With a majority of the NEC basketball scholarships filled for the 2014-15 season, it’s an excellent time to go over the conference’s transfer list. While this list isn’t final (remember, Shivaughn Wiggins leaving Mount St. Mary’s in July last season?), we’d be surprised if there was more activity this offseason. So without further ado, let’s break down the most important players departing from the NEC. Continue reading
The race for the NEC Player of the Year is picking up steam. I think most pundits would have Robert Morris’ Karvel Anderson leading Bryant’s Alex Francis at the moment. It certainly makes sense. Continue reading
The 2011-12 season was a magical year for LIU Brooklyn, as Jim Ferry rode off into the sunset after securing his second straight NEC championship. The Blackbirds were ferocious on the offensive end of the floor, averaging 1.12 points per possession in league play while executing at a dizzying 75.9 possessions per game pace. Continue reading
With nearly half of the 2013 NEC all-conference selections no longer residing inside the conference, there’s plenty of opportunity for players to emerge into the limelight. Estimating who lands in the top 15 won’t be easy, but Big Apple Buckets will begin the process today by naming our all-conference second and third teams as the first installment of our two-part series. Tomorrow, we’ll present our NEC first team along with our player, rookie, coach, and defensive player of the year selections. Continue reading
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
Rather than have John and I release our consensus NEC individual awards, we decided to give each of us a say in who we would choose. As you’ll see, there was some disagreement for a couple of the categories, and we here at Big Apple Buckets support the First Amendment! Onto the five major awards… Continue reading
To the casual fan observing from afar, nothing probably seemed amiss with LIU Brooklyn’s effort after nearly 28 minutes of play in Emmitsburg, MD. Despite getting limited contributions from Jamal Olasewere and Jason Brickman, the first place Blackbirds were leading the Mount, 53-50. E.J. Reed scored 20 first half points and had the team playing with a little cockiness and swagger you’d expect from the back-to-back defending champs.
The only problem was head coach Jack Perri wasn’t buying it one bit. To him, the three-point lead was a farce, a mere aberration based on what he had seen out of his team earlier in the week.
“For the first week in a while, our guys didn’t prepare the same way, they didn’t care the same way,” said a disappointed Perri after the game. “We did a good job of [preparing] since the Wagner game and we struggled with that this week. For whatever the reason, we were out of it. I tried to warn them. I tried to get them ready…I could see this coming.”
So when LIU lost their second half lead in the blink of an eye, it came as no surprise to the first year head coach. Three consecutive three-pointers by Kelvin Parker and Rashad Whack sparked a 9-0 run and gave the Mount a six point advantage midway through the second half. It was a lead they wouldn’t relinquish to the delight of the feverish crowd on hand.
One person’s delight though is another person’s dismay, and Perri was clearly disgusted at his team’s execution in two facets: The 20 turnovers Mount St. Mary’s forced throughout the game and their porous perimeter defense that allowed the Mount to sink 11 of 25 three-pointers, including six rainmakers from junior Rashad Whack.
Whack led the Mountaineers with 26 points – 16 of them in the pivotal second half – to go along with three assists and three steals. It was the eleventh time this season Whack led the Mount in scoring for the game, and the fourth time the junior had broken the 20 point barrier.
In all, five Mount players logged an efficiency rating north of ten for the game, but it was Jamion Christian mainly praising the inside presence of 6’8″ center Raven Barber as a key catalyst for the team’s second half run.
“Raven Barber was an unbelievable force,” said Christian. “We challenged him [to produce] in the under eight timeout to just do more. Fly around, play with some freedom and he did that. I definitely thought he was the difference in the game.”
After playing ten uneventful minutes in the first half, Barber stepped in and sparked the Mount with eight points and six rebounds in the second stanza. His toughness, along with freshman Shivaughn Wiggins, helped keep the Blackbirds at bay on offense, holding them to a respectable 0.95 points per possession. It was LIU’s second worst offensive output for the conference season.
LIU Brooklyn’s offensive struggles can certainly be pinned on the poor play of Jamal Olasewere and Jason Brickman. Olasewere played a NEC low 20 minutes, as he found himself in constant foul trouble throughout the second half. In fact, when the senior picked up his fourth personal foul (third offensive), the Mount then embarked on a 13-4 run to take a commanding nine-point lead deep into the second half. For Perri, Olasewere was the main culprit for LIU’s lackidasical attitude leading up to the game.
