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
It wasn’t supposed to end this way this time. Continue reading
The NEC has to be thrilled with how both games were showcased this afternoon on Fox College Sports and MSG+. Both semifinal matchups went right down to the wire, but in the end there will be a rematch of the 2009 NEC championship game between Mount St. Mary’s and Robert Morris. To the recaps… Continue reading
A month ago something changed for the Wagner Seahawks. After a dominating performance against Central Connecticut in the quarterfinals of the NEC tournament Wagner hopes that change will take the team to its ultimate goal, the NCAA tournament. Continue reading
Wagner was hanging on for dear life against Vermont with 25 seconds remaining when Kenneth Ortiz helped his teammates breathe a little bit easier thanks to an outstanding defensive play. 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
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
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
In what amounted to another wild night of NEC hoops, Bryant pulled back ahead into first place all by themselves, after their road win and Sacred Heart and Robert Morris’ losses. Let’s dive into all the action from the fifth Thursday of the NEC schedule.
LIU Brooklyn 82, St. Francis (PA) 62
In easily the most predictable game of the night, LIU Brooklyn took care of business and cruised to an easy 20 point victory at the WRAC. The Blackbirds jumped out to a 13-0 lead and never trailed during the contest. To the Red Flash’s credit, two Earl Brown free throws cut LIU’s advantage to six early in the second half, but then a subsequent 24-8 run by LIU sealed the deal. The loss was St. Francis’ 15th straight road loss. LIU was uncharacteristically sloppy with 20 turnovers, but their 22 assists on 29 made baskets was enough to pull away. Booker Hucks made a career high five three-pointers to tie a career high of 20 points. In the last two games, the senior is absolutely scorching from downtown, draining 9 of 13 three-pointers. Jamal Olasewere, C.J. Garner, and Brandon Thompson also scored in double figures for LIU Brooklyn’s sixth straight NEC victory. Umar Shannon and Stephon Mosley returned from injury for St. Francis, yet both struggled in the defeat. Earl Brown led the Red Flash with 22 points.
Bryant 78, Fairleigh Dickinson 63
After an 8-0 run by FDU to begin the second half gave the Knights a brief 37-36 lead, Bryant outscored FDU 42-26 the rest of way. FDU was unable to take advantage of recently porous Bulldog defense, as they only shot 45.3% from the floor versus a team that was in the bottom 15% of the nation in effective field goal percentage defense. 17 Knight turnovers also didn’t help, but Bryant got terrific, efficient production out of Alex Francis (27 points on 13 shots, 9 rebounds). Usually the forgotten man outside of Bryant’s big three, Corey Maynard chipped in with an excellent line of 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Bryant won the rebounding battle (36-24), turnover margin (15-17), and made 12 more FTs than FDU. Just an overall solid effort to move back into first place all by their lonesome once again.
Central Connecticut 78, Monmouth 58
Kyle Vinales, Matthew Hunter, and Adonis Burbage combined for 59 points on 50 shots, while never once taking a break during the game. The relatively fasted pace game (142 total possessions) got out of hand late in the first half for Monmouth, as the Blue Devils raced out to a 16 point lead. From that point forward, Monmouth never got any closer than 12 points, despite Marcus Ware scoring a season high 16 points. The Blue Devils shot 52% from the floor in this one, but it was their assist-to-turnover ratio of 6.5 in the first half that was most impressive, especially against a team that’s fourth in the nation in turning opponents over. Christian White missed the game with an injured ankle and it showed as the Hawks made 27.0% of their three-point attempts.
Wagner 84, Sacred Heart 78
Although Wagner controlled the game for much of the second half, two fade away threes by Shane Gibson and two Phil Gaetano free throws improbably sent the game into overtime. In the extra frame, however, Wagner regained their composure and held on for their third straight conference victory. Kenny Ortiz had perhaps the game of the night registering 17 points, six rebounds, eight assists, and three steals. Phil Gaetano, after receiving heavy praise from John and I this week, had the worst half of his career committing six turnovers. To his credit though, the 5’10” floor general recovered to finish with 12 points and 11 assists. The bounce back effort wasn’t enough, as Shane Gibson struggled all night thanks to Wagner’s stingy defense that gave up 0.96 points per possession. The Pioneers shot 36% from the floor and gave the ball up 22 times, but it was their 29 free throws that kept them in the game in the second half. But late, Jonathan Williams was clutch, scoring ten points in the final eight plus minutes of the game. Wagner now find themselves in a four-way tie for second place with SHU, Robert Morris, and LIU Brooklyn.
Mount St. Mary’s 77, Quinnipiac 73
Quinnipiac may have evened their record to 4-4 last Saturday, but it never truly felt like the team was completely back. Tonight’s result was indicative of that. After trailing 6-5 early, the Mount took the lead and never was behind again, although the Bobcats cut the deficit to one point late before Julian Norfleet’s three extended the lead for good. Quinnipiac’s negative turnover differential and awful foul shooting ultimately did the Bobcats in, with the Bobcats committing 13 more turnovers and missing half of their 32 attempts at the charity stripe. Yikes… It was a balanced scoring effort with nine Mountaineers scoring, led by Shivaughn Wiggins 17 points. The freshman has taken advantage of Josh Castellanos’ injury, as he’s now averaging 14.6 points in his past five games. For Quinnipiac, the defense continues to struggle, as the Mount scored 1.04 points per possession. It was the sixth time in nine conference games that Tom Moore’s squad has given up more than 1 point per possession this conference season. Last year that happened only seven times in 18 NEC contests. Sophomore center Ousmane Drame did have a career game with 19 points and 20 rebounds in the loss.
St. Francis Brooklyn 71, Robert Morris 61
The Colonial’s six-game winning streak was snapped after falling to the streaky Terriers at the Pope Education Center. Velton Jones injured his shoulder early and only played two minutes. It has been a tough season injury wise for Jones, who missed zero games in his first three seasons at RMU. Brent Jones was sensational for St. Francis, who scored 1.15 points per possession against a solid defense. Jones had 16 points, three rebounds, and six assists against only three turnovers. John has the complete recap of the game here.
1) Bryant, 7-2
2) Wagner, 6-3
3) Robert Morris, 6-3
4) Sacred Heart, 6-3
5) LIU Brooklyn, 6-3
6) Central Connecticut, 5-4
7) St. Francis Brooklyn, 5-4
8) Quinnipiac, 4-5
9) Mount St. Mary’s, 3-6
10) Monmouth, 3-6
11) Fairleigh Dickinson, 2-7
12) St. Francis (PA), 1-8
It may not have been soothing to watch or aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but Wagner ground out a much-needed victory in Emmitsberg, Maryland over Mount St. Mary’s on a brutally cold Thursday night. Wagner never held the lead in the first 37 minutes of the contest, but their stifling defensive attack and “never say quit” attitude made their head coach Bashir Mason quite proud.
“Unbelievable effort from these guys,” said Mason. “There were several times when we were down six, eight points on the road, and most teams would just pack it in. These guys dug in and they continued to fight for 40 minutes.”
It was the defense that kept Wagner in the game when the outside shots weren’t falling. The Seahawks held the Mount to 0.86 points per possession in the contest, after unexpectedly giving up 1.08 points per possession in their past four games – three of them defeats. Tonight, it was the reigning NEC Defensive Player of the Year Kenneth Ortiz who once again had the game’s biggest play.
With the teams tied at 50 with less than one minute remaining in the second half, Ortiz intercepted a perimeter pass by Rashad Whack and took it uncontested down the floor for a layup. It was the intuition of Ortiz and his head coach that essentially made the play happen.
“That steal was there for him three or four times throughout the game,” said Mason. “When Orlando Parker was shooting free throws, I came to [Ortiz] and said ‘you have to shoot that gap.’ At the end right there, he made that play, and that’s typical Kenny Ortiz stuff.”
The Mount had a decent look at the buzzer to tie it, but a double teamed Kristijan Krajina misfired on a difficult six footer.
Jonathan Williams only registered eight points in the victory, but it was the senior’s two buckets in the paint late that inevitably put Wagner in a position to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. In fact, Wagner was dominant inside the paint scoring 38 points near the rim while grabbing 13 offensive rebounds. They also outrebounded the Mount 37 to 24.
For Mount St. Mary’s, this marks their fifth loss in seven NEC games. The home game was there for the taking, as the Mount had several opportunities to extend their lead to double digits. But the Wagner defense stiffened and the Mount went ice-cold. Jamion Christian’s group went nearly eight minutes in the second half without making a field goal, which obviously helped spark Wagner’s comeback late.
“We just didn’t make plays down the stretch,” said a disappointed Christian. “I’m really saddened for my team. We were pretty good in those situations all year and we just didn’t execute well.”
Bashir Mason implemented a zone defense which gave the Mount trouble throughout the evening. The Mount only shot 30.4% (7-23) from behind the arc and 39.6% from the floor, consistently settling for tough contested outside jumpers.
“We just didn’t rotate the ball side to side,” said Christian when asked about Wagner’s defensive effort. “Their zone did a very good job on us. We were prepared for it but we didn’t execute our plan offensively. It’s a pretty good zone, it’s not even a great zone, but we just didn’t execute.”
Nine players scored for the Mount, but only junior Sam Prescott reached double figures with ten points. Eric Fanning and Orlando Parker each had a game high 12 points for Wagner. It was the freshman Fanning’s third straight game with at least 20 minutes played and 12 points scored.
“Eric Fanning is just a guy who can make a shot from the perimeter,” said Mason. “He’s not afraid to make big plays. He brings a lot of energy to our team. I think he’s really just starting to get comfortable with the pace of college, the size, the speed, and all of that stuff.”
The win snaps Wagner’s first three game losing streak in nearly two seasons and pushes them back above 0.500 in the conference at 4-3 with a road showdown versus St. Francis (PA) coming up. The Mount falls to 10th place in the league at 2-5 and must travel to Moon Township on Saturday to take on the 5-2 Robert Morris Colonials.