Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Around the NEC

Weekly look at the Northeast Conference - and what to expect from the conference brethren in the upcoming week.

Since this is the first installment, I'll take a look at each school up to this point

Fairleigh Dickinson (1-4, 0-0) - The Knights haven't gotten off to the best of starts with only one win in five tries. However, it does seem like they may be playing a little bit above expectations to this point. They lost a pair in the preseason NIT and I'm sure would have liked to be a little bit more competitive in at least one of those. However, they responded with a tough win at Lafayette, before dropping their last two on the road at Rider and St. John's, which probably would have been considered bonuses if they got W's.

Manny Ubilla and Sean Baptiste have done the bulk of the scoring averaging 19.6 and 17.0 ppg, with Baptiste bringing in 6 boards a contest. Freshman John Galvin had big games against Siena (20) and Lafayette (19) and has been effective in just over half a game.

The Knights don't play again until they start conference play next Thursday versus Monmouth.

Wagner (3-2, 0-0) - The Seahawks have probably been the most surprising team of the bunch so far. The schedule has sort of been designed to allow them a decent start, but they have taken advantage. They won at Lafayette, and at home against William and Mary and Bucknell. They dropped a home encounter to Manhattan and lost at St. Peter's.

They've had three different players lead them in scoring in the first five contests and currently have five players averaging 9 points or better. Durell Vinson leads the way at nearly 15 per outing while snagging 9.4 rebounds.

The Seahawks are on the road for a pair of matchups with Ivy League schools this week traveling to Brown on Wednesday, before visiting Yale on Saturday.

St. Francis NY (2-3, 0-0) - After starting the season so terribly last year, the Terriers have been a decent basketball team over their last fifteen or so games. They have carried that into this year.

Senior Robert Hines has been in double figures every time out and averages 21.2 a night to provide most of the offense. Jamaal Womack, Kayode Ayeni and Marcus Williams have provided the offensive balance behind Hines. But it is clear that Hines is the dominant player and may end up challenging for the top scoring honors in the league.

The Terriers have gotten wins over Hartford and Hofstra, and dropped contests with Manhattan, St. John's and a tough three-point defeat at Maine.

St. Francis has home games with Fairfield and a good Ohio squad this week.

Robert Morris (3-2, 0-0) - On the surface the Colonials have probably been the most impressive team in the conference notching three wins and an overtime loss at unbeaten Seton Hall. They probably have taken over the favorite category at this juncture.

They own wins over Iona, Howard and on the road at Navy, with the other loss coming to Drexel.

As expected the Colonials have been led by the trio of Jeremy Chappell, AJ Jackson and Tony Lee. Lee has been extremely impressive adding 6.8 rebounds and assists per game to his 11.8 points.

The Colonials are back on the road again this week with a pair of games. They travel to Florida International for a mid week game and then to Fordham over the weekend. I'm sure they'd be happy with a split.

Central Connecticut (1-4, 0-0) - Nobody really expects too much out of the defending NEC champs this year. And thus far they aren't providing too much excitement. But they've had chances to win more than the 1-4 indicates, yet they haven't accomplished it yet. The lone win is a three-point win at Binghamton, while they've lost to two other America East squads New Hampshire and Albany. They also opened the season with a loss at Princeton and most recently fell at Lafayette by 17.

Tristan Blackwood and Joe Seymore are the only two Devils averaging in double figures at this point. But freshman forward Ken Horton has been in double figures the last three games including a career high 21 in the win over Binghamton.

CCSU travels to LaSalle on Wednesday before returning home for a date with Lehigh this weekend.

Monmouth (2-3, 0-0) - Perhaps the Hawks found their game in the Virgin Islands. After losing their first three games of the year, Monmouth won their final two on the island with quality wins over Wichita State and Charlotte.

Jhamar Youngblood is improving upon his freshman season and leads the Hawks with 16.4 per outing. But he has taken fewer shots as the season has worn on and thus far it has been a positive for Monmouth.

The Hawks are at St. Peter's tomorrow night and open conference play on Sunday versus Sacred Heart.

Long Island (3-1, 0-0) - The Blackbirds have put up the conference's best showing thus far, in terms of wins and losses. After opening the season with a blowout loss to Notre Dame, Jim Ferry's crew has rebounded to win three straight. The level of competition has been somewhat soft, but its three wins. The victories have come against Army, Columbia and a struggling Canisius.

Senior Center Kellen Allen has averaged 14.3 points per game in just over 22 minutes matching him for the top scoring slot with Kyle Johnson. Johnson, a freshman from Canada, has seen his point total grow in each of the 'Birds four games, notching a high of 18 last out versus Canisius.

They get a chance to notch a more quality win this week with a trip to St. John's before hosting Hartford. LIU would be in good shape to be above .500 by the end of the week.

St. Francis (PA) (0-5, 0-0) - The Red Flash is still looking for its first win of the season, having lost four times by 10 points or less.

Chris Berry and Cale Nelson combined for 43 points in the Flash's loss to Lehigh, making 8 of 15 three-pointers between them. Berry is the only Flash player to average in double figures thus far this year at 13, while picking off better than 6 boards a game. Nelson averages nearly 5 assists.

PA will get their chance at their first win when Youngstown State visits on Wednesday before heading to Bucknell on the weekend.

Mt. St. Mary's (0-4, 0-0) - The Mounties are also in search of victory for the first time this year after a disappointing home loss to American on Monday.

The Mount started the season with a pair of losses to A10 competition, losing at George Washington and to Lasalle at home. They fell to 0-4 with 2 losses in 3 days. After a solid performance in defeat at an improving James Madison, the Mount struggled mightily at home.

Chris Vann is fourth in the NEC in scoring averaging 17.3 per night. Vann had a long double digit scoring streak snapped in the loss to American. Jeremy Goode, who missed the opener, scored a career high 27 versus JMU and led the Mount again against American. He also averages 7 assists per night.

The Mount plays rival Loyola on Saturday night (a game available on MASN) and then travels to Navy on Monday evening.

Sacred Heart (0-6, 0-0) - Nothing has gone right for the Pioneers who were expected to challenge for the NEC crown by many at the start of the season. SHU has averaged just less than 60 points per night while struggling to shoot the ball early.

The schedule has not been easy, but the league favorite has to win some of these games. It's tough to believe the Pioneers will still be winless at the end of the week as they have three shots at victory with a road games at Princeton and Monmouth, and a home game with Columbia.

The Pioneers haven't gotten consistent scoring from anyone and don't have a player averaging in double figures. Senior Drew Shubik is fourth in the NEC with 2.3 steals per contest.

Quinnipiac (1-3, 0-0) - The Bobcats have lost three straight since a season opening win over Hartford, all against America East competition.

Demario Anderson is the conference's leading scorer and is averaging 21.5 per night. His 29 point 10 rebound effort versus Maine is one of the conference's top performances of the season.

The Bobcats will look to end the losing streak at Lehigh on Wednesday, before hosting Brown on Monday.

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