Welcome all to 2015. Another year is in the books and another exciting season of Northeast Conference basketball is about to tip-off. The NEC thankfully returns back to an eighteen-game schedule now with a true home-and-home schedule.
Before we get into all the excitement of what could be an action-packed and tightly competitive NEC men’s basketball season, I wanted to reevaluate all ten NEC teams and put out my mid-season NEC power rankings and see which I believe now will compete for an NEC title or which teams are going to struggle to make the NEC tournament.
BHJ’s Mid-Season Power Rankings
(10) Central Connecticut – I’m sorry to say this because this team was picked third in the NEC Consensus Poll and second in the NEC Coaches Poll but that was with Kyle Vinales playing and a healthy Malcolm McMillian. Vinales senior season never got started and McMillian has played just two games this season. Plus other guys have had to missed time. Things are just looking bleak up in New Britain. It is hard to see this team finish above the cellar this season.
(9) Wagner – This is a young team that had to play all of the non-conference without junior Dwaun Anderson. They will get Anderson back soon as he is now practicing but it may take him some time to get back in shape and be an impact player. They will be a better team I believe with a healthy Anderson back. Without him, Wagner hasn’t been very good. Their defense which used to be a strength of theirs in last couple of seasons has really taken a hit this season. I think they will get some wins in conference and fight for a bottom NEC tournament spot but I don’t think it is going to be easy.
(8) Fairleigh Dickinson – I like this FDU team and they are going to win some games in conference. They are going to play hard every game and they could end up being in every game. I think they could surprise and finish higher than eighth but at the moment I think this is the right spot for them. Darian Anderson has been a great get for Greg Herenda’s team.
(7) LIU Brooklyn – Right now, I think this is a good spot for LIU. They are starting to find cohesion and the freshmen have started to get more comfortable. Outside of Zanna and Atterberry, the lack of size could hurt them especially if Feidanga’s ankle injury continues to linger. The defense has been a surprise at how well it has been for most of non-conference. It is the offense that has been slowly getting up to speed and that isn’t a surprise due to the youth of this team. They are certainly capable of finishing higher, it all depends if they can play consistently.
(6) Mount St. Mary’s – I think the Mount is probably the hardest team to figure out after the non-conference season. They played so many guarantee games against much better competition, it is hard to get a gauge on how this team is going to perform once conference play starts. I think they will follow the script of the last two seasons under Jamion Christian. They will start off slow and then start picking it up midway through and could be a tough team to beat by the end of the season. So if they finish sixth, it is no big deal.
(5) Bryant – Bryant has looked less than stellar for the most part this non-conference season. They have just three wins but they are all decent wins. They have played just nine non-conference games as they will play two more in the middle of conference play. The big thing Bryant has going for them is that they still have Dyami Starks who is a 20-point a night scorer and when he is on will have them in most games. They also may have the best student crowd in the NEC. I think they will still compete for first round home court.
(4) Sacred Heart – The surprise team of the non-conference is easily the Sacred Heart Pioneers. Anthony Latina has the pieces now to implement the fast style of play he wants to play and they are having success. The players leading the turnaround are two young guys in De’von Barnett and freshman Cain Broome who led all freshman in scoring with over 14 ppg. Add assist-man Phil Gaetano, three-point bomber Steve Glowiak and the addition of Jordan Allen to the interior and the Pioneers now has a team that will compete for a top-four spot in the NEC and have put themselves on the contender list for an NEC championship.
(3) Robert Morris – I’m not going to lie, I have been less than impressed by what I’ve seen for the most part from RMU in the non-conference. They did play a tough non-conference schedule but what has me cautious about RMU is that their defense is not as good as we have grown accustomed too and their offense has yet to hit their stride. Lucky Jones, if the season ended today would not be on the All-NEC first team. He has been outplayed by two first-year teammates in transfer Rodney Pryor and freshman Marcquise Reed. If Jones gets it together and the defense gets back in order than RMU should compete once again for an NEC title. If not, it is not a stretch they won’t even get a home game in the NEC tournament.
(2) Saint Francis U. – I liked this SFU team in the preseason so for me it was no surprise they played very well in non-conference including getting the NEC’s first win ever against a Big Ten team when they beat Rutgers a couple of weeks ago. Earl Brown is an NEC MVP candidate. Ronnie Drinnon is third in the NEC in rebounding. Malik Harmon is backing up his solid freshman season with a stellar sophomore season. They are a very good defensive team and are holding teams to 98.1 points per 100 possessions. I see them continuing to play solid during the conference season and fighting with RMU and St. Francis Brooklyn for the top seed.
(1) St. Francis Brooklyn – The Terriers started off slow like 0-5 slow. But since that start they have gotten things together and have won six of their last eight games including three in a row with impressive victories over Monmouth on the road and Columbia at home. Their play of late I think propelled them back as the team to beat in the NEC. Jalen Cannon is probably at the moment, the NEC MVP. Brent Jones is having a great senior season. Recently, it has been another freshman in Glenn Sanabria who has been the spark plug off the bench and has been a legit scoring option. Plus with the return of Amdy Fall and the eventual return of Kevin Douglas and this team should still be the team to beat.
Early season Awards if the season ended today….
Rookie of the Year: Cane Broome, Sacred Heart. Although I think LIU’s Elvar Friðriksson and Nura Zanna, RMU’s Marcquise Reed and FDU’s Darian Anderson will give him a run for his money.
Most Improved Player: Matt Mobley, CCSU. This will likely be a two-man race between Mobley and FDU’s Mustafaa Jones.
Defensive Player of the Year: Amdy Fall, St. Francis Brooklyn. I think he is the runaway choice at the midway point.
Coach of the Year: Anthony Latina, Sacred Heart. Right now, this is his to lose. Other candidates: SFBK’s Glenn Braica, SFU’s Rob Krimmel, LIU’s Jack Perri.
Most Valuable Player: Jalen Cannon, St. Francis Brooklyn. Presently, I believe it is going to be a three-man race between Cannon, SFU’s Earl Brown and Bryant’s Dyami Starks.
All-NEC First Team:
Jalen Cannon, St. Francis Brooklyn (F)
Earl Brown, Saint Francis U. (F)
Dyami Starks, Bryant (G)
Brent Jones, St. Francis Brooklyn (G)
Matt Mobley, Central Connecticut (G)