NEC First Look: Saint Francis U.

This is the fifth of our NEC First Look series in which we take a early glance at all ten Northeast Conference men’s basketball teams for the 2015-16 college basketball season. Here are my first four posts on CCSUBryantSt. Francis Brooklyn and Sacred Heart.

Gone:

Earl Brown (F) – All-NEC first teamer last season. Career-high 15.9 ppg to go along with his 8.0 rpg. Started every game for last two seasons for Red Flash.

Dominique Major (G) – 4.7 ppg last season. Shot a career-low 29.7% from the field. Played in 31 of 32 games.

Stephon Whyatt (G) – 2.7 ppg last season in 23 games played. Averaged just under 11 minutes per game.

Ollie Jackson (G) – Started in 31 of 32 games last season. Averaged 7.6 points and 1.3 assists. Shot 38.9% from three.

Michael Clark (F) – Played in 12 games as a freshman. Scored six points and grabbed six rebounds the entire season. Transferred.

Additions:

Scott Meredith (G)
Isiah Blackmon (G)
Josh Nebo (F)
Jammal King (G)
Ifeanyi Umezurike (C)

Pluses:

The Red Flash finished with a .500 record both overall and in the NEC last season. It was their first non-losing record overall since 2004-05 (15-13) and in the NEC since 2009-10 (9-9). Head coach Rob Krimmel has guided the Red Flash in the NEC tournament in each of the last two seasons and their 5-seed last season was their highest seeding since 2004-05.

Saint Francis U. has one of the best returning point guards in the NEC in Queens, NY native junior Malik Harmon. Harmon improved his shooting percentage last season to near 40 percent from the field. Harmon will likely have a bigger offensive role next season with departures of Ollie Jackson and Earl Brown. Another key returnee is senior forward Ronnie Drinnon. He saw his numbers jump last season in both scoring and rebounding even though his shooting percentage took a nosedive down to 41.8% from 52.1% the season before.

Defensively, the Red Flash finished first in the NEC in scoring defense, allowing 64.1 points per game. They finished second in points per possession allowed at 0.99, trailing only St. Francis Brooklyn. They were just one of three NEC teams last season to hold opponents to under one point per possession.

Minuses:

Rob Krimmel will need to fill in some major holes left behind by the graduations of four seniors which includes the departures of All-NEC first teamer Earl Brown and Ollie Jackson. Brown, who improved himself each season at Saint Francis, will have his loss felt most. Brown accounted for nearly 25 percent of their offense and 27.8 percent of their rebounding last season. Without Brown and Jackson, who himself started 31 of 32 games and was their second best three-point shooter last season, the Red Flash will need to find other options to get scoring and rebounding.

One thing the Red Flash were bad at last season were getting to offensive rebounds. They were 323rd in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, collecting just 25.7 percent of their misses. Opposing teams also had a fairly easy time scoring two-point baskets against the Red Flash as teams shot 50 percent from inside the three-point arc.

Potential Starting 5:

Greg Brown (G) – Averaged 8.2 points and 2.4 assists last season. Started 31 of 32 games. Shot 50.4% from the field and 38.6% from three.

Malik Harmon (G) – Averaged 9.7 points, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals last season. Started 29 of 32 games. 39.6% field goal shooter last season.

Ben Millaud-Meunier (G) – Finished sixth on the team in scoring at 5.5 points per game. Played 15.5 minutes per game coming off the bench. 34.6% shooter from three last season.

Basil Thompson (F) – Played 242 minutes last season, tops among SFU freshman. Averaged 3.1 points and 2.1 rebounds in his freshman season. Made three starts in 23 games.

Ronnie Drinnon (F) – Made 27 starts in 29 game appearances last season. Averaged 8.1 points and 7.8 rebounds. Nine games of double digits rebounds to go along with his three double-doubles last season.

Early Outlook:

Expectations were high for Saint Francis before the start of last season being that they were bringing everyone back. That is certainly not going to be the case heading into this upcoming season. Some including myself felt like the Red Flash underachieved a bit during the regular season although they did reach the NEC tournament semifinals for the second consecutive season. With some impact personnel losses, is hard not to see this team take a step back a bit this upcoming season. They should have enough juice in that lineup to get some wins and make it back to the NEC tournament once again but I think it is going to be a challenge. They are going to need big years out of Harmon and Drinnon I believe just to stay competitive and be in the mix for one of those bottom NEC tournament seeds. If any of their newcomers can bring some punch on the offensive end then they might beat early season expectations but until then, I believe somewhere between six to eight conference wins is where they will land.

The Red Flash released their complete schedule for the 2015-16 season. They begin their season at Notre Dame (Nov. 13) before opening their home schedule against Division III Westiminster (Nov. 17). Their Division I non-conference home contests include games against American (Nov. 21), Lehigh (Dec. 2), Duquesne (Dec. 12), and NJIT (Dec. 30). On the road they will face teams like Kent State (Nov. 24), Maryland (Dec. 4) and Albany (Dec. 19). They will open NEC play against Wagner (Jan. 2) and play four of their first six conference games at home. They face NEC defending champions Robert Morris twice in a two-week span (Jan. 30 & Feb. 11) and will close the season with four of their last six games on the road.

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