“I’m telling you, this one started well before the game even started,” reiterated Perri. “[Jamal] was one of the big reasons why, I don’t know what it was, but I could sense that he was out of it. I don’t know if he was trying to do too much, he was just out of it. I didn’t see the same Jamal as I know.”
Jason Brickman struggled as well, giving the ball up six times while only scoring 11 points on as many shots. Mount St. Mary’s freshman Shivaughn Wiggins was given the assignment of guarding the best point guard of the NEC, and his coach was incredibly proud of the freshman’s effort.
“I’ve said it time and time again, I don’t think there’s a better on-ball defender in the league,” gushed Christian. “[Shivaughn] did an unbelievable job on [Brickman] tonight. [Shivaughn’s] ability to guard the basketball has really changed the dynamic of our team.”
“Shivaughn just gives you some toughness. He’s not afraid to mix it up and go in there and get some of those crazy rebounds or take a charge. And for 35, 36 minutes, he’s going to guard the other team’s point guard and never need a break. He’s just given our team a different dynamic with the way he can score the ball in the lane.”
Christian gladly continued when asked if Wiggins deserves the NEC Rookie of the Year award at season’s end. “I think there’s no better player in the league as a rookie, because of what he’s done for our team defensively.”
E.J. Reed registered a career high 25 points on 12 shots and corralled a team high nine rebounds in the defeat. The versatile and athletic Reed served as the lone bright spot for the now second place Blackbirds. They’ll travel to Wagner for an enormous Sunday night showdown that should help decide who gets a home playoff game in the first round of the NEC tournament. How will Perri get his team ready for the challenge?
“Hopefully it’s a wakeup call and we’ll see tomorrow and Saturday and get ready for Wagner.”
Mount St. Mary’s will host St. Francis Brooklyn on Saturday, in a pivotal battle that will surely shape the bottom half of the NEC tournament draw. It will be the last home game of the season for Christian’s group, who now holds an excellent 9-2 record at the Mount.
With most of the NEC teams having 15-16 games in the books, John and I felt it was a perfect time to unveil our NEC midseason awards. Selecting players for this honorable distinction wasn’t an easy task, given all of the parity throughout the conference. Nevertheless, we each listed our individual award winners, along with our first and second all-conference teams. Here we go. Continue reading
Week two of the NEC season has come and gone, clearing up the conference picture just a bit. The contenders are slowly beginning to separate themselves from the pretenders, but as we expect to be the case for the entire season, the NEC should be just as unpredictable from start to finish. Through 24 conference games, the home team has only gone 13-11, another indication that any team can win on any given night. Let’s sift through the positive and negative developments of the week.
- Back to Normal in Moon Township – After enduring a surprising two game slide to open up conference play, the Colonials responded to Andy Toole’s challenge: play defense and compete with maximum effort and toughness. Robert Morris did just that during their New Jersey road trip, soundly beating Fairleigh Dickinson and Monmouth by 34 and 15 points, respectively. Neither game was ever in question, as the Colonials held their opponents to 0.84 points allowed per possession. The Colonials received significant contributions throughout the roster, highlighted by upperclassmen Russell Johnson and Coron Williams. Johnson, who has struggled in the past with his consistency, filled up the stat sheet as of late, registering 17 points, 21 rebounds, 11 assists (against only one turnover), and six steals in his last two games. The sharp shooting Williams has been potent from behind the arc, draining 12 of his 17 long-range jumpers this past week.
- Officially Among the Elite – It’s time to stop being surprised by the Bulldogs’ success; they simply are for real. In four conference games – three on the road – Bryant has scored 1.15 points per possession, in large part thanks to unsung floor general Frankie Dobbs. The loyal senior has masterfully run Tim O’Shea’s offense by scoring (14.4 ppg) when necessary, while keeping his talented teammates involved (4.2 apg, 2.0 A/TO) as well. Down in the low block, Alex Francis continues to torment opposing defenses. On Saturday versus CCSU, the junior posted 26 points and a career high 18 rebounds. Throw in Starks, Maynard, and O’Shea and you have a lethal starting five. Ken Pomeroy agrees; Bryant is now rated #169 (out of 347 D-I teams) after beginning the season at #290. That is one heck of an improvement in only 15 games played.
