This is the fourth of our NEC First Look series in which we take a early glance at all ten Northeast Conference men’s basketball teams for the 2015-16 college basketball season. Here are my first three posts on CCSU, Bryant and St. Francis Brooklyn.
Evan Kelley (G) – 13.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 45.9 FG%. Started in 31 of 32 games. All-NEC Third Team.
Phil Gaetano (G) – 5.8 ppg, 5.8 apg. 37.3 3FG%, 91.7 FT%. Started in 31 of 32 games. Led NEC in assists per game and free throw shooting.
Steve Glowiak (G) – 8.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg. 33.0 3FG%.
Vince Fritz (G) – Played in only six games. 5 total points. Transferred to Missouri Southern.
Jermaine Ukaegbu (F)
Quincy McKnight (G)
Sean Hoehn (G)
Mario Matasovic (F) (transfer, will redshirt in ’15-’16)
Sacred Heart returned to the NEC tournament for the first time since 2012 and for just the second time since 2009. The Pioneers finished with an above-.500 conference record for the first time since 2010. In other words, their losing drought finally came to an end. Much of that can be credited to head coach Anthony Latina, who in year two, was able to play the style of basketball he envisioned when he took over for long-time Sacred Heart head coach Dave Bike. The Pioneers finished first in the NEC in scoring at 73.8 points per game, no other NEC team scored above 70 points per game for the season.
Latina will be looking to further Sacred Heart along in year three with the help of several key players. Number one on that list is sophomore guard Cane Broome who was the likely runner-up to RMU’s Marquise Reed for NEC Rookie of the Year honors. Broome as a freshman led Sacred Heart in scoring with 14.5 ppg and led the Pioneers in playing time. He scored in double figures in all but eight games for the Pioneers. Also returning is De’von Barrett who scored 10.8 ppg and hit on 57% of his shots. Other major contributers returning are Jordan Allen, Tevin Falzon, Filip Nowicki and Cole Walton who missed all but five games last season.
Sacred Heart is going to have to deal without three main players from last season in Evan Kelley, Phil Gaetano and Steve Glowiak who were all instrumental in helping Sacred Heart get back into the NEC tournament. Kelley had his best season as a Pioneer last season. If Gaetano had not played in the Jason Brickman era, he would have been considered one of the best assist man the NEC had seen in the last 20 years. Glowiak was always a treat from deep although his shooting and scoring numbers fell off for the prior season. Replacing three seniors like these will be a challenge for Latina especially I believe in the case of Phil Gaetano.
Also, as is usually the case, when a team goes more up-tempo, that also means the defense will give up points, which is what the Pioneers did. They gave up an NEC-high 74 points per game. To be fair, Sacred Heart only had -0.2 points differential average for the season which for the NEC is not at all bad.
Even though Sacred Heart finished two games under .500 overall and .500 in the NEC at 9-9, the Pioneers have not had a winning record both overall and in the NEC since the 2008-09 season where they finished 17-14 and 12-6 in the NEC. That is six straight losing seasons overall.
Potential Starting 5:
Cane Broome (G) – Great freshman season with 14.5 ppg average. Was on All-NEC Rookie Team and will not be surprised if he appears on several people’s All-NEC preseason teams this fall.
Quincy McKnight (G) – Pegging him to be starting shooting guard game one. Averaged 16.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists last season in high school. Played in 2015 Jordan Brand Classic Regional Game at Barclays Center.
De’von Barrett (F) – Followed-up All-NEC Rookie Team selection in his freshman season with a solid sophomore campaign. His numbers were consistent across the board from his freshman year.
Tevin Falzon (F) – Averaged 8.1 points and 7.6 rebounds in his 32 games (20 starts). Had two games of 18+ rebounds. Six double-doubles last season. Will be a player to watch this season.
Filip Nowicki (F/C) – 6’10” big man, who started in 10 of 29 games as a freshman. Played just over 11 minutes per game. Shot 55.1% last season.
Sacred Heart could very likely be a team to watch out for in 2015-16. They have a legit scoring threat in Cane Broome and they now have some front court players that can put up some points and get some rebounds. Their offense should once again be among the tops in the NEC once again this season. The question will once again be, can they enough defense to hold off team and get some close wins especially during NEC play.
I believe Latina has addressed some of his team drastic needs and now it will depends how soon some of the new members of the Pioneer program integrate themselves to Latina’s up-tempo system. I would not be at all surprise to see Sacred Heart make a run into the top four placings in the NEC standings next season as long as they are able to put up points they started putting up last season. Look for All-NEC type seasons from Broome, Barnett and Falzon in 2015-16.
The Pioneers will start off their non-conference season against MAAC-member Quinnipiac at the Connecticut 6 event at Central Connecticut State (Nov. 13). They will once again have another road-heavy early schedule with games at Yale (Nov. 16), UMass-Lowell (Nov. 18), Fairfield (Nov. 21) and Hartford (TBA). They will also see the top program in the state of Connecticut with a visit to UConn (Dec. 2) and will head out to Chicago for a game against former Duke star and coach Chris Collins and his Northwestern Wildcats (Dec. 21).