KenPom Rank/RPI: 201/120
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Wellness Center, Brooklyn, NY
History between teams: 49th meeting. Mount St. Mary’s leads the all-time series 25-23. The two teams split the two regular season meetings, both winning at home. LIU won the January 12th meeting, 86-72 at the Barclays Center. MSM won the February 21st meeting at home, 83-71.
Who to watch for on Mount St. Mary’s:
#22 Rashad Whack – 6’2″ – G – Jr. – 13.9 ppg/3.7 rpg/40.5 FG%/78.7 FT% – Scored season and career-high 35 pts vs Sacred Heart, scored 26 pts vs Robert Morris in last game.
#3 Sam Prescott – 6’3″ – G – Jr. – 10.8 ppg/4.1 rpg/37.8 FG%/76.2 FT% – Scored season and career-high 44 pts vs Bryant, scored 15 pts vs Robert Morris in last game.
#10 Shivaughn Wiggins – 5’10” – G – Fr. – 9.6 ppg/2.1 rpg/2.1 apg/45.3 FG%/77.8% FT – Scored season and career-high 28 pts vs FDU, scored 2 pts vs Robert Morris in last game.
Matchups to watch:
Rashad Whack vs C.J. Garner: These are two of the hottest players coming into this game. Whack is averaging 22.5 ppg through the first two games of the 2013 NEC Tournament. He is shooting 7 for 15 from three over the last two games. Garner is averaging 27.5 ppg over the last three games and has lead LIU in scoring through both games of the NEC Tournament. He is shooting 18 for 32 from the field through this tournament.
The Mount St. Mary’s Scouting Report:
The Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers was probably THE hottest team coming into the start of the NEC Tournament. Before this tournament began, The Mount had won seven straight and nine of their last ten games. They finished the NEC season at 11-7 and ended up as the #5 seed.
They went on the road to #4 Bryant in the NEC quarterfinals. Bryant was a team who was in first place through two-thirds of the season and they went up to Rhode Island and beat them by not committing too many turnovers and missing only ONE of their 27 free throws. They next faced the #1 seed Robert Morris Colonials in Moon Township, PA. They used great three shooting, rebounding and most of all defense to win at Robert Morris. They held RMU to 34% shooting in the game and 26% shooting from three.
This nine-game winning streak began once MSM head coach Jamion Christian made a couple of starting lineup changes. He decided to play a smaller starting five, playing four guards and one forward. He inserted freshman Shivaughn Wiggins, junior Sam Prescott and senior Raven Barber into the starting lineup and this team took off. Wiggins ended up winning NEC Rookie of the Year with his great play down the final month of the season. Prescott exploded for a 44 point game vs Bryant at home, and Barber has been solid in his role as mainly a rebounder and inside presence.
This team is led in scoring by junior Rashad Whack. He is currently the hottest player on this MSM team. He is averaging 22.5 ppg in NEC Tournament and has shown no hesitation letting his three-point shot fly. He has made 7 of his 15 threes in this tournament and his play is reminding me of the outstanding Sacred Heart All-NEC first-team guard Shane Gibson. Give him space on the outside and he won’t hesitate to shot it. He’ll shoot it on the spot up or in transition. LIU will need to find him on the defensive end.
Another weapon the Mount has is Sam Prescott. Although Prescott is averaging 10.5 ppg in the NEC Tournament, he is more than capable of carrying this Mount attack if you leave him unguarded. The X-factor is this game for the Mount will likely be Shivaughn Wiggins. Wiggins will likely be handling a lot more of the point guard duties as junior guard Julian Norfleet who is a tremendous player and a really good shooter may miss the championship game after sustaining a nasty ankle injury in the second half of the game vs RMU. Wiggins is a very good three-point shooter (47% this season) although he hasn’t taken more than four in a game this season, he usually makes what he takes so LIU will need to have a defender on him. If Norfleet does play, he will likely be less than 100%. Although, I can see him testing the ankle before the game.
Junior point guard Josh Castellanos may get the start if Norfleet can’t go. Castellanos lost his starting job to Wiggins as he was injured midway through the season and was relegated to the bench upon his return and had seven “Did not play-coaches decision” on his stat sheet. Castellano is more of pass-first point guard than Wiggins and Norfleet are. He hasn’t played more than 15 minutes in a game since January 12th. If Christian decides to go big, he might start sophomore forward Kelvin Parker or junior forward Kristijan Krajina in place of Norfleet.
The Mount is eighth in the NEC in scoring offense at 69.8 ppg. They are fourth in the NEC in offensive points per possession (ppp) at 1.02 ppp. They shot an effective field goal percentage of 50.6%, fourth in the NEC. They shoot threes at a 34% success rate. Their 780 three-point attempts is easily the most attempts taken by any team in the NEC. The Mount is third in the NEC in scoring defense at 70.9 ppg allowed. They do allow an NEC-worst 50.7% effective field goal percentage (LIU is second-worst at 47.1%). They allow 1.03 ppp on defense, tied for fifth-best in the NEC. They also take nearly 20 fouls a game, tied for third-worst in the NEC but they are near the top in turnovers forced at 16 turnovers per game thanks to their full-court defensive pressure they like to play.
This is Mount St. Mary’s fifth appearance in the NEC Championship Game, their first since they lost to RMU in the 2009 NEC Final. They have won three NEC championships overall. The last one being in 2008 against Sacred Heart. They look to become the first NEC team ever to win three straight road games in win the NEC championship.
LIU Brooklyn Report:
The Blackbirds return to the NEC Championship Game for the third consecutive year. Also for the third straight time, they will host the finale of the NEC Tournament. In the previous two years, LIU Brooklyn was the #1 seed and played Robert Morris in the final. This year, LIU was the #3 seed and had to go on the road for the first time in three years of NEC tournament play and they beat Wagner on Saturday, 94-82, to reach the final.
LIU looks to become the first NEC team ever to win three straight NEC championships. They are the fourth team in NEC history to get such an opportunity. The last team was Robert Morris in 2011 who lost to LIU in the final.
The Blackbirds are winners of four straight games, eight of their last ten and fourteen of their last seventeen games. Their second-to-last loss did came against Mount St. Mary’s on the road on February 21st. Although each team has won a game against the other at home, the LIU win was at the Barclays Center. This will be the first meeting at the Wellness Center between the two teams this season.
LIU used great first-half defense and balanced scoring to upset Wagner on the road on Saturday. LIU’s hottest player at the moment is senior C.J. Garner. Garner is averaging 27.5 ppg over his last three games and is scoring 26.5 ppg in the NEC Tournament. Garner is shooting over 56% from the field in this tournament. He is also knocking down 50% of his threes in eight attempts. Garner will likely see more time as a ball handling to help break the Mount St. Mary’s press that they are well-known for. Garner has averaged 18 ppg in his two NEC championship game appearances.
The NEC Player of the Year, Jamal Olasewere, has yet to show his dominant self. Although he did score 20 points against Quinnipiac, he only played 25 minutes due to foul trouble. Against Wagner, Olasewere amazingly took only four shots in the LIU win as the Blackbirds got great scoring balance from the entire team. Olasewere is due for a breakout game. Two years ago in the NEC final, Olasewere went off for a then career-high 31 point vs RMU but last year he scored only 12 in the NEC final before fouling out.
Jason Brickman is coming off his eleventh double-double against Wagner with 10 points and 10 assists. He is averaging 10 ppg and 8.5 apg in this NEC tournament. If LIU is to win their third-straight NEC championship, they are going to need a great game from Brickman. The Mount will try hard to challenge Brickman’s ball handling.
The X-factor for LIU in this game might likely be Brandon Thompson. In the win vs MSM, Thompson scored 14 points. In the loss vs MSM, he scored zero. In NEC play this season, when Thompson scores double-digits, LIU is 7-1. The only loss came at Quinnipiac without Olasewere and Garner. Thompson’s biggest priority will come at the defensive end against either Whack or Prescott.
E.J. Reed has had his two best games against Mount St. Mary’s this season. He is averaging 23 ppg in the two contests vs MSM while shooting 17 of 25 from the field. If Reed can give LIU great production off the bench once again, LIU has a chance. He has fouled out of the last two games though. LIU would love to get at least 20 minutes from Reed in this game.
LIU got solid bench play against Wagner. They will need a similar bench effort against the Mount who will plan on pressuring LIU the whole game.
LIU’s keys to the game:
– LIU will need a big game from the big three, Olasewere, Garner and Brickman.
– In the two games vs Mount St. Mary’s, LIU was given up over 1.1 ppp in both games. The Mount won just two games all season and none during NEC play this season without scoring over a point per possession. LIU will need to bring a similar defensive effort they brought to Wagner to this game. LIU needs to defend the three-point line and force them to go away from the three.
– Protect the basketball. The Blackbirds can not repeat the 27 turnovers they had against Wagner. If they do, it could get ugly fast. They got to do a much better job of breaking the Mount pressure defense and hopefully get some easy points out of it.
– LIU needs to win the rebounding battle once again. They need to get some offensive boards and get some put backs. The team that wins both rebounding and turnover battle, will likely win this game.
– Stay poised. Experience in a game like this matters a lot. The senior leadership has to show up in this game if they don’t want to see their careers end one game shy of their ultimate goal.
– The crowd has got to bring it. MSM is bringing a bus of fans to the game of about 50 to 60 fans so they are going to have a cheering section. The crowd needs to be the sixth man for LIU. Brooklyn is got to do what they do best, bring the energy, bring the noise.
Ken Pomeroy’s Game Projection:
Ken Pomeroy on his website has LIU Brooklyn beating Mount St. Mary’s by a projected score of 82-77 with a 66% probability of a LIU Brooklyn win. This probability is worse than the 77.8% win probability LIU got for the last meeting at home vs the Mount this season. FYI, both Bryant and Robert Morris had over 73% win probabilities vs the Mount in the NEC Tournament. The game has got to by won on the court.
If LIU wins then it is on to the NCAA Tournament and likely a trip to Dayton for the First Four on either Tuesday or Wednesday next week. If they lose, then the season is likely over unless they get an unexpected invite to the CBI or CIT tournament.