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The Forecaster: 1/7 & 1/8

Happy New Year!


This Thursday was supposed to mark the first time that all ten NEC teams were to be in action until Fairleigh Dickinson announced a pause due to positive COVID-19 tests within the program. Let's keep our fingers crossed that the rest of the games are played.


All point spreads courtesy of Kenpom

Thursday's Games (1/7)

Central Connecticut at Bryant (-12), 4pm

Mount St. Mary's (-2) at St. Francis-Brooklyn, 4pm

Sacred Heart at Merrimack (-5), 7pm

St. Francis (PA) at Long Island (-1), 7pm

Wagner at Fairleigh Dickinson (-2), 7pm *canceled*


Friday's Games (1/8)

St. Francis (PA) at Long Island (-1), 4pm

Sacred Heart at Merrimack (-5), 4pm

Mount St. Mary's (-2) at St. Francis-Brooklyn, 4pm

Central Connecticut at Bryant (-12), 4pm


Series 2 Watch #1: SFU at LIU

Things 2 Watch

  1. Rust- The Red Flash come into this game having been shut-down due to Covid-19 for most of December, and haven't been on the floor since a 75-57 drubbing at Mount St. Mary's on 12/8. The Sharks, meanwhile, have played just twice this season, splitting a series at Sacred Heart 3 weeks ago. After posting a 20-point win in Game 1, the Pios ran away from LIU in the 2nd game of the back-to-back. It's a reasonable theory that LIU's players weren't in the kind of game shape one needs to be in to play back-to-back nights. It will be interesting to see how both teams bounce back on Friday after not having played much over the past month.

  2. Health- After posting 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists in 56 minutes over hist first ~1.5 games, SFU point guard Ramiir Dixon-Conover missed the entire month of December (3 games) due to an ankle injury. The Red Flash lost all three by 18+ points, and a lot of that had to do with a reliance on a pair of freshmen to handle point guard duties in RDC's absence. A healthy Dixon-Conover could propel SFU toward the top of the standings, based on how they played in their 80-70 win over Pittsburgh on 11/25 (and SFU led UMBC 33-32 at halftime on 11/28 prior to his injury early in the 2nd half). LIU was without three players at Sacred Heart in Mid-December, including wing Virshon Cotton. A 6'2" junior, Cotton shot 34% from deep last season and is expected to be relied upon to knock down shots from the wing. Through two games, the Sharks are making just 25% of their 3-point attempts, so his return could be important..

  3. Size- In the games at Sacred Heart, Derek Kellogg leaned heavily upon lineups that included Jack Ballantyne (6'8"), Ty Flowers (6'9"), and Eral Penn (6'7") playing together over 30% of the time. While they struggled with spacing on the offensive end, playing with that kind of size helped limit the Pioneers to 38.8% from two (45.7% eFG%), including 8 blocked shots (Penn had 4). SFU can also play big with Mark Flagg (6'9"), Tyler Stewart (6'8"), and Myles Thompson (6'6"), though doesn't do it as often (~4.5%). Will Rob Krimmel go big to match the LIU frontcourt, or stick with his more athletic lineups like he did at Mount St. Mary's?

  4. Mark Flagg- The senior big man has been undoubtedly SFU's best player so far this season, putting up a 66.7% eFG%, including 16 of 26 at the rim, and is averaging a team best 12.8 ppg to go along with 7.0 rpg (8th in the NEC) and has 3 blocks. Can he continue to dominate while facing an LIU defense that boasts two very good shot blocks in Penn and Ty Flowers? And defensively, can he stay out of foul trouble? Flagg has avoided foul issues so far this season (3.8 fouls per 40 minutes compared to 4.9 last season).

  5. Ty Flowers- A pre-season All-NEC 1st team selection, LIU desperately needs the 6'9" forward to play like a POY candidate to be able to make a push towards to the top of the standings. After shooting just 29.7% from three last season (after 39.3% as a sophomore), the senior made just 2 of his 7 attempts from deep at Sacred Heart. Hardly a large sample, getting to play at home for the first time this season should help the stroke. Even without being efficient from deep, Flowers averaged 21.5 points and 9 rebounds in his two games so far, and he got to the free throw line 14 times (making 11). If he's making his three-pointers, LIU will be tough to beat.

