2017 BHJ’s NEC Postseason Awards

It was another season of change in the Northeast Conference in 2016-17. Only one NEC first-team selection and six players from the three All-NEC teams returned back this season resulting in a new wave of talent getting their opportunity to shine.

After four hard-fought months of basketball and two months of battling each other for NEC supremacy, it is time once again to dish out our version of the NEC postseason awards and gives recognition to all those who had excellent seasons in 2016-17 for their teams.
[Read more…]

2016 NEC Basketball Media Day Notebook

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(Photo: Bob Dea – Blackbirds Hoops Journal)

This past Wednesday, the Northeast Conference conducted their annual NEC Basketball Social Media Day for the fifth consecutive season at the Barclays Center, home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and NHL’s New York Islanders and once again, all ten NEC men’s head basketball coaches were in attendance along a student-athlete representative from each team.

As is the case during the preseason, hope springs eternal and everyone seemed to be in very good spirits as we are just days away now from the start of the 2016-17 campaign.

I got the opportunity to speak to eight of the ten NEC men’s basketball coaches and players with the expectations of Bryant’s Tim O’Shea and Central Connecticut’s Donyell Marshall but I was able to watch NEC Front Row/ESPN3 production put on by the wonderful people at the Northeast Conference after the event and got to hear from all ten men’s basketball coaches and players. [Read more…]

2015-16 Northeast Conference Men’s Basketball Awards Predictions

Another great season of college basketball is about to unfurl as we creep towards Halloween and November which means it’s time to start making predictions for the upcoming 2015-16 Northeast Conference season.

This season, only four of the fifteen players who were named on the three All-NEC teams last season return back as well as just one of the four individual player award winners. This opens up room for some new, young and up-and-coming stars in the conference to begin getting the opportunity for recognition in a league which seems to be once again wide open.

Now, it is time to unveil the Blackbirds Hoops Journal’s prediction for the 2015-16 NEC awards beginning with the All-NEC Rookie Team. [Read more…]

The NEC News Wire – September 23

Ten days now until teams can begin practicing in preparation for the 2014-15 college basketball season. Things are starting to ramp up a bit more and more every week now. Almost all the schedules are out and preseason planning is taking shape. Folks, the wait is almost over.

Here is this week’s NEC News Wire:

– On Monday, the NEC announced that they will be holding their third annual NEC Basketball Social Media Day back at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Tuesday, October 21st. As usual, the event will be streamed live on NEC Front Row starting at 11am. Also for the first time, the event will also air live on ESPN3.

The format will be the same as last year where all ten NEC men’s and women’s head basketball coaches will be in attendance as well as one player from each team. Fans can send in questions and tweets via Twitter and the NEC will once again give out prizes to the day’s best tweeters.

It is also a great event. I’ve been fortunate to attend the first two and I’m greatly looking forward to attending once again this season. It is always fun to catch up with the players and coaches prior to the season.

– Congratulations are in order to Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball head coach Jamion Christian who received a contract extension that will have him under contract until the 2018-19 season. Christian has been the head coach at the Mount for the last two seasons in which he has compiled a 34-31 (.523) record. This extension comes on the heels of Christian taking the Mount to their first NEC championship and NCAA tournament appearance since the 2007-08 season.

Christian and his Mount St. Mary’s squad begins defense of their NEC championship on Friday, November 14th at Arizona.

– A third 2014-15 college basketball preview magazine has hit newsstands as Athlon Sports has released their preview magazine. Here is how they see the 2014-15 NEC men’s basketball season shaping out:

The Athlon Sports College Basketball 2014-15 Preview Magazine (Photo: athlonsports.com)

1. St. Francis Brooklyn
2. Robert Morris
3. Central Connecticut
4. Bryant
5. Mount St. Mary’s
6. Saint Francis PA
7. Wagner
8. LIU Brooklyn
9. Fairleigh Dickinson
10. Sacred Heart

NEC Player of the Year: Jalen Cannon – St. Francis Brooklyn
All-NEC First Team:
Jalen Cannon – St. Francis Brooklyn
Earl Brown – Saint Francis PA
Lucky Jones – Robert Morris
Dyami Starks – Bryant
Kyle Vinales – CCSU

Through three magazine previews here is how they all together see the NEC finishing up (Sporting News/Lindy’s/Athlon):

1. Central Connecticut 2/1/3
2. St. Francis Brooklyn 1/5/1
3. Robert Morris 3/4/2
4. Bryant 6/2/4
5. Saint Francis PA 5/3/6
6. Mount St. Mary’s 4/7/5
7. Wagner 7/6/7
8. LIU Brooklyn 8/8/8
9. Fairleigh Dickinson 9/9/9
10. Sacred Heart 10/10/10

Although two of the mags picked St. Francis Brooklyn to win the NEC, due to Lindy’s giving them a 5th-place finish, it actually gives CCSU a magazine consensus first-place finish with St. Francis Brooklyn finishing second. In my opinion, I believe the mags going with CCSU to have a top-three finish is a bit of a reach and I don’t think anyone who follows the NEC day-in and day-out are going to pick CCSU to win the NEC this season but we shall see as more predictions begin filtering out over the next few weeks.

– There is even more NEC prediction news as Big Apple Buckets’ Ryan Peters on Twitter revealed his picks he submitted to ESPN for their annual conference previews. Here is how Peters sees the NEC going this season, at least for right now.

Last season, Peters picked Wagner (as did I) to win the NEC. Wagner finished second with Robert Morris finishing in first.

– LIU Brooklyn became the ninth NEC team to release their men’s basketball schedule on Monday. Only Saint Francis U. remains as the last hold out to not yet release their 2014-15 men’s basketball schedule. It should be coming out in the very near future.

