A Closer Look at the Week One NEC Schedule Sprint

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On Saturday, the 2014-15 Northeast Conference season tips off in grand fashion. Four conference games in eight days.

Due to New Year’s Day falling on a Thursday this year, the NEC decided to not put the big opening night of the conference season up against the brand new College Football Playoff (smart move!) and instead of the usually Thursday/Saturday week of games, the NEC decided to make opening week a Saturday/Monday affair followed by the usual Thursday/Saturday second week. This results in having to play four NEC games in a span of just eight days to open up what could be the most unpredictable and wildest conference season the NEC has had in a quite a long time.

As with any season, teams and coaches are always looking to get off to a fast start, with this season in particular, that is most certainly the case.

With four huge games in basically a week’s time, preparation for each of these games will be quite a challenge. The good part is most if not all of the teams won’t have to worry about class work just yet as they all should be in winter break for the first week of January so that won’t be much of a concern.

One of the challenges will be proper prep time in between games. Games one and two are two days apart as are games three and four, leaving just the three days in between games two and three and get a lot of practice and prep work done.

The next challenge will be travel for road games. This is the NEC and all the teams travel by coach bus. The teams with the easier travel schedule should have a bit more of an advantage than teams who have to travel all across the Northeast to get to their games. The more home games this first week, the better.

With that in mind, I wanted to find out which NEC teams would have the toughest challenges in this brutal first week of NEC play. I wanted to see which teams had the toughest strength of schedule in terms of opponents, which teams would have a more of early advantage in terms of home games in this first week, and how much traveling during this eight day span would each NEC team have to do.

I wanted to begin by first taking a look at the first week composition NEC schedule:

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Next, to find out which NEC teams had the toughest first week schedule, I went over to kenpom.com and averaged out the KenPom rankings of each teams four opponents for the first week. I used the KenPom rankings from Tuesday, December 30th to compile the opponent’s average KenPom rankings for the first four opponents. Here are the KenPom rankings I used:

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And here are the results:

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By the results shown above, Bryant has the toughest first week in terms of opening week strength of schedule. Their four opponents average out to an above-200 ranking, the only one to do so. On the other side by using this chart, Robert Morris has the easiest opening week strength of schedule just edging out Mount St. Mary’s.

Next, I wanted to see what were the home/road splits for each NEC team. I wanted to find out how many home games each team was playing during the opening week and which teams have the advantage of being at home more during this important first week. These are the number of home games and road games each NEC teams is playing during the first week of the conference season:

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So I found that LIU Brooklyn, Wagner and Sacred Heart were the three NEC teams playing the most home games in this upcoming eight-day span. Each are playing three home games in the first four games. Meanwhile, St. Francis Brooklyn, Robert Morris and Central Connecticut will only play one home game the first week which means they only to get the home-court advantage once during the opening week and will be traveling a lot on the road.

Speaking of traveling, the next thing I wanted to check out which NEC teams would have the biggest challenge dealing with travel. The more traveling a team has to do, the less rest and prep time they are getting for their next game. With the help of an old resource the NEC used to put out in their NEC Fan Guides, I used an old NEC Mileage Chart which broke down the mileage distance between each NEC campus.

This is chart I used:

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You can tell it’s an old chart because it still has former NEC members Quinnipiac and Monmouth on there yet it served its purpose.

With this mileage chart, I could figure out which NEC teams would have the most miles to log in between games on opening week. Here is the order from lowest to highest of travel miles each NEC will have to make to get from game one on Saturday to game four the following Saturday.

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LIU Brooklyn once again gets another huge advantage as they will only have to travel just sixteen miles during the four games in eight days span. They only travel to one road game and that game is in Staten Island, a short bus ride from campus and it is also the final game of the week.

Sacred Heart plays just one home game as well but they have to travel back and forth from Fairfield, CT to Brooklyn. Even though Wagner also has one road game, they have to travel to Loretto, PA from Staten Island for the NEC opener Saturday and then travel back from Monday’s home game. That is a 602-mile round trip for one game.

