As all of the NEC teams are entering the last few weeks of conference play and jockeying for position in the NEC Tournament, it got me thinking about all the players I’ve seen who never represented the conference in the ‘Big Dance.’ So, what if we were able to give all those players one last chance, on the same team! Continue reading
Before we embark on what promises to be a fascinating conference tournament this week, we here at Big Apple Buckets would like to present our NEC awards and all-conference teams. Continue reading
“Dwaun Anderson will average double figures (in points). His role is certainly going to increase. He’s looking around the gym now and there’s a bunch of freshmen looking at him to produce and I think he’s taken on that challenge.” Continue reading
It’s time to start over. Continue reading
Head Coach: Bashir Mason, 2nd Season (19-12, 12-6 NEC)
Last Season: 19-12, 12-6 (NEC), Lost to LIU Brooklyn in NEC tournament semifinals, 94-82
NEC Preseason Poll: 1st out of 10 teams
State of Programs: NEC Favorite
Starters Returning: 3
Key Loss(es): Jonathon Williams (15.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Eric Fanning (16.7 mpg, 6.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg), Josh Thompson (23 starts, 3.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
Incoming Players: Nolan Long (F), Greg Senat (F)
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Kenneth Ortiz (11.8 ppg, 5.4 apg, 4.3 rpg, NEC Defensive POY)
G: Latif Rivers (13.0 ppg, 39.4% 3pt%)
G: Dwaun Anderson (4.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
F: Mario Moody (6.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg)
C: Naofall Folahan (3.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg)
Key Reserves: Jay Harris (G), Orlando Parker (F), Marcus Burton (G)
- Managing the Backcourt Minutes – Wow, there is a ton of talent available in the Wagner backcourt. The addition of Jay Harris gives the Seahawks four legitimate potential starts at the point guard and shooting guard positions. The biggest addition might not even be Harris, but a healthy Latif Rivers. Rivers struggled coming back from a knee injury last season and was never quite the same. Now with a full offseason he’s going to be even more effective.
- A Teacher and a Student – As successful as Wagner was last season the Seahawks were working with a first-year head coach in Bashir Mason. Mason – who is working on his graduate degree – is also learning on the job as a head coach. He’ll be more prepared during his second season and I expect he’ll have some ideas about how to fix some of the defensive deficiencies the Seahawks had last season.
- Finishing What They Started – The Seahawks have been one of the best teams in the NEC the past two seasons, but both have ended in disappointing home losses in the NEC tournament. Wagner needs to find a way to get past the final four in the conference and advance to a championship game, because if the Seahawks can get to the NCAA tournament they have the talent to give a team a scare.
The Seahawks are the most talented team in the NEC. Whether they can put it all together is the question. Injuries didn’t help last season, but it appears that Latif Rivers is completely healthy. A healthy Rivers gives Wagner an outside shooting option that it definitely needed last season after they shot 35.3% in NEC play last season. Another player that could help the three-point shooting is Jay Harris. The Valparaiso transfer is going to give the Seahawks another dynamic scorer in the backcourt. Considering this team also has Marcus Burton and the reigning NEC Defensive Player of the Year Kenneth Ortiz that means there is going to be a lot of opportunities for Bashir Mason to pick and choose the hot hand.
There are also options on the wing. Dwaun Anderson is the type of player that could have a breakout season in his sophomore year. A former top recruit, Anderson basically spent last season getting reacclimated to competitive basketball and adjusting to the speed of Division I. Still, all of those ESPN Sportscenter Top 10 plays were representative of elite athleticism that isn’t often seen in the NEC.
Mason also has options in the front court. Orlando Parker, Mario Moody and Naofall Folahan form a nice trio of talented forwards. They also offer different abilities. Moody is an elite defender on the level of his teammate Ortiz. Given more minutes he could lead the team in blocks. It also appears that Moody is going to be given a bigger role offensively and he has the skill to be a double-double type player if he can stay on the court. Folahan adds a lot of veteran leadership that should just help anchor the Seahawks’ defense and help Mason keep everything together. It’ll also be interesting to see how the two freshmen, Nolan Long and Greg Senat, are integrated into the lineup.
Mason wants to use this deep lineup as much as possible. Whether or not he’ll really play 12 guys come March is a whole different question, but for now the Seahawks are the deepest and most talented team in the NEC.
