The 2013-14 NEC Consensus Men’s Basketball Poll

As we start to wind down the preseason festivities and start getting to the actual games being played, there is still one more preseason poll left to tabulate and analyze and that is the 2013-14 NEC Consensus Men’s Basketball Poll. This is a poll I came up with last season taking into account all the NEC preseason polls and predictions made by college previews magazines, major college basketball sites, bloggers who follow the NEC year-round, the NEC coaches and new added this season, Ken Pomeroy’s NEC rankings which gives his preseason prediction on how the NEC will fare.

This season, I used 15 different sources for my consensus poll. They are:

1. Sporting News College Basketball Preview Magazine
2. Lindy’s College Basketball Preview Magazine
3. Athlon’s College Basketball Preview Magazine
4. USA Today College Basketball Preview Magazine
5. NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk NEC Preview
6. ESPN.com Insider’s NEC Preview written by Big Apple Bucket’s John Templon
7. www.midmajormadness.com on SB Nation
8. Daly Dose of Hoops
9. Big Apple Buckets NEC blogger Ryan Peters
10. robertmorris.rivals.com’s (Colonials Corner) Lee Kunkel
11. robertmorris.rivals.com’s (Colonials Corner) Chris Cappella
12. recruitrecon.com
13. The NEC Men’s Preseason Coaches Poll
14. kenpom.com
15. Yours truly, Blackbirds Hoops Journal’s NEC Preview

I decided to go about getting the consensus a couple of different ways this season. One way I went about it was by just taking every source’s NEC prediction and then averaging out the total for each team. So for example, if Wagner was picked second by someone that would be mean get a two, if St. Francis Brooklyn was picked sixth they would get a six and so on and so forth. By this method of just averaging out the predictions, the NEC consensus poll turned out like this (total first-place votes are in parenthesis):

1. Wagner (8) – Avg. Rank: 2.6
2. Robert Morris (2) – Avg. Rank: 2.73
3. Mount St. Mary’s (1) – Avg. Rank: 3.2
4. Bryant – Avg. Rank: 3.8
5. LIU Brooklyn (3) – Avg. Rank: 4.06
6. Central Connecticut State – Avg. Rank: 4.93
7. St. Francis Brooklyn – Avg. Rank: 6.86
8. Sacred Heart – Avg. Rank: 8.06
9. St. Francis University – Avg. Rank: 8.66
10. Fairleigh Dickinson – Avg. Rank: 10

As you see, by this method, Wagner was the consensus pick to win the NEC. They received the most total first-place votes with eight and if you averaged all 15 predictions, their average rank would be a 2.6. A close second was Robert Morris. LIU Brooklyn received the second-most first-place votes but also had the several lower rank votes that brought their overall ranking down. They were picked at high as first in some predictions but as low as 7 in others.

To get rid of the effect of such high-low disparities hurting any one team, with the suggestion through Twitter from John Templon of Big Apple Buckets, I decided to make another consensus poll with the idea of removing one highest and one lowest prediction from each team. This way, it should give a more accurate assessment of how the consensus felt about each team. Under this method, this is what the consensus looked like:

1. Wagner (7) – Avg. Rank: 2.3
2. Robert Morris (1) – Avg. Rank: 2.61
3. Mount St. Mary’s  – Avg. Rank: 3.15
4. Bryant – Avg. Rank: 3.76
5. LIU Brooklyn (2) – Avg. Rank: 4.07
6. Central Connecticut State – Avg. Rank: 5.07
7. St. Francis Brooklyn – Avg. Rank: 6.92
8. Sacred Heart – Avg. Rank: 8.07
9. St. Francis University – Avg. Rank: 8.69
10. Fairleigh Dickinson – Avg. Rank: 10

The result was there wasn’t any change to the consensus rankings. Wagner was still on top and their average rank slightly improved by 0.3. In fact, this method only slightly improved the average rankings of just four teams. The other six teams average rankings actually went down percentage points this way. So in actuality, this method didn’t really help or hurt any team and the jumps and falls in their average ranking was minuscule.

Here are some fun facts uncovered in the NEC Consensus Poll:

– Wagner easily got the most first-place votes but they were also the only team in the consensus top six which received an eighth-place vote (given to them by Lindy’s) which was the lowest rank among the top six. The second-lowest rank they received was one 5th-place vote from the Sporting News.

– FDU was unanimously picked to finish last in the NEC.

– Although LIU Brooklyn received the second-most first-place votes, they also received 5 fourth-place votes, 3 sixth-place votes and a seventh-place votes which brought down their average ranking. They also didn’t receive any second-place votes.

– Bryant didn’t receive a single first-place vote but yet 7 of the 15 sources picked them to finish either second or third.

– Lindy’s Magazine was the wild card of the consensus members. They gave St. Francis Brooklyn their highest ranking (their only 5th-place vote) and gave Robert Morris (their only 6th-place vote) and Wagner (their only 8th-place vote) their lowest ranking of all the members involved.

– Undoubtably, the magazines, who write their articles during the summer and are out in early to mid-September and make their predictions way before the school year starts and before some of rosters are even finalized and major injuries possibly occur, have a more short-sided view of things compared to websites and blogger sites who make their predictions in right before the season begins and have most of the up-to-date information about teams in their evaluations of NEC teams. All three LIU Brooklyn first-place votes came from preseason magazines that were written over the summer.

– Daly Dose of Hoops and the NEC coaches got the highest number of matched picks with 6 of the 10 consensus rankings and both matched the same six rankings (Wagner, Robert Morris, St. Francis Brooklyn, Sacred Heart, St. Francis University, FDU) in their individual picks.

–  Wagner had the biggest disparity between highest and lowest vote (1 & 8), LIU Brooklyn had the second biggest disparity (1 & 7), Mount St. Mary’s was third (1 & 6(twice)).

– St. Francis University didn’t get any votes higher than an 8 or lower than 9. Also, Sacred Heart votes all stayed in a range between 7 and 9. St. Francis Brooklyn had every vote with the exception of one 5th place vote fall between 6 and 8.

– The biggest miss the NEC coaches seemed to have made from their coaches poll compared to the consensus poll is with Mount St. Mary’s. The coaches picked The Mount to finish 6th while the consensus has them finishing in 3rd.

BHJ’s NEC Media Day Conversation with Jack Perri and Jason Brickman

PerriBrickman

LIU Brooklyn’s Jason Brickman and Jack Perri at last week’s NEC Basketball Social Media at the Barclays Center (Credit: Northeast Conference)

Last week at the NEC Basketball Social Media Day at the Barclays Center, I got my first chance to talk with LIU Brooklyn head men’s basketball coach Jack Perri and preseason All-NEC conference team selection point guard Jason Brickman before the start of the 2013-14 campaign. Perri returns for his second season as the Blackbirds head coach and for his ninth season overall at the program. Brickman is the only four-year senior on the LIU Brooklyn roster and is looking to be the only player in NEC history to win four NEC championships in four straight seasons as well as having an opportunity to break several LIU and NEC milestones. LIU Brooklyn is coming off an unprecedented third straight NEC championship seasons while winning at least 20 games in all three championship runs.

Blackbirds Hoops Journal: Before we begin talking about this upcoming season, give me your synopsis of last season for yourself and your team?

Jack PerriLast year was an unbelievable experience. To have as much adversity as we had and to be able to overcome that with Jason (Brickman), Jamal (Olasewere) and C.J. (Garner) and all the other guys, I felt so good about them and how they became leaders and take a situation that could have been really bad and turned it into a positive and they kept grinding it out and handled it. To go to the NCAAs again and do it for a third year in a row and to be able to accomplish something special like we did was a wonderful accomplishment. Doing it in my first year was a great culmination after all those things.

BHJ: Jason, what is your synopsis of not just last year but the last three years at LIU since you’ve know nothing but championships?

Jason Brickman: I’m lucky to come to LIU at the right time. Getting to a great team and a great coaching staff. Last year especially was really exciting for us with losing Julian Boyd and going through all that adversity and giving ourselves a chance to win a championship at the end of the NEC tournament. It was just a great accomplishment to win it with everything that we went through.

BHJ: Jack, now turning the page to this year, first thing with Julian Boyd who is trying to come back from two ACL injuries in a short period of time. Is January still the main target date for his probable return?

Jack Perri talking with Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole at NEC Media Day (Credit: Bob Dea - BHJ)

Jack Perri talking with Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole at NEC Media Day (Credit: Bob Dea – BHJ)

JP: It’s the target date but you know, who knows. I can tell you this, he is working his tail off. He is getting rehab as much as he possibly can. He’s got an unbelievable mindset to accomplish this. I’ve never seen somebody so positive through a rehab process and having to do it a second time within that year, usually you would see that there would be emotional ups and downs, he has been positive through it all. So if anyone can accomplish it and be back by January, it’s him. Am I positive that he is going to get there, who knows. That is a quick turnaround. The doctors say that he can if things go well and if he doesn’t have anymore setbacks then we’ll see. Obviously once January comes if he is able to play then it’s going to take its time. It is not going to be, ok lets insert him into the lineup, play thirty minutes and everything is going to be great. There is going to be issues there. We’ll see. We’re taking it week by week, day by day. Right now, things are going well.

BHJ: Up until hopefully he comes back, what is your solution to who will play in his place?

JP: It’s ongoing. Everyday is different. We’ve talked about competition in practice. I was excited we had Nura Zanna for the summer. Obviously, he is not going to be playing this year. We are going to redshirt him because he tore a ligament in his wrist the first day of preseason. He is going to have two surgeries. He was a guy that I was going to lean on regardless whether Julian was able to play to not. He is a physically strong kid with a great motor that has some great ability. With him out, we are really thin up front, really thin. To this date, guys have worked really hard but it is an adjustment. They are all new. E.J. Reed is the only kid that had played any minutes in the front court. He has had a great fall. He has been a great leader. He has really come on. He has done a tremendous job in practice with energy and enthusiasm, teaching the young guys and new guys what they are suppose to do and how they are suppose to act. I’m excited about E.J. Landon Atterberry has been a pleasant surprise. He is a little undersized, he’s only about 6’5″ but in our level, he can do that. He is a versatile kid that is really athletic, has a great second jump, he can rebound, he can finish, he can catch. I feel good about Landon where he’s at right now. Glenn Feidanga had been hurt. He had been hurt for a while so he has been in and out of the lineup sort of speak for the first month and a half. He is back right now and he has made some strides. He’s got a good motor and he is a legit 6’8″ and he is really the only guy that has some girth in my whole front court. He is a strong kid. He is going to have to play some minutes. After that Chris Carter is another guy who is 6’8″ who runs really really well. He’s got some skill where he can step out and shoot. He can drive a little bit. He’s been up and down. I think the change from junior college to Division I has been hardest on him. He’s got the most growth to go. We’ll play small some too.

BHJ: Since you mentioned some of the newcomers already, what have you seen so far from the freshman guards in the preseason?

JP: Joel Hernandez has been hurt. He has been out since the beginning of preseason, he hurt his hip. He still has another three weeks to go. He’s had no practice. He needed to practice as a freshman. It is going to take some time for him to adjust. He’s got a lot of talent and he’s got a lot of ability but I don’t know what is going to happen with him. Iverson Fleming, I’m excited about. He’s got some pop to him. He’s a guy that can play the point, play the two. I think he is going to play a part.

BHJ: What in your mind is going to be Jason Brickman’s role on this team to help guide them as the only senior during the first half of the season?

JP: He has done a great job of it especially in practice. He’s got such an unbelievable IQ and ability that he’ll grab them and say ok you need to roll this way, this is where I need you to be. He has been really able to grasp that. Last year when you have Jamal and Julian, he didn’t have to do that. Now he needs to and he has realized that right away and he has done a good job with that with our young guys…He is my Peyton Manning. That is what he is. (Brickman) is so focused every single day. He only cares about the team, he is never about himself. You can’t stress him out. He is never too high, never too low. He is a machine. He is my quarterback. He is going to keep us in every game, he is going to give us a chance in every game and that is unbelievable luxury to have going into the season especially with so much turnover. I’m really fortunate to have someone like him.

BHJ: Jason, how has adjusting to being more of a leader on this team and having to be more vocal been so far for you?

JB: It has been a tough adjustment. I think Coach Perri thinks I need to do it more, talk more and just be more vocal out there. I’m trying to talk to guys individually and tell them where I want them. The past few years I had Jamal and Julian and they know how I play. Just getting used to new guys and getting chemistry with them so they know where I want them on the floor.

BHJ: Jack, with the graduation of five seniors last year and the front court injuries you suffered through preseason this season, expectations have tapered off from what it has been in recent years, what are your expectations with your team?

JP: Things are getting better everyday. We are not talking championships right now. That would be silly to be honest with you. That is something that I can’t do. We can’t talk about championship when you have one guy that played over 20 minutes a game. E.J. Reed is my second guy and he played 19 minutes a game. Then you have Troy Joseph and Gerrell Martin who played ten minutes a game, that’s it. Nobody else played any minutes last year so that’s a lot of turnover. We have to continue to compete everyday. We talk about competition, who is going to step up? I need Troy Joseph and Gerrell Martin to step up. I think Gilbert Parga is going to be a big part of what we do, he has done a really good job so far. But it is hard to say, once the lights turn on, these guys haven’t done it yet. Are they going to be able to do it, is it going to be an adjustment that way. Somebody is got to step up. I’m confident that they will but we’ll see. My expectation is just to get better. Our guys has done a really job with playing as hard as they can every single day. They’re wide eyed, they are looking at us (coaches), they are taking teaching well and hopefully they can sustain it. When do we hit that wall? We started early this year so expectations are what they are. We are hoping to be playing our best basketball in February and I think we will. What our ceiling is, I’m not sure yet?

BHJ: Even with everything, LIU Brooklyn was picked to finished fourth in the NEC this season, what is your thought on that?

JP: We were picked fourth because of what we have done the last few years, I’ll be honest with you. You look at it, you have this much turnover, it is irresponsible to be honest with you to think that we should picked first or that we’re at that point yet. It is a different team. I’m looking at it as being patient. I keep telling my staff, we have to be really patient this year. We have to teach. Effort should never be an issue with a team you need to teach and that has been a good thing right now. Now we got to teach them how to be a Division I athlete and what it take to accomplish something special. It is a constant teaching thing every single day.

BHJ: Jason, you are very close to several individual milestones for your career including breaking the NEC career assist record, become a 1000 point career scorer as well as possibly being one of the rare 1000 career assist men in NCAA history, how much do these milestones enter your mind if at all or do you just go out there on the court and just focus on your game?

Jason Brickman get some air time at the NEC Media Day last week (Credit: Bob Dea- BHJ)

Jason Brickman get some air time at the NEC Media Day last week (Credit: Bob Dea- BHJ)

JB: I just focus on the team. I think it is more important to win championships and win games. At the same time, it would be nice to get to 1000 assists. I think that’s a goal for me this year but I’m not going to try too much passing. I just want to go out and play and read the defense and not worry about the individual stats.

BHJ: With so much of the team’s scoring now having graduated, there is an expectation that you will need to be more scoring-minded this season. How do expect your game to change because of this?

JB: I’m not sure how this season I’m going to have to play. Obviously we lose Jamal and C.J., Before I could just give them the ball and they can go score. We don’t have as much scoring I don’t think. I’m not sure how it is going to change. I’m still going to find the open guy but I might to be more aggressive to score this year so I’m not really sure.

BHJ: How happy or awkward you are going to feel when you play Bryant and your brother (freshman Justin Brickman) this year?

JB: I don’t know how I’m going to feeling against him. I played against him in high school my senior year. It was kind of tough. I didn’t know if I wanted to guard him really hard or let him score.

BHJ: Jack, of the newcomers this season, who is a name you think we will all know by season’s end that you think will have a big impact this season?

JP: One of the guys that has established himself is Gilbert Parga. He was kid who had to sit out last year (transfer student). He can really shoot the basketball. He is around 6’3″, 6’4″. He is kind of unique in that he does have a little bit of an ability to play off the bounce, doesn’t look really attractive or pretty but he does have a unique ability to get to the rim a little bit and get fouled. I’m excited about him. I think that is the one thing that we are going to have more so than we have had in the past. These guys can make shots. Gerrell Martin can really shoot the basketball. Troy Joseph is another guy that can really shoot threes and he’s got good size to him. E.J. Reed as a four man has the ability to make threes so I think we are going to be able to spread the floor out a little bit more than in the past. Jamal was more of an attack guy than anything else. We’ll see how that plays out. Obviously, you don’t want to rely on three point shooting but at the same point that is a great weapon especially for a guy like Jason to get guys involved.

BHJ: There are some new rule changes in the NCAA this season in particularly with the charge/block fouls and the hand-checking fouls, what impact you see that having?

Jack Perri and Jason Brickman getting their air time during the NEC Media Day webcast. Credit: Bob Dea - BHJ

Jack Perri and Jason Brickman getting their air time during the NEC Media Day webcast. (Credit: Bob Dea – BHJ)

JP: It was interesting, we had referees in (a couple of Saturdays ago), and you almost touch a guy or look like you are about to touch a guy and the whistle blows. There are trying to figure out, the refs are trying to figure it out too. Obviously, it is going to be a change that they are really focused on. I think they are going to try and sustain that. You got to adjust to it. Our whole thing has always been about not fouling and that is part of our whole philosophy. Even us, we do talk about ball pressure and being a little bit more physical and that is going to have to change a little bit.

BHJ: How was it like playing at the Barlcays Center in your team’s first season there last year?

JP: That was great to play the first game ever played (at Barclays Center). It was an awesome experience. We ended up losing that game. That was unfair for where we were at, Jamal, Julian and C.J. were just back (from their preseason suspensions), Julian cramps up in the second half so he’s done. That was a difficult game. After that, I think we felt more comfortable. Everyone was jacked up before that game, Jamal was jacked up. He missed some layups he never miss and foul shots and stuff like that. It was what it was that way. By the time we played Mount St. Mary’s and St. Francis Brooklyn, our guys felt really comfortable. We were able to practice (there) a few times also. It was a great experience and obviously something that we really enjoy.

BHJ: This year, looking at your schedule, your going to be playing Indiana and you’re also going out west to Irvine to play in the 2K Classic where you guys will play in three games in three days. What do you think playing at an environment like Indiana is going to be like and also how tough playing three games in three day is going to be?

JP: That will be a major test. When we made the schedule, we had Julian, we had Nura, they were in our plans. It will still be really, really exciting playing at Indiana. There is obviously great tradition there. We got a chance to play at Kentucky (last season), to play at Indiana is another great experience for these guys and our coaching staff. Playing in California, that is going to be really difficult because playing three games in three days is going to really test our depth. Three games in three days for a guy like Jason and as many minutes as I play him is going to be difficult. I think Cal-Irvine is really good, they have three seven-footers and are one of the best teams in their league. Boston U. is supposed to be really good in the Patriot League and Eastern Washington, they have a lot of guys returning too. It will be a great challenge.

Thanks to Jack Perri and Jason Brickman for their time. LIU Brooklyn will open the season on Saturday, November 9 in a noon time tip at the Barclays Center against St. Peter’s.

NEC Media Day Quotes: The Best from the Rest

NEC men's coaches at the 2013 NEC Media Day in Brooklyn. (Credit: Northeast Conference)

NEC men’s coaches at the 2013 NEC Media Day in Brooklyn. (Credit: Northeast Conference)

In my attempt to cover as much of the 2013 NEC Basketball Media Day as I could, I went around to some of the other NEC men’s basketball coaches and got to hear them talk about their teams and the conference. Here are some of the best quotes from a few of the NEC coaches in what I would like to call, “The Best from the Rest”:

– Wagner’s head coach Bashir Mason on his team being picked preseason number one: “I really do believe how we handle being picked preseason number one will determine our season. If we feel satisfied, we feel like ok we already accomplished something then we won’t be number one at the end of the year. My hope is we view that as being a target. There is a bullseye on our back every night and if we don’t come out ready to prepare ourselves and practice everyday to play well and then go into games and play well then we won’t be number one at the end of the year.”

Jamion Christian on his Mount St. Mary’s team: “I’m really excited to get a chance to work with this group of guys. They just been really passionate. They’ve been through a ton of stuff, ton of adversity here at the Mount and they have really overcome it. I’ve think we have gotten over the hump there. I’m really excited to work with them. I think what we saw the second half of last year is a group of guys who really bought in to playing with one another, being unselfish in everything that we do and that’s going to continue over into this season.”

Howie Dickenman on his expanded depth of his CCSU team: “We are different this year than last year because we have depth. Last year, we played with a maximum of seven players and walk in with six players, this year we can go ten deep.”

Greg Herenda on his team going into his first season as head coach of FDU: “I like my guys. When that going to translate into winning games is going to be up to (things like) if the ball goes in the basket and we execute.”

– Wagner’s Bashir Mason on the new hand-check rules planning to be enforced in college basketball this season: “As a defensive minded coach, I’m really worried about it. Talking with some of the coaches in the league who have already had officials in their gym, some of the fouls that they were calling and those guys know in a way my team try to defend, they said you are going to hate the new rules. It will be tough, we’ll have to make the adjustment. It is what it is, there is nothing that you can do about it.”

New Sacred Heart head coach Anthony Latina on how his style will be different from long-time former head coach Dave Bike: “It is different in that we will pick up more full court. We will trap more. Coach (Bike) was more of a half-court defensive team and we will still do that on occasion. We probably switch defenses a lot more than they have in the past. So from the defensive end, we’ll play different. Offensively, Coach (Bike) did encourage running. I think we are emphasizing it a little more, so I think in that regard it will be a little different.”

Jamion Christian on why his Mount Mayhem style is difficult to play against: “We’re going to play ten guys every night. We’re committed to doing that. By doing that, it gives our team a tremendous amount of camaraderie. I think our spirit overall as a team, night in and night out, kind of builds itself. I think at some point in the year that will help to beat some teams that are maybe not ready to play that night. I think the camaraderie that we have is one of our key focuses. We try to focus on that every day. We want to be a team that is every night that has the most enthusiasm and if we’re able to have the most enthusiasm and mix in unselfish players, yeah we are going to be tough to beat.”

Wagner’s Bashir Mason on having no returning All-NEC first team or preseason All-NEC team players yet getting picked to win the NEC: “That makes me feel good as a coach. I want not the best individual players, I want the best team. That is all our message has been throughout the preseason, its been team, team, team. Not having a guy on the first team all-conference, that sort of, the coaches around the league reiterate my point, we don’t have a guy who is going to carry us night in and night out. We have a decent team that if we play that way, we can be really good.”

BHJ’s Media Day Conversation with Gail Streigler and Cleandra Roberts

LIU Brooklyn's Cleandra Robert and head coach Gail Streigler at the 2013 NEC Basketball Media Day at the Barclays Center (Credit: Northeast Conference)

LIU Brooklyn’s Cleandra Robert and head coach Gail Streigler at the 2013 NEC Basketball Media Day at the Barclays Center (Credit: Northeast Conference)

At the 2013 NEC Basketball Social Media Day inside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Tuesday, I got to talk with LIU Brooklyn women’s head coach Gail Streigler who is entering her sixth season as head coach of the Blackbirds. Also with her for media day was the only four-year senior on her roster, guard/forward Cleandra Roberts who led the Blackbirds in rebounding last season and is highest scoring returnee from last season’s 7-22 (4-14 in the NEC) team which missed out on their first NEC tournament since 2008-09.

Blackbirds Hoops Journal: Another year and it seems like another large turnover this year coming up with seven new players, how has practices been going the first few weeks?

Gail Strigler: The kids have been working really hard. It has been slow. I think we’ve kind of gone back to what we did my first year here which is really break it down from the very beginning which mean we don’t have a lot of our stuff in that we typically do at this point but I think we are actually better at some of the things right now that we have been in a while. I think we are executing our half court offense a little bit better. Our man-to-man press is a little bit better because we’ve spent some much time on it so we may not have all of our stuff in until halfway through the season as far as the conference season goes but at least we will better at the things we’re doing. We have a lot of stuff to work on. When you have that many new people, there is also one person in the wrong place and trying to get all five at the same time and same place is hard to do. We got good leadership which makes it a lot easier. We have a couple of good leaders on our team that have been around for the last couple of years on our team. It is a high turnover with seven new kids and then several of the ones that are back have only been here one to two years. The kids that are here are working hard. I think we have some talent, we have more shooters than we’ve had in the past so that should open up our inside game a little more so we’re excited about that.

BHJ: Last season was a bit rough with the seven wins, what were some of the positives that you took out of last season?

Gail Streigler has 8 returnees and 7 newcomers to her team this season. (Credit: Northeast Conference)

Gail Streigler has 8 returnees and 7 newcomers to her team this season. (Credit: Northeast Conference)

GS: The kids continued to work hard the whole season. To me, that is tall tale of the kids who are coming back. They knew what they had to and they put in the hard work from the learning experience of that to this year. I think that they have really bought in to what we’re doing. As far as the season went last year, the kids never stopped. They even upset somebody the second to last game of the year so they were playing hard no matter what. That says that you want to go to war with that group of kids because even when the going gets tough, they are still going to stand by you.

BHJ: What are some of the changes you are focused on making for this season?

GS: There are lots of things we focusing on. Taking care of the basketball is one, we had way too many turnovers. We got to be able to get easy baskets from some places. We had lots of easy attempts last season, we didn’t finish a lot of them. We got to find ways to make easier baskets whether it is more offensive rebounds, whether it is more turnovers. We have more depth this year in the positions and I think that is going to help us so we can actually do more pressing. Last year’s team unfortunately we really couldn’t play the style that we’ve played the years before that. We kind of had to be more of a half-court team and I think this year’s team is a lot more of a full court team.

BHJ: The offense struggled a lot last season, why was it so hard to score?

GS: You think about it, we lost five starters from the year before. All of our primary scorers were gone. Everybody was trying to figure out their roles and when you lose probably eighty percent of our offense from the year before, you’re really trying to figure out how to score points. Cleandra (Roberts) was one of our leading scorers, she went out half way through the conference season for about four or five games and we had some other kids who had injuries. It was just a combination of a lot of things. I think the kids were trying to figure out their roles. From the years past, we had to play a bit of a different style of basketball. We need do a little bit of better job adjusting probably and slow it down a little more and do a little more of the half court. We will still try to run some but in the end we’re slowing it down more but I just believe we have more depth this year and we going to be able to play the way we played before. We should be more athletic than we were last year but it only transfers over if we play for forty minutes and take care of the basketball and do the little things along the way and we’re working on that, we’re really are.

BHJ: Which players on this year’s team do you except to lean on and look for leadership on the court from?

GS: Cleandra Roberts, of course, is a senior on the team and she is one of the few who has been here for all four of her years. She’s been great. She was a captain last year and she’ll probably fill that role again this year. She has been very vocal in practices. Letava Whippy, the same way and I think what’s good about these kids this year is they’re doing the stuff right off the court and on the court and if you do the things right both directions, you’re going to end up with a good product on the court. You can’t take any shortcuts no matter where they are and I think this year’s team is doing that. Letava and Cleandra have done a great job of setting those standards high and holding those kids to it.

BHJ: Were you happy with the progress sophomore Sophie Bhasin made last year as a freshman?

GS: Yeah, she is a talented young lady. I would have liked to have seen her do more of course and I think that she will this year as long as she continues to work hard and does what’s right. She has the potential to be really good but I’ll tell you, the new kids have been giving her a run for her money. We have been breaking them up and right now she is not even on the starting five. We have some good guards coming back with Kelly Robinson and Letava (Whippy) and we got a good point guard that we signed out of junior college who is doing a great job. Last year, she kind of just stood out because she was really one of only scoring guards, the rest were just athletes. This year, everyone we have can shoot the three from the guards almost. We have Australians now that can shoot two feet behind the three so it is just a little bit of a different team then it has been.

BHJ: You have six true freshman this year, is that the most you ever had on you roster in one year in your career?

GS: It is most I ever had. Seven new kids (including juco transfer is Ashley Brown) is the most I ever had. It’s a large number.

BHJ: You mentioned the two players from Australia (Demi Tomlinson and Aleisha Myers), how were you able to bring them to LIU Brooklyn?

GS: My assistant coach (Lisa Pace) had some connections over there and we actually went over there on a recruiting trip and visited with them. We offered them a scholarship and they wanted to come. New York is pretty easy to sell.

BHJ: You guys played a game at the Barclays Center last year, how was that experience like?

LIU Brooklyn's Cleandra Roberts posing for cameras at the 2013 NEC Basketball Media Day (Credit: Bob Dea)

LIU Brooklyn’s Cleandra Roberts posing for cameras at the 2013 NEC Basketball Media Day. She is the top returning scorer and rebounder. (Credit: Bob Dea)

Cleandra Roberts: It was great. I’ve only played in one arena before and it was at the American Airlines Arena in Miami (Roberts is from Miami, FL) but (the Barclay Center) is much bigger so you see all the lights, you see the people, you see the cameras and it just like whoa, but then again you’re like it’s game time. It was a great experience for me.

BHJ: With you Cleandra as the only four-year player on this team, your first two seasons the team averaged 20 wins those seasons and then last year the team struggled, how did you deal with that last season?

CR: It is always in the back of my head so that just inspire me in practice to go harder, take ten steps up. Give 200 precent. That was a learning experience. Now we know what we have to do because we don’t want to go back to that again. We do what we got to do in practice, on the court, off the court to get that chemistry with each other and to get where are trying to go.

BHJ: Are you hoping to take on more of a leadership role as one of the seniors this season?

CR: Yes. I’m the only one that has been here four years. I know what exactly what Coach Streigler expect and I try to instill that into the rest of my teammates, this is what you have to do. It is either this way or no way, so that’s it.

BHJ: You led the team in rebounds and doubled your scoring output a year ago, what do you expect out of yourself to make your game even better this year?

CR: I just want to do what I can for my teammates and for my coach. What ever (Coach Streigler) wants me to do, that is what I’m going to do. Being on the court, it’s a privilege.

BHJ: Coach, it seems like some of your newer players are capable of playing more than one position, how do you plan to utilize some of these players?

GS: In the years past, we were good when we press about 25 to 35 minutes a game. We are going to try and get into more of that style. I really would like to actually do it more than that. It will depend on how a few of these young ones pick it up. We are going to continue to press, continue to be up-tempo. Hopefully, we are going to get ten strong and go about ten deep playing every single game is what I’m hoping. Some nights someone may only get five minutes, someone else might get four minutes but those players when they go in I think will be able to help us. We had players go in last year and they didn’t contribute. I think everybody we will put in this year is at least going to be able to score which is different then we had. This year, we have kids bombing it from everywhere. This is one of the first years that I haven’t told somebody that they can’t shoot, that you’re aren’t allowed to take that shot. Usually by now, I would’ve told one or two people you are a driver, you have to drive every time you catch it and I haven’t had to tell anybody that. I’m not trying to say we are going to have a 25-win season, for us to be successful we are to have to go ten deep. We are going to have players who go out there, help us score and help us get back to scoring in the high 60s. 65 to 70 every night is where I would like to be. We were like 55 last year, it was like pulling teeth to score, might not have been even 55, it was probably more like 52. We need to be in the mid-60s every night. Love to be in the mid-60s, that is the type of game we need to play to be successful and to do that you got to have numbers. Knock on wood, everybody stays healthy. They all got to know their roles.

BHJ: With Quinnipiac and Monmouth leaving, Quinnipiac obviously going perfect in the NEC last year, do you think the NEC is more wide open this year or do you think there still some top-heavy teams?

GS: I feel like our league has always got about five teams that can play. I thought that, even last year and in the prior two or three years before that. You’ve got teams that are upsetting people that are (high) mid-majors and above. Sacred Heart has been perennial power every single year. We until last year were a perennial power every single year. You’ve got teams that are able to upset teams. There is not really a team that I think that I used to say that about a couple of teams, that no matter what, they will win. There is nobody you can say that about. I mean Wagner is picked last (in the NEC Women’s Coaches Poll) and I think Wagner is going to be really solid this year. They got a lot of new kids that (Wagner’s head coach Lisa Cermignano) has signed, she is doing a good job bringing in some players they weren’t able to get before. I don’t think there is anybody that is going to be an easy game. I think Robert Morris has the premier player (Artemis Spanou), I think Sacred Heart has another premier player (Gabrielle Washington) but I think that everybody is going to be able to upset everybody. I’ve always thought that. Other than Quinnipiac last year, there was nobody that every single year was able to dominate. There are always five or six teams that can win it and I think it is going to be the way this year.

BHJ: Cleandra, with so many players and so many newcomers, how has the competitiveness been at practice?

CR: Everybody is competing for a spot. There is no set spot so practice has to be competitive. As time goes on, as players, we understand that, so we compete everyday for that spot. So it’s been competitive.

BHJ: Have you noticed anyone in particular at practice so far which has you in the back of your mind saying, so and so could have a big year this season?

CR: Rachel McCoy. She is my girl. I expect great things out of her. Letava Whippy, she has improved a lot. Kelly Robinson. It is so many. Everybody basically improved, they have stepped up their game because we know last season, we can’t go through that again. So we put in work to get where we are now and we still have a lot of work to do.

BHJ: As the only four-year player, how have you enjoyed your time playing at LIU Brooklyn?

CR: It has been a ride. I appreciate every moment of it. Everybody is not going to give me this opportunity. I mean, I’m in New York, I’m from Miami, living in New York for four years, that’s great. That is a blessing so I appreciate everything. It has been a journey but I loved every minute of it.

BHJ: Finally Coach, the involvement of social media for your program. I see that your staff uses it a lot. I know because I follow you, your staff and your program on Twitter and Facebook. What impact do you think social media has had on your program, in terms of recruiting and showcasing the program?

GS: I think it is a great recruiting tool. My assistants (Pace, Terell Coburn, Erin Geary, and Chelsea Wolf) do a great job. I do a very small, small part of it. I tweet maybe every once and while. I’ll post (on Facebook) something up maybe every once and awhile. My assistants do a lot of it for me but I think it is a great way to get the name of LIU Brooklyn out there and the product that we have and the great kids that we have and everything that we do whether is it community service or basketball practices. Showing people how much hard work actually goes into this for basically for free, it doesn’t cost anything. It is not like you have to pay to put in print or to do anything and it is all positive. I think that is the key to it and we’ve worked hard with our kids. Our kids are doing a good job with it, you should follow our kids. They are doing a great job of putting positive stuff out there about our program, about themselves and that is the way that it should be. There is a lot of great things going on and you need to follow us to know about it.

I would like to thank head coach Gail Streigler and Cleandra Roberts for sharing their time and thoughts with me. The LIU Brooklyn Women’s Basketball team’s season tips off on Friday, November 8th with a home game at the Wellness Center against Columbia at 6pm. You can follow the coaching staff on Twitter, Gail Streigler (@LIUwbb), Lisa Pace (@coachpace), Terell Coburn (@CoachC_30), Erin Geary (@coach_erin) and Chelsea Wolf (@_CoachWolf). The LIU Women’s Basketball also has a page you can like on Facebook to follow them on there.

Good luck to Coach Streigler and her LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds team as they try to return to their winning ways and back to the NEC tournament this March.

Jason Brickman selected to be on the 2014 Bob Cousy Watch List

LIU Brooklyn's Jason Brickman getting interviewed during the 2013 NEC Basketball Media Day

LIU Brooklyn’s Jason Brickman getting interviewed during the 2013 NEC Basketball Media Day (Credit: Bob Dea)

During the madness of NEC Basketball Social Media Day yesterday, the preseason accolades continued on for LIU Brooklyn point guard Jason Brickman as he was named to the 2014 Bob Cousy Award Watch List by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award is given to the nation’s top college point guard and is named after the former Boston Celtics Hall of Famer.

Brickman is one of 40 players named onto the 2014 Bob Cousy Award Watch List. This season, Brickman is expected to break the NEC career record for assists which currently stands at 804. He is currently at 719 assists entering his senior season. Brickman was also named on to the preseason All-NEC team during NEC Media Day.

Brickman will try to stay on the this list as it gets cut down to 20 players in February and then to the final five finalists during March Madness before the winner is announced.

Congrats to Jason on earning his way on to this list watch list.

BHJ’s 2013 NEC Basketball Media Day Rewind

Today, one of the major days in the calendar finally arrived. The one that guys like me have been awaiting for since it was announced. Yes, today was the second-ever NEC Basketball “Social” Media Day which was held at the new crown jewel of the borough of Brooklyn, the Barclays Center.

The NEC men's student-athletes at NEC Media Day

The NEC men’s student-athletes at NEC Media Day

First, right off the bat let me just say that I failed to complete one of my goals for the day. I had every intent to speak with every NEC men’s basketball coach and player (who were included in the festivities this year) who was in attendance but like last year, I let myself down. Honestly, I just can’t get too down on myself. It really is nearly impossible to visit with every coach and player there in the short period of time (two hours goes by very quick in this setting) especially if you’re there to really concentrate on a particular school or team which in my case was obviously LIU Brooklyn. My main goal was to chat with LIU Brooklyn’s men’s head coach Jack Perri and women’s head coach Gail Streigler as well as chat with the players representing both team in Jason Brickman for the men and Cleandra Roberts for the women. That I’m glad to say was accomplished and I will have plenty of content from my talks with the LIU Brooklyn contingent in the coming days.

Still, I can’t help but be a little disappointed that I didn’t get my way around to chatting with everybody. It was great to hear these NEC coaches talk about their teams, the conference and about college basketball in general. Then add the fact that this year, one player from each team was invited to come and it made it (at least for me) an NEC Media Day that even surpassed the great experience I had last year which was outstanding in its own right. I put it this way, if I don’t have time to stop and get something to eat at the nice spread provided by the NEC and the 40/40 club at the Barclays Center because I’m wrapped up listening and talking to some this year’s NEC coaches and players, then you know the NEC put together a really well done event.

Here are some of the observations I took away from this year’s NEC Media Day.

– I didn’t wrap my head around the NEC Preseason Men’s Coaches Poll other than to see that LIU Brooklyn was picked fourth on the men’s side and eighth on the women’s end but once I got a moment to pause at the end of the media day and take a good look at it, a couple of things jumped out at me. One, Bryant was picked to finish tied for second with Robert Morris although they didn’t garner a single first place vote. I think Bryant will be in the mix this season but I think placing them tied for second was too high in my opinion. Second, the coaches picked Mount St. Mary’s, who played in the NEC final last season and returns back plenty of talent, to finish sixth in the NEC. I’ll be very surprised if at the end of the season, the Mount were to finish that low in the standings. I don’t think they finish below fourth.

– There was no surprises at all in the NEC preseason men’s all-conference team. Jason Brickman, Kyle Vinales, Jalen Cannon, Alex Francis and Dyami Starks, all were very worthy selections. The only difference I had from my preseason All-NEC first team was I had Wagner’s Latif Rivers over Starks but Starks is just as worthy a selection so I can’t knock it at all.

– My most enjoyable moment: I got to talk to the Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian before the festivities began and we talked for a good ten to fifteen minutes about my favorite NFL team, the New York Jets. Christian was the one who brought up the Jets since we follow each other on Twitter and he sees how incensed I get sometimes tweeting about Rex Ryan, Geno Smith and the Jets. I learned how much he likes Rex Ryan as a head coach and how he loves the fact the players play for him. It was a great conservation the two of us had and in talking to him at that point and then later on when I got to ask him about his team this season, I can see why the Mount has turned it around so fast with him at the helm. The man has energy, charm and is extremely easy to talk to. I really came out of today with much more respect and admiration for Jamion Christian. I really do think he has a bright future as a head coach.

– I was surprised by how much the NEC men’s coaches were high on Howie Dickenman’s team at Central Connecticut State. They were picked fifth in the NEC coaches poll, one spot ahead of last season’s NEC finalist Mount St. Mary’s. It was definitely one of the themes of media day, how almost every coach it seemed like had glowing things to say about CCSU and how they think there are going to be one of the dark horses in the NEC championship run. They might be right. I believe they are the sleeper team in the NEC this season but I’m not sure I can totally put them as possible title contenters, at least not just yet. Although I can’t argue what some of the coaches were saying about CCSU depth this season. They definitely can spread some minutes around this season and not play guys over 36-plus minutes a game like last season.

– Although Wagner was picked to finish first by the coaches this season and received seven of the ten first place votes, I really didn’t hear a whole lot of talk about how Wagner can’t be beat. I think there was plenty of respect for Wagner and I did hear plenty of praise for head coach Bashir Mason and his Wagner squad but I think the coaches are gearing for another wild NEC season especially with a 16-game schedule and they think that any good, consistent team can win it.

– There was plenty of talk about the new hand-checking rule going into effect in college basketball this season. Some of the coaches who had officials meet with them about it have said that the refs are going to blow the whistle on anything close to a hand-check. If you recall when the NBA eliminated the hand-check and how many whistles were blown for it, yeah it is probably going to be something similar to that especially in November and December as players learn to adjust to the calls. The coaches seem to agree that teams who thrive on playing aggressive defense are going to have a hard time adjusting to the new rule. Wagner’s Bashir Mason was honest in saying he was a little worried how much of an impact it would have early on with his team’s aggressive defensive approach. It will definitely bear watching the first couple of months of the season.

– In speaking with Wagner’s Kenneth Ortiz, he spoke like a player on a team who is extremely motivated to get to an NEC championship game and win it. He feels he doesn’t get the due respect when he is compared to some of the other point guards in the NEC like LIU’s Jason Brickman and Sacred Heart’s Phil Gaetano even after being named NEC Defensive Player of the Year two years in a row. He looked hungry, focused and ready to go for the season.

– Sacred Heart’s new athletic director, former New York Mets and Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, appeared at NEC Media Day and as you would expect, was a popular figure at the festivities.

Sacred Heart AD Bobby Valentine (Credit: Bob Dea)

Sacred Heart AD Bobby Valentine (Credit: Bob Dea)

– Just to briefly sum up our meeting with Jack Perri which I will have more on in later posts, he was very cautious about this season. There is a lot of new faces on his team and he was felt sort of uncomfortable that his team being thought of in high regards as respect for what LIU has done over the last three seasons. He was cautious because he is well aware he only has one senior for now in Jason Brickman, a huge question mark regarding the future status of Julian Boyd and the unknown quantity of what all the other players are going to bring to the court. There is no doubt the burden of this year’s team success will fall on the shoulders of Jason Brickman who is going to be asked to do a lot this season and to his credit, he seems like he is ready for the challenge. Perri even at one point called Brickman his “Peyton Manning” (the all-world Denver Broncos quarterback and future pro football hall of famer). That is a hell of a high praise for a player and you know what, Perri might actually be 100 percent right.

Those were just some of the notable takes I left the Barclays Center with after NEC media day today. In less than three weeks, we can finally get this college basketball season going. After a day like today, you almost wish opening day was this coming Friday instead of three Fridays from now. We just have to continue to grind out the wait, it is almost here folks. It is almost here.

LIU Brooklyn freshman Nura Zanna is out for the season with a hand injury

Ok Blackbird fans. I hate being the bearer of bad news but there is no getting around it. The injury bug has claimed another victim on this season’s Blackbird squad. Blackbirds Hoops Journal has learned that 6’7″ freshman forward Nura Zanna is out for the entire 2013-14 season with a hand injury. LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri confirmed Zanna’s injury to Ryan Peters of Big Apple Buckets.

The injury happened right after the school year started in September and @RMFMagazine on Twitter, who followed Zanna while at Coral Springs Christian Academy in Florida, was the first to tweet about it all the way back on September 11th.

Also, Zanna’s high school head coach at CSCA, Steve Fitzgerald, also mentioned that Zanna had been injured in a congratulatory tweet to Zanna back on October 4th.

He suffered the freak injury during a pick up game on a block shot against the backboard. Zanna will likely be medically-redshirted this season. This is the second major injury LIU has suffered before the month of October. As we all know, sixth-year senior Julian Boyd will be out of the LIU lineup until January at the earliest after re-tearing his ACL for the second time in seven months back in July.

This is a significant loss for the Blackbirds and head coach Jack Perri and yet another blow to LIU’s chances of four-peating this season in the NEC. Zanna was considered a major prospect for the Blackbirds with a very high upside. Zanna was one of the candidates and probably would have been the leading candidate to hold the fort at the 5 position until Boyd’s hopeful return during NEC play. He was among the preseason favorites for NEC Rookie of the Year and was selected as preseason pick for the award by Big Apple Buckets and one of the preseason college basketball preview magazines as shown in the tweeted picture above. Now, it looks like Perri may have to turn to either junior college transfers Landon Atterberry or Chris Carter at that position until Boyd’s return.

It is a tough blow for Zanna but on the bright side, he will help lead what could be a terrific freshman class next season with his return and verbal commits Trevin and Trevon Woods and Jamil Hood Jr. coming to Downtown Brooklyn.