy to use Jason Brickman as a player comp to his brother, it’s likely the most suitable. Like his brother, Justin profiles as a heady floor general with excellent court vision, an impressive handle, and the ability to knock down the long-range jumper. Despite the success the Brickman family has had playing Division I basketball – older brother Jordan also played one season for Navy – O’Shea is tempering his expectations for the youngest Brickman in season number one.
“It’s so hard, when kids are going from high school to college, you never know how (their game) translates,” O’Shea cautioned.
Behind Alex Francis, there’s an impetus of high upside youth in O’Shea’s front court, highlighted by Australian native Bosko Kostur and Connecticut product Daniel Garvin. Both players, listed at 6’7″ and 6’8″ respectively, possess impressive athleticism and come advertised with unique talents.
“High skill level, and a good first step,” said O’Shea when asked to describe Kostur, his latest player from the Land Down Under. “He has a good feel for the game like all my Australians and is a tough kid. All signs point to a guy who could be a really good player in our conference.”
While Kostur has excellent perimeter skills that could make him a “stretch four” in the NEC someday, Garvin may very well be the freshman with the highest ceiling of this recruiting class. The 6’8″ power forward, who could transition into a small forward at the collegiate level, displayed tremendous above-the-rim athleticism at Bethel High. Even though the competition for the western Connecticut school wasn’t top-notch, it was impossible to ignore Garvin’s ability to rebound, defend, and create havoc around the rim.
“(Garvin) is a tremendous athlete,” said O’Shea. “He’s so gifted physically – he has great athleticism and instincts – but he played in a low-level, in terms of high school competition. Making that transition, that’s going to be the key.”
The last recruit is Ellis Williams, a 6’8″ banger down low. With a wide frame and broad shoulders, the physical Williams has an opportunity to occupy the minutes lost with the graduation of overachieving center Vlad Kondratyev. Red-shirt freshman Andrew Scocca should compete for minutes with Williams at the “5” when O’Shea isn’t implementing a small-ball type of roster. Now healthy, Scocca only played nine games in his first season as a Bulldog, due to an unusual bacterial infection.
In total, nearly half of Bryant’s scholarship players are freshmen, yet O’Shea is excited about the team’s short-term prospects. Despite the youth movement, Bryant has enough veteran leadership at the top to consider the Bulldogs a worthy challenger to the NEC title. With more athleticism now at O’Shea’s disposal, the long time head coach is certainly optimistic about the position of his program.
“I like our chances. We have the chemistry. We’re going to have a tough non-conference schedule, but if we get through that OK, then I think we’ll be fine and in the mix the whole way.”
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride