News and Notes Around the NEC: December 10
It has been a few weeks since I last did a look around the NEC so lets catch up on what’s been going on with the rest of the conference.
- Central Connecticut State has been a story here in the non-conference season. The Blue Devils are currently 4-4 after their loss over the weekend to #1 Indiana in Bloomington. Not only have they surprised by how well they play so far, sophomore point guard Kyle Vinales is lighting up teams around the country. Going into the Indiana game, Vinales was the top scoring player in the country but he has since fallen to number three with a 23.5 ppg average. Vinales was on a scoring tear having scored 18 or more points before the Indiana game (he only scored 7 vs Indiana) and had a six-game streak of 23+ point performances. Vinales is also doing his best ironman impression, having rested for only 8 of the teams’ 330 game minutes. He had gone six straight games playing the maximum amount of minutes and is the leading the nation in minutes per game with 40.3. CCSU actually have the top two scorers in the NEC with Vinales and junior guard Matt Hunter (19.9 ppg).
- We are finally seeing the Robert Morris team we were expecting entering the season. After the two blowout losses to begin the season, Robert Morris has gone 6-2. They have a couple of quality wins on their resume with wins over Cleveland State and Ohio. Junior transfer Karvel Anderson has been hurting teams from the three point arc. He had a perfect shooting performance vs Ohio where he went 10 for 10 from the floor including going 8 for 8 from three. In fact, in his last three games, Anderson is 16 for 23 (69.6%) from three. His effective field goal percentage is nearly at 59%. NEC teams should start taking note not to leave this guy open behind the arc.
- Bryant is already enjoying their best season in Division I and we are just into the second week of December. The Bulldogs are 5-3 and have a win against an ACC team albeit a bad one in Boston College but a win is a win especially when that win comes on the road. Bryant has found another weapon in sophomore Dyami Starks. He currently leads Bryant in scoring and has scored 20 or more points in four of his last five games. Add him with Alex Francis and Frankie Dobbs and Bryant has a team that can put a scare into some NEC teams once conference season arrives.
- Going from a team that is surprising to a team that is majorly disappointing and that team is Sacred Heart. Sacred Heart was supposed to be not just a playoff team but one with a chance to earn themselves a first-round home game. The likelihood of that happening is increasingly shrinking. Sacred Heart has had to deal with a multitude of injuries, probably the most of any team in the NEC. According to Ryan Peters who writes for Pioneer Pride & Big Apple Buckets, the Pioneers have lost Chris Evans and Evan Kelley for the entire season. Senior Shane Gibson has not been the Shane Gibson of last season plus he has been dealing with various injuries of his own. The Pioneers only two wins come from two big comeback efforts and if not for that they would be winless. They have two challenging games coming up in Stony Brook on Tuesday and at LaSalle on Saturday.
- Another team who has a tough start is St. Francis Brooklyn. The Terriers are 2-5 but they have played just one home game so far but they lost that one to Army who isn’t one of the Patriot League powerhouses. Sophomore Jalen Cannon has placed himself in the NEC Player of Year watch list. Through the teams’ first six games, Cannon is averaging nearly a double-double with 16.3 ppg and 9.7 rpg. He has had three double-doubles so far this season and he is shooting nearly 65% from the field. He has been a hard man to stop on the inside.
- It is tough right now to get an opinion on Wagner. They are 3-4 but their wins have been anything but a thing of beauty. Their offense has been majorly struggling without the services of junior guard Latif Rivers who is likely to be out the rest of December and hopes to be back to 100% health by the time conference play rolls around in January. Without Rivers, Wagner is averaging an NEC-low 55.6 ppg and have a 0.789 ppp also an NEC-low. Wagner’s defense is what has been getting them by with an NEC-best 0.843 ppp allowed and keeping teams to an NEC-best 59.9 ppg and holding teams to 38.5 FG%. They might have to continue winning ugly until Rivers returns.
- Quinnipiac after their impressive high-scoring win vs. Iona in the Virgin Islands, have gone just 1-4. It does include a hard-fought double-overtime loss to Connecticut but they have also lost 2 of 3 at home in that stretch and have gone just 2-3 on their home court so far. Junior Ike Azotam is having a nice season so far averaging 13 ppg and 9.4 rpg. The Bobcats continues their rebounding dominance as the best rebounding team in the NEC but they are one of the worst shooting teams in the NEC with an NEC-second worse 44.4 eFG%. This will likely hamper them all season long.
-Monmouth is .500 but are in the midst of toughest part of their schedule, getting blown out at Syracuse and going to Maryland next before a home game vs. Villanova and going to Fordham. FDU is 4-5 and have overachieved thus far. Greg Vetrone deserves plenty of credit. The Mount is flying high on a 3-game winning streak as Mount Mayhem has swept the Mount community and will be a cause for concern for NEC coaches. And finally, poor St. Francis (PA). It looked like they would get their first win vs. Lafayette with a ten-point second half lead only to have Lafayette take the lead in the final minute and lose by 3. The Red Flash are still winless and with their upcoming schedule, it looks like a winless non-conference season is likely in their future.