One of my favorite basketball writers, John Gasaway, has a weekly piece entitled "Tuesday Truths" in which he analyzes the major conferences based on each teams Efficiency Margin.
Efficiency Margin, in short, is the difference between a team's offensive efficiency and its defensive efficiency. Essentially, it's scoring margin but adjusted for pace of play, and is a great way to compare intra-conference teams during conference play.
So let's get to it, using Efficiency Margin as the backdrop for this week's TBDD NEC Rankings.
1. Sacred Heart (4-2, EM: 13.1)
This mark's the 3rd rankings update in NEC play, and the third team to ascend to the top spot. The Pioneers are currently tied for 2nd in record, but have by far the league's best efficiency margin thanks to the 2nd most efficient offense and the 2nd best defense (in conference play).
Sure, I'd like to see them win a road game (they are 0-2 away from Fairfield), but no team is playing as well as the Pios are. I'm all in
2. Robert Morris (5-1, EM: 7.7)
The Colonials lead the league in defensive efficiency, but have been below average offensively. However, Andy Toole's defense has led RMU to the best road mark in the NEC (3-1). Starting your conference slate with 4 of your first 6 games on the road is no easy task. Starting 5-1? You're for real.
3. St. Francis-Brooklyn (4-2, EM: 3.4)
The Terriers are winners of three straight, and all three were super impressive; St. Francis University and Sacred Heart at home, and LIU-Brooklyn on the road.
4. St. Francis University (3-3, EM: -0.4)
I don't get it. The Red Flash looked so good in the 2nd half at CCSU, then they blow a big lead in a defeat at Bryant. They're another team that has started with 4 of 6 on the road, and I'm still buying the talent.
5. Fairleigh Dickinson (2-4, EM: 3.3)
How does a team currently tied for 8th have the 4th best Efficiency Margin? The Knights' lost one game in double OT (CCSU) and another by just two points (LIU-Brooklyn), while both of their wins were blowouts. The toughest part of their schedule is over, and Kenpom has them favored in nine of their final 12 games.
6. LIU-Brooklyn (3-3, EM: -0.4)
All three of their conference losses have come to teams I have ranked ahead of them (SFU, SFC, SHU), two of them at home.
7. Wagner (3-3, EM: -3.5)
I had the Seahawks ranked #1 last week, and they went out and laid an egg last week; not only did they lose twice, but they allowed 1.10 PPP in a home loss to Mount St. Mary's, then got hammered by Sacred Heart by 24 points. That defense has generally been very good, but they need to figure out how to score consistently.
8. Bryant (3-3, EM: -6.0)
How about the job Jared Grasso has done? After the Bulldogs finished 2-16 in the league last season, Grasso already has his third conference win just six games into the season. Having the league's worst defense isn't going to allow them to go on some incredible run any time soon, but they'll pick some teams off when they're offense is clicking (like it was Monday against St. Francis U.).
9. Central Connecticut (2-4, EM: -9.2)
On Saturday, the Blue Devils looked primed to make a run; they were on a two-game winning streak and were up 8 early in the second half against pre-season favorite SFU. Then, things went south; the Red Flash eventually came back and won by 11 in Detrick Gym, and on Monday Central Connecticut showed little fight in a home loss to Robert Morris. Oh, and they're best player (Tyler Kohl) took just two shots and was benched for the final seven minutes of the game.
According to Bart Torvik's "Game Score", six of CCSU's best seven performances came in November. I'm depressed.
10. Mount St. Mary's (1-5, EM: -8.5)
I certainly didn't expect the Mountaineers to go winless in league play. But never in a million years did I think they'd win on Staten Island.