The NEC continues to be weird, with seven teams within two games of first place Robert Morris, and no teams officially eliminated from the regular season title with just eight games remaining.
Let's get right to it, with the TBDD NEC Rankings for Week 5:
1. Robert Morris (7-3)- The Colonials come back to the pack after going 0-2 this past week. But Bobby Mo fans shouldn’t be too worried; losing by three at home to SFU, then in double overtime at Fairleigh Dickinson is nothing to hang your heads over. Their opponents shot 18 for 34 from three on the weekend which seems…unsustainable, especially for that defense. Robert Morris has a great chance to be 10-3 on 2/16 going into their rematch with the Red Flash; their next three consist of home games against Bryant and Central Connecticut, then a road tilt with Mount St. Mary’s.
2. Sacred Heart (6-4)- Quick, which team is allowing the fewest points per possession in the NEC? No, it’s not Robert Morris or Wagner. It’s the Pios! In the non-conference, SHU allowed an adjusted defensive efficiency rating of 113.9, which was 335th out of 353 D1 teams. In NEC play, however, they’re allowing just 96.2 points per 100 possessions. What a turnaround by Anthony Latina. After getting swept on the western PA roadtrip last week, Sacred Heart picked up their first road win (over Mount St. Mary’s), and handily beat St. Francis-Brooklyn by nine.
3. Fairleigh Dickinson (6-4)- After starting 1-4, the Knights are now 6-4 with a win over first place Robert Morris, and boast the league’s best offense at 110.1 points per 100 possessions in NEC play. They’ve been cleaning up at home; they’re 4-1 with the lone loss being in double overtime to CCSU, and have been arguably the league’s best team over the past two weeks. Thursday’s road tilt at Sacred Heart is Huge!
4. St. Francis-Brooklyn (5-5)- Which team has had the most difficult schedule in the NEC to date? That trophy undoubtedly goes to the Terriers; they’ve played just three home games (against RMU, SFU and SHU, no less), and have also had to travel to Teaneck. The fact that they’re .500 in league play is pretty impressive, if you ask me. They’re coming off a rough week in getting swept by the Connecticut schools, but all of their losses were expected (4 roadies and the home game against Robert Morris). They’re next four are at home, and could clean up over the next two weeks.
5. St. Francis U. (6-4)- Don’t look now, but the pre-season favorites are winners of their last three, and that includes a road win over 1st place Robert Morris on Thursday. So why aren’t they higher? I have major concerns about a defense that is allowing 106 points per 100 possessions in league play (2nd highest in the NEC), and they’re just 2-2 at home. I still think they have a title run in them, but I need to see a little more before the sneak into the top tier. However, they should be 8-4 (they host Bryant and CCSU this week) heading into a road game against Fairleigh Dickinson on February 14th.
6. LIU-Brooklyn (4-6)- The Blackbirds most certainly did not enjoy their weekend, getting swept by FDU and Wagner, though the latter game didn’t include Jashaun Agosto. The talent is undeniable on this roster, yet they’ve lost 4 of 5 and they’ve not been nearly as good offensively as one would have expected (they’re shooting just 30.5% from three in league play).
7. Wagner (5-5)- The Seahawks have been the league’s most inconsistent team so far in league play; they have impressive road wins over SFU and CCSU (80-58!), yet also own home losses to Bryant and Mount St. Mary’s. Offensively, they own the league’s worst efficiency rate at just 97.2 points per 100 possessions, and if you are able to shut down Romone Saunders, you effectively shut down the team.
8. Bryant (5-5)- After getting that aforementioned road win at Wagner, the Bulldogs suffered a heart-breaker in New Britain, getting outscored 16-2 over the final 5.5 minutes in a 64-59 loss. The schedule makers were kind to first year head man Jared Grasso, as Bryant got 6 of their first 8 games in Smithfield. They still have road games against some of the league’s top teams (RMU, FDU, SFU, SFC), as well as a home game against Sacred Heart. But they have a good chance to qualify for the NEC Tournament, and I’d bet Grasso would have signed for that prior to the season.
9. Central Connecticut St. (4-6)- A huge week at home has brought the Blue Devils back to life, as they swept St. Francis-Brooklyn and Bryant at home. However, I still have major concerns about an offense that scored just 0.94 PPP against a porous Bryant defense, and has only scored more than 1.00 PPP once in their last six games. A 4-game road trip looms, and they probably need to steal at least one to have any shot at getting into the league’s tournament.
10. MSMU (2-8)- I probably could have made the Mount its own tier, but I’ll leave them here for now. Dan Engelstad’s squad has come back down to earth, losing three straight home games to both St. Francis’, and Sacred Heart, which has essentially taken them out of the running for a tournament berth. Five of their final eight games come away from home, and they also have home games against Robert Morris and Fairleigh Dickinson.