Saint Francis U. and Mount St. Mary’s got the worst end of all the NEC teams. SFU although they play their first two games at home, will have to make a long 502-mile trip to Bryant mid-week. The Mount will have to travel nearing 800 miles to get to and from just their first two games, both on the road, and then the travel back to Emmitsburg, MD from their home games.

Ironically, the three teams with three roads games are fifth, sixth and seventh on the travel milage list. St. Francis Brooklyn’s first two road games are within reasonable travel distance before they make their journey out to Mount St. Mary’s next Saturday.

After seeing everything, it is easy to see that LIU Brooklyn lucked out somewhat with the opening week schedule. The Blackbirds will play three home games and do the least amount of traveling by far of all the NEC teams. Their strength of schedule that first week is also in the middle of the pack so it is not terrible at all for them.

Conversely, the team that may be on the short end of the stick in week one is Saint Francis U. Although, they do play two home games to start the week, they will play against Robert Morris, Bryant and Sacred Heart, teams which are probably looking at the moment like upper-half teams. Their opening week strength of schedule is the third-toughest and they will log the second-most travel miles during the week with 632. That is a lot of travel in eight days for games that matter.

Well, time now to get ready to strap in because starting Saturday, the 18-game, two-month NEC marathon will begins with a four games in eight days sprint. You got love this time of year!

Photo Gallery: LIU Brooklyn’s 2014 Non-Conference Journey Through Pictures

Blackbirds Hoops Journal through myself and photographer Bob Dea were able to cover nine of LIU Brooklyn’s eleven non-conference games this season. Here is a look back through the lens of Bob Dea, some of the best images from LIU’s non-conference schedule.

Hofstra 88 LIU Brooklyn 62

Hofstra and LIU Brooklyn squared off at the Barclays Center but it was Pride who cruised to a 88-62 victory Sunday afternoon. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Hofstra and LIU Brooklyn squared off at the Barclays Center but it was Pride who cruised to a 88-62 victory Sunday afternoon. (Photo: Bob Dea)

LIU Brooklyn knew heading into Sunday’s game against Hofstra at the Barclays Center that if they had any chance of beating them, they would need to contain their excellent shooting. Well, things just didn’t work out that way as Hofstra shot the lights out and defeated LIU 88-62 to snap the Blackbirds four-game winning streak as they now head into NEC play next weekend.

This was definitely not the same Hofstra team LIU saw back at the Wellness Center a couple of seasons ago where they pulled out a four-point win. Hofstra took control in the first half with a sizzling 59 percent shooting display including hitting eight of fifteen three-pointers. Hofstra seemed like they couldn’t miss as LIU just couldn’t getting their footing in their first game after the brief Christmas break.

“This was not one of our better performances.” said LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri after the loss. “We talked about taking away threes, we didn’t do a good enough job of that. We did not play well and so we lost.”

Ameen Tanksley finished with a career-high thirty-two points on twelve of twenty shooting including hitting five threes. Juan’ya Green collected his first career triple-double with fifteen points, ten rebounds and ten assists. Monmouth transfer Dion Nesmith scored thirteen points and Staten Island native Brian Bernardi was four of seven, all from three and finished with twelve points for the now 8-4 Pride.

“I figured (Hofstra) would come back today and have more of a scene of urgency then they probably had in their last two games.” Perri said. “They went really, really small and put Tanksley at the five which hurt us a little bit. Also, once they got into our bench and we had to play some guys that don’t get as many minutes usually once Gerrell went down, they got open looks whether it was man or zone so I think that played a big part.”

Senior Gerrell Martin being attended to by the LIU medical staff after banging his head on the court in first half. Photo: Bob Dea)

Senior Gerrell Martin being attended to by the LIU medical staff after banging his head on the court in first half. Photo: (Bob Dea)

In a game like this, once the score was out of hand, you just want to see everyone come out of it healthy especially before NEC play and for LIU that wasn’t the case. Senior guard Gerrell Martin banged his head on the court diving for a loose ball with 7:48 remaining in the first half. He looked extremely woozy as he sat up on the court while the LIU trainers were looking at him and needed assistance to get onto his feet and back into the locker room. At the moment, it is not immediately known how long Martin will be out.

“We’ll see what happens. It is a crazy protocol with head injuries. He got wacked pretty good. We’ll see what happens in the next few days.” said Perri of Martin’s head injury.

If Martin has to miss the NEC opener on Saturday versus Bryant, it will be a blow for Jack Perri’s team. LIU’s depth has been hurt of late without sophomore Glenn Feidanga who missed his third straight game in a row due to a foot injury. It could mean Joel Hernandez may have to start for LIU if Martin isn’t cleared to play by Saturday which would change up Perri’s rotation for the first NEC game.

Freshman Nura Zanna nearly got his first double-double of his collegiate career with fourteen points and nine rebounds before fouling out for the fourth time this season. It was his first disqualification in his last five games.

Iverson Fleming finished with 13 points, all scored in the second half. Joel Hernandez scored ten. They were a combined eight for twenty-two in the game so neither played their best game.

Freshman Nura Zanna nearly collected his first LIU double-double with 14 points and 9 rebounds. Photo: Bob Dea)

Freshman Nura Zanna nearly collected his first LIU double-double with 14 points and 9 rebounds. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Hofstra held the starting lineup after Zanna to just a combined sixteen points. The Iceland duo of Friðriksson and Hermannson was held to eight points total. Friðriksson had his worst shooting game of the season, going one for ten from the floor. Hermannson didn’t fare much better going two of seven. Landon Atterberry had a quiet game after getting into early foul trouble. He finished with just five points.

This game caps off a topsy-turvy non-conference schedule in which they finished 4-7. Considering, the season started with a six-game losing streak, an 4-7 record going into NEC play isn’t so bad.

“We talked about just improving day-to-day since the beginning of the year and I thought we’ve been doing that.” said Perri. “Our guys started to feel a little bit more comfortable especially offensively, I thought it was more offense than defense early on with shot decisions and things like that. I think our defense has been pretty good beside this game.”

Now, the real test begins with conference play. LIU starts it off with three straight home games at the Steinberg Wellness Center. It is a nice advantage the Blackbirds have to start conference play with and get back to playing the way they were during their four-game winning streak.

It won’t start off easy with Bryant being the NEC opening opponent for LIU but in a year in which parity has seemingly dominated the NEC, LIU is in good position at least to get themselves off to a fast start.

“We move on. I already told our team that we’re moving on, this is about Bryant now.” said Perri. “It is about league play. We’re done. We’re 4-7. I don’t even care about the record to be honest with you. I think we’ve made a lot of strides from where we were in November. That is the most important thing. We can get ready from Bryant. We have a few games at home and hopefully we can play better than we played today.”

If you’re a LIU fan, you have to feel like this non-conference season went as you would expect. Some ups, some downs, some great play at times, some really bad play at times but all in all for one of the youngest team in the country, it wasn’t too bad. This team looks like they have pieces to not only compete in the NEC but make a return back to the NEC tournament. The eighteen-game sprint to March finally begins on Saturday.

LIU Gameday Preview – Game 11 – Hofstra

The annual BROOKLYN HOOPS Winter Festival returns to Barclays Center on Sunday with LIU Brooklyn taking on Hofstra in the second game. (Graphic: barclayscenter.com)

Opponent: Hofstra (Colonial Athletic Association)

Record: 7-4 (Last game: L vs La Salle, 83-74
KenPom Ranking: 122
Tip-Off Time: 2:30pm
Location: Barclays Center – Brooklyn, NY
Media Game Coverage: Online: barclayscenter.com ($4.99 pay subscription) /Audio: Red Zone Media
Meeting History: 30th all-time meeting. Hofstra leads all-time series 16-13. These two teams have meet in two of the last three seasons, not playing each other last season. LIU Brooklyn won the last meeting 88-84 back on December 9, 2012.

[Read more…]

LIU Brooklyn 73 New Hampshire 72

LIU Brooklyn extend their win streak to four due to tremendous games for their Icelandic duo of Martin Hermannson and Elvar Friðriksson. Photo: Bob Dea)

LIU Brooklyn extend their win streak to four due to tremendous games from their Icelandic duo of Martin Hermannson (#24) and Elvar Friðriksson (#10). (Photo: Bob Dea)

When there is a young team like LIU Brooklyn has this season, no lead is safe.

That was the case on Monday as LIU Brooklyn gave up an early 15-point lead and went down as much as five in the second half to New Hampshire before taking the game into overtime and getting a Martin Hermannsson layup with six seconds remaining to take home their fourth straight victory to win 73-72 at Lundholm Gym.

LIU’s Iceland duo of Elvar Friðriksson and Martin Hermannsson, at different points carried their team offensively. Friðriksson was an unstoppable force in the first half while Hermannsson came on in the second. The duo combined for 34 of LIU’s 73 points. Friðriksson finished with 19 points while Hermannsson finished with 15. The pair played a combined 81 minutes.

LIU got off to a fast start and was ahead 27-12 with 8:33 to go in the first half. Friðriksson was making everything, the LIU defense was making life difficult on the UNH offense, everything was clicking for the Blackbirds.

Friðriksson and Hermannson combined for 34 points in 81 minutes vs UNH Monday night. Photos: Bob Dea)

Friðriksson and Hermannson combined for 34 points in 81 minutes vs UNH Monday night. Photos: Bob Dea)

Then like a switch, UNH turned on the defense and went to work. That LIU 15-point lead slowly started to evaporate. First, a 6-0 run by UNH got the ball rolling and then a 4-0 spurt and then another 6-0 run and then a 5-0 run to close the half. UNH finished on a 25-11 run to close the first half to get within one at the break at 38-37.

The run continued into the second half as UNH scored the first six points and gave them their largest lead of the game at 43-38. LIU would recover and keep the game within two possessions until they regained the lead. The game would go back and forth for a while with both teams trading leads.

Late in the game, LIU hit a pair of huge threes. First, Iverson Fleming hit a corner three to get LIU within one at 62-61 with 3:03 left and then Friðriksson hit a three to the right of the top of the key to give LIU back the lead with 2:26 left in regulation.

UNH would make a critical mistake late. While shooting free throws down a point at 64-63 with sixteen seconds remaining, UNH’s Joe Bramanti would make his first free throw but miss his second although it wouldn’t have counted anyway because UNH committed a lane violation on the shot. That gave LIU a chance to win the game in regulation but Friðriksson took a really deep 26-footer which fell short and the game went into overtime.

In overtime, it was senior Landon Atterberry who came up clutch. With LIU down 68-66 with 2:02 left, Atterberry had the ball above the three-point arc and couldn’t get the ball to anybody and decided to take the shot himself and made a big three to give LIU back the lead. Then two possessions later, after UNH regained the lead, Atterberry missed a short jumper but he followed his shot and stuck in the put-back to give LIU the lead again at 71-70 with 37 seconds remaining.

Landon Atterberry finished with 16 points including five huge points in overtime. Photo: Bob Dea)

Landon Atterberry finished with 16 points including five huge points in overtime. Photo: Bob Dea)

UNH’s Jacoby Armstrong got a follow tip to drop on the other end and with 27 seconds remaining and UNH up one, LIU head coach Jack Perri decides to not call a timeout and play it out. Martin Hermannsson would get the ball, penetrate and finish to give LIU a 73-72 lead with six seconds left.

UNH would get two good chances to win the game including a point blank shot by Tanner Leissner right before the buzzer but neither dropped and the whole LIU bench rushed the floor and mobbed their teammates at mid-court to celebrate a wild road win.

UNH got a team-high 18 points off the bench from Jacoby Armstrong on 8 of 11 shooting. Jaleen Smith finished with 13 points and Tanner Leissner finished with ten to drop UNH to a 6-5 record. Amazingly, UNH had seemingly everybody in foul trouble all game long and only fouled out one player in point guard Joe Bramanti.

LIU Brooklyn got 16 points from senior Landon Atterberry including those five big points in overtime. He was 7 of 10 from the field. Joel Hernandez chipped in with nine off the bench in 31 minutes of action. Nura Zanna had six and Iverson Fleming finished with five points before fouling out.

Gerrell Martin was held to just one shot in the game and finished scoreless in 20 minutes as Perri went with Hernandez late in the game.

LIU were without the services of sophomore Glenn Feidanga for the second straight game as he continues to nurse a nagging foot injury.

It is now four straight wins for LIU Brooklyn after starting the season 0-6 and LIU may be getting hot at the right time as they begin to head into NEC play with one more non-conference game to go against Hofstra on Sunday after their Christmas break.

LIU wasn’t as bad as that 0-6 start indicated and now this win streak is starting to show that this LIU Brooklyn team has pieces in place, even though they’re young, to do some damage in the NEC this season.

The momentum has clearly shifted and the final test before NEC play will come against a very good Hofstra team who has beaten Stony Brook and Norfolk State this season and lost to South Florida by just one. If LIU can keep this roll going into conference play and with three home games to start it off, this momentum could carry on for a while.

LIU Gameday Preview – Game 10 – New Hampshire

The Blackbirds heads to Lundholm Gym at the University of New Hampshire for their final non-conference road game of the season. (Photo: UNH Athletics)

Opponent: New Hampshire (America East Conference)

Record: 6-4 (Last game: L vs Sacred Heart, 73-60
KenPom Ranking: 242
Tip-Off Time: 7:00pm
Location: Lundholm Gymnasium – Durham, NH
Media Game Coverage: Online: AmericaEast.TV/Audio: Wildcat Sports Network
Meeting History: Sixth all-time meeting. LIU Brooklyn leads all-time series 4-1. This is the second meeting this season between the two teams. UNH won the first meeting at the Steinberg Wellness Center on December 3rd, 72-56.

[Read more…]

Florida International 58 LIU Brooklyn 69

The Blackbirds made it three wins in a row after defeating Florida International 69-58 at the Barclays Center Thursday night. (Photo: Bob Dea)

The Blackbirds made it three wins in a row after defeating Florida International 69-58 at the Barclays Center Thursday night. (Photo: Bob Dea)

The lights were bright at the Barclays Center Thursday night as LIU Brooklyn withstood a furious mid-game charge by the visiting Florida International Panthers but freshman point guard Elvar Friðriksson and his 14 second-half points helped the Blackbirds get their third straight win by a final score of 69-58.

The 20-year old freshman point guard from Iceland carried the Blackbirds offensively in the second half.

After a 29-10 FIU run that erased a fifteen-point LIU lead and give FIU their largest lead of the game at 43-39 with 12:36 to play, Martin Hermannsson would go one of two from the free throw line and then Friðriksson took over.

Elvar Friðriksson #10) took over offensive for LIU in the second half and finished with a team-high 17 points. Photo: Bob Dea)

Elvar Friðriksson #10) took over offensive for LIU in the second half and finished with a team-high 17 points. Photo: Bob Dea)

He would hit back-to-back layups, one of which was an outstanding driving reverse layup, to give LIU back the lead. Then he hit back-to-back three-pointers. He scored ten straight LIU points by himself in a matter of just over two minutes to give the Blackbirds back the momentum they had lost and carried it to a big victory against a good FIU team.

“(Friðriksson) is confident and he should be confident. He is a really talented, really good basketball player.” said LIU head coach Jack Perri of his point guard. “That was very important, hitting those two back-to-back threes. Obviously, he was feeling it. That was awesome.”

“The ten points were after great defense.'” said Elvar Friðriksson, who is also the reigning NEC rookie of the week. “We had two steals and it was just layups in transition. It was also wide open looks, I wasn’t making them to begin with. But, in the end, they fell so I was happy with that.”

Friðriksson has been coming into his own as the season has gone on. This was his fourth game in the last five where he has scored in double figures and his increased confidence has really been noticeable with each passing game.

Four Blackbirds finished in double figures lead by Friðriksson’s 17 points. Gerrell Martin finished with 15 points. Martin Hermannsson finished with ten points in what was a balanced scoring game for LIU. Joel Hernandez got his second career double-double off the bench with 11 points and a career-high ten rebounds.

Hernandez’s play this season has been most impressive considering most if not all of his minutes are with him playing at the “four” position for Jack Perri.

Sophomore Joel Hernandez recorded his first career double-double 11 points and 10 rebounds. Photo: Bob Dea)

Sophomore Joel Hernandez recorded his first career double-double 11 points and 10 rebounds. (Photo: Bob Dea)

“He weighs 210, he’s 6’3” and he is really, really athletic. He is explosive athletic. So he is a little bit of a mismatch.” Perri said of Hernandez. “In our league, we can get away with that a lot more than if you play up but today, it was fine.”

This was the first game LIU dominated the free throw shooting game, something that they had grown accustomed to doing during their NEC championship run. They outshot FIU from the charity stripe 24 to 9 and the plus-12 free throws made was the difference in the game.

“They get fouled a lot. Obviously, we’ve been inconsistent with our free throw defense this year.” said Perri. “We’ve had first halves when we wouldn’t give up a free throw and then the second halves, 32 free throws, I think it was against Lehigh. So that being a main focus for them to have nine free throw attempts for that team, I thought that was great for our guys, great step in the right direction.”

LIU’s improved defense is also coming along towards the end of non-conference play. For the second straight game, they held their opponent to under 60 points scored.

They also held FIU’s top two scorers, Dennis Mavin and Adrian Diaz, who combined coming into the game were averaging nearly 30 points per game to just a combined 15 points in the game.

Senior Gerrell Martin had a solid game with 15 points vs FIU. Photo: Bob Dea)

Senior Gerrell Martin had a solid game with 15 points vs FIU. (Photo: Bob Dea)

“He talked about over-helping. They only average four made threes a game.” said Perri. “We talked about over-helping to the post and being really physical with (Diaz). Then we talked about over-helping with Mavin because he is such a good driver, he is great at attacking. Along with that he is great in transition, so we limited their steals and make sure we sprint back to the paint and really crowd him. So I though we did a good job with the focus on both of those guys.”

Mavin lead FIU with 12, FDU transfer Marco Porcher Jimenez and Tashawn Desir both finished with 11 for the now 6-5 Panthers.

Freshman Nura Zanna briefly left the game after suffering a cut around his nose on a foul going to the basket. He would later return to the game.

Perri announced after the game that sophomore forward Glenn Feidanga, who did not play, felt discomfort in his foot once again. Feidanga has missed LIU’s first four games with the same foot injury but had played in the last four games, playing 12 to 19 minutes in each of his last three games. His status for LIU’s next game at New Hampshire on Tuesday is unknown.

This was LIU’s best win on this current three-game win streak. FIU, who came in ranked 190 on Thursday in the KenPom rankings, is the first KenPom top-200 team LIU has beaten this season.

LIU will look to continue the win streak on Monday as they head to New Hampshire in to complete their in-season home-and-home series. UNH defeated LIU Brooklyn back on December 3rd at the Steinberg Wellness Center 72-56.

For Jack Perri and his team, they hope second-time is the charm against the Wildcats.

“We get to watch ourselves play against them, so we can see what works and what didn’t work in the first meeting.” said Perri. “Hopefully, we have a little bit more confidence at this point and time. We have to do a better job of a lot of things and I think our guys will get to work on that. Obviously, us losing at home and now having to go on the road that makes it a little bit more difficult right before Christmas but we’ll be excited for the challenge.”

For now, it looks like LIU has started to press the right buttons in order to turn around what was a tough start to their season and finish the month out strong as the team closes out non-conference play and heads into what could be a rather unpredictable conference season.

LIU would love to ride this current momentum into January but two tough games remain before the start of conference season. UNH will be a tough challenge for LIU to keep this winning streak going. At least for now, the 0-6 start is starting to fall deeper behind in the rear-view mirror.