NEC preview part IV: predictions

This is part four of a four-part NEC basketball preview, where Chris and Lee make their predictions on the conference. If you missed part one, previewing the “bottom five” teams of the conference, click here. If you missed part two, previewing the “top five” of the conference, click here. If you missed part three, previewing Robert Morris, click here. Previous rankings were reflective of the preseason coaches poll.

Lee Kunkel:

1) Robert Morris
2) LIU Brooklyn
3) Mount St. Mary’s
4) Bryant
5) St. Francis Brooklyn
6) St. Francis PA
7) Sacred Heart
8) Wagner
10) FDU

Player of the Year: Rodney Pryor, RMU
Coach of the Year: Jack Perri, LIU
Rookie of the Year: Isaiah Still, RMU
Defensive player of the Year: Amdy Fall, St. Francis Brooklyn
NEC title game: Robert Morris over LIU Brooklyn
Chris Cappella:

1) Robert Morris
2) Mount St. Mary’s
3) Bryant
4) Sacred Heart
5) LIU
6) St. Francis Brooklyn
7)St. Francis PA
8) Wagner
10) FDU

Player of the Year: Gregory Graves, Mount St. Mary’s
Coach of the Year: Jack Perri, LIU
Rookie of the Year: Matty McConnell, RMU
Defensive Player of the Year: Tevin Falzon, Sacred Heart
NEC title game: Robert Morris over Bryant

Chris Cappella: The time we’ve all been waiting for. Part four of this long-ass NEC season preview. NEC PREDICTIONS!

We have so much to touch on Kunkel. I can’t believe we both took Jack Perri to win coach of the year. I was sitting at work earlier and was sold I was going to surprise you with that pick. Turns out, you like LIU even more than I do. Let’s kick things off with a little LIU and Sacred Heart talk. What do you like about the Blackbirds?

Lee Kunkel: I’ll admit I’m a bit higher than most on LIU, but I think they are “back” after a few down years. I love their roster, and nobody will add a better player to their roster this season than LIU with Jerome Frink. The FIU transfer is the real deal, and gives the Blackbirds the best frontcourt in the league in my opinion. They gained so much experience last season and looked pretty good doing so, winning eight NEC games with one of the youngest rosters in the league.

The loss of point guard Elvar Friðriksson hurts, and made me hesitate to make the pick, but I think Perri finds a point guard (possibly juco transfer Aakim Saintil) to put around an otherwise deep and solid roster. Nura Zanna is a monster down low, and should only get better. Martin Hermannsson could become a top tier guard. I understand it’s a bold prediction, but I think the RMU/LIU rivalry will be rekindled this season.

CC: Nelson Castillo of Blackbirds Hoop Journal approves of this preview.

Listen, I like LIU, but I just don’t know how they’re going to score this year. Does Zanna put it together? That would be a good place to start. The point guard situation is a little dicey, but I actually think the combo of Iverson Flemming/Hermannsson/whoever could be serviceable. I especially like Hermmannsson, who can play on and off the ball, shoot a little from downtown and plays hard on the defensive end.

I don’t follow recruiting and such too much. That’s why I wasn’t the greatest fit at Rivals. Frink has pretty good numbers at FIU. I’m sure they’ll get at least a few impact players from their recruiting class, because Perri has done an outstanding job the last few years. But the offense scares me. No Friðriksson, no Martin, I’m not sold on Zanna as an offensive threat and so here we sit.

I will tell you the team I LOVE. The Sacred Heart PIONEEEEEEEEEERS. Ryan Peters of NYC Buckets approves of this preview now too!! Lee, tell me how a team with one of the best guards in the conference (Cane Broome) and the defensive player of the year (Tevin Falzon) doesn’t get an NEC home game.

LK: First let me say this. I don’t think there is a lot of separation from one to seven. Most teams lost a lot of talent, and have a good amount of question marks. I worry about the loss of Phil Gaetano. He was a great point guard and made that offense go. I might of had them in the top four if De’von Barnett would not have been lost for the season because of injury. He is a first or second team NEC type of player.

I’ll ask you think Chris. Where will the scoring come from on the nights Broome is off, or the opposing defense swarms him? I don’t see this being a top tier defensive team or overly dominate on the glass than say Mount St. Mary’s or LIU. According to KenPom this defense gave up over 107 points per-100 possessions. That won’t win many games if there isn’t significant improvement, especially when you couple in the loss of Gaetano, Barnett and throw in Evan Kelly while you’re at it.