 

Mount St. Mary’s reaches the NEC mountaintop

Mount St. Mary's is heading back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Mount St. Mary’s is heading back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Congratulations are in order for the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers and second-year head coach Jamion Christian for winning the 2014 Northeast Conference men’s basketball tournament and defeating the top-seeded Robert Morris Colonials on their home court 88-71 on Tuesday night.

The Mount rode the wave of their dramatic 19-point comeback win against St. Francis Brooklyn in the NEC tournament quarterfinals last Wednesday to two huge road victories to get themselves back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008. In fact, in Christian’s first two seasons as head coach of the Mount, they are now 4-1 in NEC tournament road games and have been to two NEC finals and now winning one.

Mount St. Mary's Rashad Whack named 2014 NEC Tournament MVP (Photo: Bob Dea)

Mount St. Mary’s Rashad Whack named 2014 NEC Tournament MVP (Photo: Bob Dea)

The Mount got great balanced scoring from their entire lineup. NEC tournament MVP senior Rashad Whack lead the way with 20 points but they also got major contributions from the other members of the Mount’s “Big 3” with senior point guard Julian Norfleet scoring 17 and senior guard Sam Prescott scoring 15.

Whack was a terror on both ends of the court for Mount St. Mary’s and was well-deserving of the tournament MVP award. He scored 69 points in three games of this NEC tournament and help neutralized the opposition best scoring threat especially in the last two games in hold Wagner’s Latif Rivers and RMU’s Karvel Anderson to a combined 28 points on 10-31 shooting.

Norfleet started off hot from the field especially from beyond the arc, swishing open three-pointers. Prescott played the role of high-post facilitator to perfection. When he was open, he knocked down the elbow jumper all game long and then when the zone collapsed on him, he either found Whack, Norfleet or Will Miller for open shots or pass it down low to the open 7-footer Taylor Danaher for easy layups. They could not have played the RMU 2-3 zone any better. They seemed to find all the open spots and made every single open shot.

Danaher was impressive down low for the Mount with his nice hands and quick shooting. He was a perfect 6 for 6 in the game for 15 points. Jamion Christian inserted Will Miller to hit some open corner threes and that is exactly what he did, making 4 of 5 from the left wing corner. “Coach told me that the corner three would be open all game and they were.” said Miller in the post game interview on NEC Front Row.

So it is on to the NCAA tournament for the Mount as they will likely find themselves on Selection Sunday seeing their names coming up in the First Four bracket in Dayton. Their RPI is 216. Kenpom has them at 207. Their BPI is 221. They have a 16-16 record going into Selection Sunday. The First Four seems like an inevitability. Yet, they are riding a hot wave that might actually get them a win in that First Four game if they can get the right matchup.

Mount St. Mary's Jamion Christian could make a name for himself with a good run in the NCAAs. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Mount St. Mary’s Jamion Christian could make a name for himself with a good run in the NCAAs. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Also, if Mount is capable of making some noise in the Big Dance, they might be more than some eyes at bigger mid-majors looking at Christian as a possible head coaching candidate. Although, I personally believe he needs some more time at the Mount. He still have things he has yet to prove. Can he build a consistent winner and not a team that gets hot in February and March? Can he recruit and retain talent? He has won mostly from a lot of players he inherited from when he arrived. I think these are legit questions which is why I believe he ultimately stays at the Mount for a while. Plus, it would be nice to see the NEC keep their young, talented coaches in the league.

As for RMU, what next for them? It seems like head coach Andy Toole might not be the hot commodity everyone was thinking he would be going into the NEC tournament. Toole is now 0-3 in NEC championship games with one being in his own gym. That still can’t take away from the amazing job he did this season getting a team of just eight players from mid-January on to go 14-2 in the regular season and get them to within a game of the NCAA tournament. Toole might still get some looks but he just won’t be THE hot name had he gotten his team over the hump.

RMU now heads for the NIT where more than likely, they won’t get the fortuitous break of hosting a first-round game against a national powerhouse and defending national champion like they did last season against Kentucky. After the loss to the Mount, it didn’t sound like the RMU upperclassmen wanted to keep playing if it wasn’t an NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, they don’t have much choice.

As for the roster, after the NIT they will lose point guard Anthony Myers-Pate and NEC Player of the Year Karvel Anderson to graduation. They will return Lucky Jones for his senior year and a solid group of returnees with Charles Oliver, Stephan Hawkins, David Appolon and Karon Stewart if they all return. They will likely have a huge class of newcomers coming in with several open scholarships likely available after their suspensions and a couple of players leaving the team. It will be another tall order for Toole next season if he does return to the RMU bench.

Congratulations to both RMU and the Mount for excellent seasons and good luck to them both in their runs at the NIT and NCAAs respectively. Now it is time to pull for the NEC and wish these teams a long and successful postseason journey.

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.”

News and Notes Around the NEC: October 19

In just four short days, we finally get to take the show on the road for the NEC Backetball “Social” Media Day at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It will be my first time visiting the new Brooklyn arena which is not only the new home to the Brooklyn Nets but will also be “home” to key non-conference and conference games for both Brooklyn NEC schools. In three weeks, I will be making my first trip for a game at the Barclays Center when the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds takes on Morehead State at 5:45pm. The Blackbirds will make three visits to Barclays while their nearby rival St. Francis (NY) will make a couple of appearances at Barclays as well with a game against city-rival and Big East big-boys St. John’s and return for a Brooklyn clash with LIU. Brooklyn and the Barclays Center will definitely be a hot spot for hoops all season long. [Read more…]