Series 2 Watch #2: MSMU at SFC

Things 2 Watch

  1. Life without Gibbs- In December, Mount St. Mary's' leading scorer, Jalen Gibbs, announced he was opting out of the remainder of the season, then entered the Transfer Portal. A Redshirt senior who came to Emmitsburg from Drake, Gibbs was was 6th in the NEC in scoring at 16.5 ppg and was playing 35.2 minutes per game, tops on the team. He was 5th in Kenpom's NEC Player of the Year Rankings, and tied for the most PORPAGATU! over at Bart Torvik. Long story short; he was one of the very best players in the Northeast Conference. So how does head coach Dan Engelstad replace that productivity? It's unlikely to come from one player, and instead he will have to rely heavily upon point guard Damian Chong Qui and big-man Malik Jefferson. One reason for optimism; 6'8" George Washington transfer Mezie Offurum. The junior scored just 17 points in his first 4 games, however he exploded for 19 points and 8 boards in their win over St. Francis (PA) back on 12/8. If he can become a consistent scoring threat, they might be ok.

  2. The Tempo- Engelstad appears to have gone "all in" on the "defense first, grind it out" style of basketball; in 2020-21, Mount St. Mary's was 345th in Adjusted Tempo, and this season they're averaging 20.4 seconds per possession, which is the slowest in D-1. On the other side, Glenn Braica has his team getting up and down the court as the Terriers are 31st in Adjusted Tempo. Now, part of that is having played Bryant twice, but they were in the top 70 in Adjusted Tempo last season, so it's no mirage. I love seeing a contrast in styles.

  3. Size Mismatch- As I discussed in regards to LIU, Dan Engelstad loves playing big; lineups consisting of Malik (or Jalen) Jefferson, Mezie Offurum, and Nana Opoku have been on the floor for close to 31% of minutes for the Mount, and it's reasonable to assume that will only to increase now that Jalen Gibbs is gone. And as one would expect, the Mount have dominated the glass (opponents are only rebounding 23.7% of their misses), and their 10.4% block rate is in the top 100 nationally. St. Francis-Brooklyn is all about the "small-ball"; Glenn Braica has his two true bigs, Vuk Stevanic and David Muenkat, on something close to a 60/40 split, with 6'5" wing Travis Atson playing the majority of minutes at the '4'. This has allowed SFC to spread the defense out with shooters and attack the glass, as well as get out and run. Oh, and they have still rebounded the ball well on both sides of the ball.

  4. Travis Atson- Chauncey Hawkins has been a stud for Glenn Braica for 3+ years, but it's been the Tulsa/Quinnipiac transfer who has been the Terriers' best player through 5 games. Atson is putting up some eye-popping numbers early on; 16.2 ppg and 9 rpg (tops in the NEC) while shooting 37.5% from beyond the arc (52.3% eFG%). At 6'5", he's both quick and strong, and has combined with Unique McLean to form a diverse tandem on the wing.

  5. Who's up next on the wing for Mount St. Mary's?- Through 5 games, it's been Leffew who has made the most impact of any freshman on this Mount team after many expected it to be Josh Reaves. A 6'5" sharp-shooter, Leffew has been really good in a limited role; he's made 6 of 16 from deep (10 of 21 overall), which has correlated with an absurd 61.9% eFG% in just under 50% of available minutes. Reaves, a 6'4" freshman, has struggled shooting the ball so far (4 for 15 from three), but offers some ability to rebound and defend. Perhaps the wild card for Engelstad could be Samford transfer DeAndre Thomas. Mount St. Mary's hasn't played since the NCAA ruled that all transfers were eligible, so it's reasonable to assume that the 6'5" combo-guard could play a role this week. Thomas struggled to shoot it last season, but did make 49% of his threes as a freshmen, and could add a scoring punch for the Mountaineers.

 

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