“That guy can really shoot… And he’s buying into defense and the way we push the pace. He’s a good guy. Hopefully he’ll have a really big year for us.” – Kenneth Ortiz on Valparaiso transfer Jay Harris
“Right now in my mind I plan to play 12 guys.” – Bashir Mason on how deep his rotation will go
“Mario Moody with an extended role I think he’ll fill in nicely for Jon Williams. He brings a different dynamic. He’s a different type of player. More athletic and has natural play-making ability. He’ll be another shot-blocker on the court. I’m looking forward to him stepping into that role and playing well.” – Mason on how Moody’s development can offset the loss of Williams
Ryan – Injuries can always derail a season, but out of all the NEC teams, Wagner is prepared the best for such misfortune. With a bevy of athletic guards, polished shooters, and defensive minded big men down low, Bashir Mason has a lot of weight on his shoulders. He must juggle the rotation and determine his optimal lineup come January. There’s no way he’ll play 12 guys in the second half of the season, but you can bet he’ll have the best group of 9-10 guys playing 10+ minutes per game. (18 wins, 11-5 NEC)
John – I don’t know if Wagner is really going to play 12 players, but I know that the rotation will be deep and talented. The roster oozes potential. It’s up to Mason to put it all together. I think that in his second season that’s exactly what will happen and the Seahawks will be the team to beat in the NEC. (18 wins, 12-4 NEC)
Other NEC Team Primers:
#10 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
#9 St. Francis (PA) Red Flash
#8 Sacred Heart Pioneers
#7 St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers
#6 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds
#5 Bryant Bulldogs
#4 Central Connecticut Blue Devils
#3 Robert Morris
#2 Mount St. Mary’s
Every year, several NEC players come out of nowhere to produce for their teams, so we’re attempting to highlight those candidates. This list is all about seeing which players can increase their production at an above league average level, even if some of them underwhelmed the previous season. Continue reading
It sure wasn’t pretty. When you score 0.71 points per possession, shoot 36% from the floor, and have an assist to turnover ratio of 0.3, you won’t win a majority of your games. But Wagner, despite trailing for most of their home opener versus the Princeton Tigers, used their pressure defense and timely offense to stage a much-needed comeback victory. The Seahawks edged the Tigers for a gritty 48-42 overtime win to earn its second victory of the season. Here are my observations from the sloppy contest:
- Defending with Tenacity – First let’s talk about the good. Wagner’s defense forced 17 Tiger turnovers and held Ian Hummer – Princeton’s most efficient big man – to 11 points on 20 shots. As a whole, Wagner did an excellent job containing Princeton’s skilled frontcourt, as the Tigers shot 25% (11 of 44) from inside the arc. Mario Moody gave Bashir Mason instant defense off the bench, swatting away three shots in 13 minutes. So far, the Seahawks defense is performing at a higher rate compared to last season, with an adjusted defense rating in Ken Pomeroy’s top 50.
- Offensive Woes – The offense, however, continues to lack any kind of cohesive flow. The team clearly misses Latif Rivers, who has now missed the past three games with a knee injury. Without Rivers and his ability to create off the dribble, spot up from long-range, or facilitate for other teammates, Wagner doesn’t have enough playmakers that can create their own shot. Jonathan Williams is certainly doing his part by averaging nearly 18 points and eight rebounds, but contributions are desperately needed elsewhere. I’m looking at you, Kenneth Ortiz and Marcus Burton.
- Long Range Shooter Please Apply – Part of the Wagner’s problem offensively stems from their inability to stretch the defense with their long-range shooting. Currently, Wagner is hitting less than 28% of their three-point attempts, which simply won’t cut it. The problem is exacerbated without Rivers, as only Eric Fanning and Burton have shown the capability to make shots from behind the arc. Right now Wagner really misses Tyler Murray and Chris Martin.
- Whose the Impact Freshman? – Speaking of Fanning, it was he and not the highly touted Dwaun Anderson, who received the crunch time minutes late in tonight’s game. Mason’s trust in Fanning paid off with the freshman sinking a critical three-ball late in regulation. Anderson has struggled mightily out of the gate, scoring 17 points on 30 shots to go along with 14 turnovers. We were wrong in assuming any freshman, even one as gifted as Anderson, could come in and contribute right away at a high level. Clearly, Anderson’s adjustment to collegiate basketball will take a little time, so Mason’s challenge is to find production elsewhere while his prized rookie figures it out.
Tonight was a fantastic win for Wagner, because let’s face it, when you fail to score 50 points in a game that went to overtime, nine times out of ten you will lose. Especially to an Ivy League contender in Princeton. The Seahawks’ defense isn’t the problem, but Mason has a difficult challenge ahead of figuring out his team’s offensive issues. It’ll be interesting to see how the youngest head coach in college basketball adjusts.