- Tough Terriers – Since their lopsided losses to Stony Brook and St. John’s this past December, St. Francis Brooklyn has won five of their last six contests. The Terriers impressively went into Spiro Sports Center and upset Wagner by holding the Seahawks to 0.80 points per possession. In fact, defense has been the major culprit for St. Francis’ recent run, as they are the only team to hold all four of their NEC opponents to under 1.00 points per possession. It also helps that Travis Nichols has been heating up recently. In their two most recent wins, Nicholas averaged 15 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. When he is able to produce from behind the arc (4-9 from three-point range versus Wagner), Glenn Braica’s offense becomes that much better. With home games versus FDU and Monmouth coming up, St. Francis could find themselves with five wins after three weeks of conference play. That notion seemed far-fetched a month ago when the Terriers were 2-7.
- The Youth Movement – It hasn’t exactly been the year of the NEC freshmen so far (I’ll have more on that in the near future), but recently two frontcourt novices have emerged as important contributors for their respective teams. In Brooklyn, E.J. Reed has taken advantage of increased playing time with Boyd’s season-ending injury by scoring 15.6 points per game in his last five games. The athletic 6’6″ freshman has shown a propensity toward fouling (he has committed 6.9 fouls per 40 minutes), yet he’s infused some much-needed energy on the offensive glass and in the defensive post. Further north in Connecticut, Brandon Peel made a name for himself in New Britain when he put together a monster 17 point, 17 rebound, and four block performance against Sacred Heart last Thursday. Since being named as a starter in Howie Dickenman’s lineup, Peel has grabbed an average of 11.5 rebounds per game, relegating senior Joe Efase to the bench. It should only get better for the high-motored Reed and Peel in the coming weeks as they elevate themselves into the NEC Rookie of the Year discussion (along with St. Francis freshman Stephon Mosley).
- Still a Work in Progress – There’s a lot to be encouraged about if you’re a long suffering FDU Knights fan, but the second week of conference play probably wasn’t what their fans could have envisioned. Sure, they split the two game home stand against the Pennsylvania teams, but they never had a chance versus Robert Morris and barely edged out a victory over the feisty, yet flawed and inexperienced St. Francis Red Flash. Two NEC wins in four tries is a nice start for a team that went 3-26 last year, but you can bet Greg Vetrone is cognizant his team has been hideous at defending. In 16 games, FDU has given up 113.8 points per 100 possessions, bad enough for 10th worst in the nation. With a difficult slate of NEC games coming up, the Knights will need to dial up the defensive effort – and reduce their 23.6% turnover rate – to become a factor in this wonderfully competitive conference.
- Unchartered Territory for Quinnipiac – With only one season left to earn that elusive NEC postseason title and NCAA automatic bid, it’s becoming more apparent that Tom Moore may fall short in that regard. For the first time in the Moore era, the Bobcats find themselves at 5-10. Quinnipiac is inventing new ways to lose each game, but the most troubling issues have been their poor free throw shooting (once again) and their inconsistency to score and respond when other teams make a run. Overall, the offense has performed better of late (1.18 points per possession), whereas the defense has been exceptionally porous (1.18 points allowed per possession). The optimistic approach for a Bobcat fan is to recall their team’s early NEC slump last season when they climbed out of a 2-5 hole to finish with a 10-8 NEC record. This season however, I’d be a little more skeptical that Tom Moore can somehow turn the ship around without any true playmakers. I’ll have more on their issues in the near future.
- The Mayhem Mess – Jamion Christian is one of the most positive coaches in the conference, but even the first year head coach has to be shaking his head over his team’s recent play. The numbers have become particularly ugly during their 2-6 skid: the Mountaineers are allowing opponents to shoot 43.9% from three (worst in the nation) and 59.3% from inside the arc (2nd worst in the nation). In addition, their interior players – Krajina, Barber, Danaher – aren’t intimidating opposing big men with their puny block percentages and heavy foul rates. With an upcoming schedule that immediately includes Bryant, CCSU, Wagner, and Robert Morris, the defense needs to improve in a hurry. Right now when the Mount gives up more than 1.00 points per possession, they are 2-8 on the season. That must change if the Mount wants to get back into the NEC postseason.
Last night was my first live look at the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds and, well let’s just say it wasn’t an optimal showing for Jack Perri’s squad. The game started out promising enough with LIU racing out to a 19-11 lead within the first eight minutes. Continue reading