CC: It starts and ends with sophomore combo guard Cane Broome. I went from “meh” on Broome to all-in in the span of about three weeks. The digger you deep, the better he gets. The loss of Gaetano will hurt at first, but Broome is going to take over more of the ball handling duties. He finished top 15 in assists in the NEC last year. Those types of numbers give me hope. I’m always in favor of young guards being in control.

The loss of Barnett (torn labrum) will sting. In my opinion, he’s the second best power forward in the league. However, I love Tevin Falzon, who is the best rebounder in the league and a guy I think wins defensive player of the year. He cleans up the boards for a few put backs, you let Broome do his thing, and hope someone steps up in the backcourt (Chris Robinson?).

Speaking of impact transfers, Sacred Heart should have one in Matej Buovac, a 6-7 forward who should be able to spread the floor. He was buried on the New Mexico State depth chart a few years ago. Also, don’t sleep on Jordan Allen, who quietly shot 60.7 percent from the floor last season. It might take a lot to go right (there’s no depth) but I believe! I believe in you Cane Broome and Jordan Allen! Let’s do this.

LK: Chris, we both have St. Francis Brooklyn going from 15 win NEC regular season champ to playing a road game in the NEC tournament first round. Are we underestimating the Terriers?

CC: It’s tough to say. No Brent Jones, who was the best PG in the league last year, and no Jalen Cannon, the best overall player. With that being said, I think Glenn Sanabria could step in and be one of the three best point guards in the league this year. I definitely like him more than, say, Malik Harmon. As for replacing Cannon, Chris Hooper, Amdy Fall and a few other players can at least be serviceable. There’s no doubt that they won’t be able to mimic what those two brought offensively, but they should still be tough.

As for the other St. Francis, I’m all out. They lost their best player (Earl Brown) and best perimeter shooter (Ollie Jackson). They might have some good three point shooters, but all of them disappointed last season. Even with Brown and Jackson, they were a five seed. They straight up don’t scare me. Thoughts?

LK: I don’t think I could have said it better myself. I’m really interested in tracking St. Francis Brooklyn in the non-conference season to see how they have adjusted. Sanabria looks like he could be really good. If we had a “first team NEC deep sleeper” he would be my –and probably many other’s– choice. As for the Red Flash, you have to wonder if last year was this teams chance. They beat RMU (finally) early in the season and looked dangerous. Then they stumbled to the finish. Losing Brown is a punch to the gut. I just don’t see them finishing in the top four.

Before we go, a few more questions. We both have CCSU and FDU missing the NEC tournament as the bottom two teams. Neither was even close to making it last year. Can one make the end of season interesting?

CC: Probably not.

LK: You’re harsh…but likely accurate. Those rosters stink.

CC: No offense to FDU and CCSU, but they’re significantly worse than the other eight teams. At least Wagner has an identity as a big team that will beat the shit out of you for 40 minutes. Mike Aaman can beat up on some bad teams during NEC play. CCSU and FDU literally have one player, combined, I’m interested in watching this year — FDU forward Marques Townes. Other than that, I’m out. Howie Dickneman is still really at CCSU? C’mon.

LK: Moving along, let’s touch on the reason we’re all here. We both have Robert Morris winning the league and making the NCAA tournament. What team scares you the most as we speak, if you had to choose one to avoid in the NEC tournament?

CC: Bryant. They lost Dyami Starks, who averaged 18.6 points-per-game last season, but he was terribly inefficient for the most part. I don’t think losing him will be a big deal. Without Starks, they can spread shots around to a loaded roster. Guards Hunter Ware and Zach Chionuma can ball a little, while the frontcourt is loaded with Bosco Kostur, Dan Garvin and Andrew Scocca.Starting point guard Shane McLaughlin is also back for his senior year. I’m surprised they aren’t getting more respect.

LK: Man you aren’t lying. Nobody loved hoisting it more than Starks. He was a good player, but a gunner. I still think Mount St. Mary’s would be the most difficult matchup. Thier press is one thing RMU would handle well with Kavon Stewart slicing it up like a hot knife through butter, but they have a very solid roster, and some big time size.

CC: Like we said in the RMU preview, the Colonials look like they have the best player, a top point guard, a top forward (Elijah Minnie) and definitely the best coach. We’ll come off as homers, but that’s a good formula to return to the big dance.

Thanks for reading our previews. Holler at us on twitter @C_Cappella and @Kunkel5. You can also follow staff writer @cmuellerRMU.


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