What to watch for: NEC opens play

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The NEC opens up conference play Saturday.

Slate of games:

There are some really good matchups to start 2016, all of which can be found on NEC Front Row.
-LIU Brooklyn at Mount St. Mary’s
-Central Connecticut State at Bryant
-Wagner at St. Francis PA
-Sacred Heart at Robert Morris
-Fairleigh Dickinson at St. Francis Brooklyn
LIU Brooklyn at Mount St. Mary’s is a 2 p.m. tip. SFC vs. FDU is a 4:30 p.m. tip. The rest of the games start at 4 p.m.
The early game might be the best game of the day. You could make the argument that LIU looks like the best team in the conference through 11 games. They went 6-5, with four of those losses coming by a combined 23 points. 
It’s not just the scores, but the Blackbirds look like they have some serious NEC talent. Aakim Saintil might be the best point guard in the conference. FIU transfer Jerome Frink might be the best forward in the conference. Sophomore guard Martin Hermannsson could push for the 50/40/90 club in confernce play. 
Mount St. Mary’s, of course, was the preseason number one as voted by the coaches. They went 3-10 in non-conference play, at times looking like the team everyone expected before losing a few bad ones the past two weeks. They enter today’s game on a four game losing streak. 
Mount St. Mary’s is four point favorites, according to KenPom.
Wagner at St. Francis PA should be another good one. Wagner went a surprising 7-4 in non-conference play, and did it mostly because of the emergence of guard Corey Henson. Wagner is also proving to be one of the better defensive teams in the country. 
St. Francis PA went 4-7 in non-conference action, but did play a much tougher schedule. The matchup to watch in that one is SFU’s Ronnie Drinnon vs. Wagner’s Mike Aaman. Aaman was a beast in NEC play last season, proving to be one of the few guys with a legitimate post game. He’ll try an emulate that success again after a bad start to the year. 
St. Francis PA is favored by one point, according to KenPom. 
Finally, the headliner (at least for the purpose of this blog) is Robert Morris vs. Sacred Heart.

Tale of the tape


Robert Morris (2-11) vs. SHU (1-10)
KenPom: RMU 275, Sacred Heart 286
KenPom Line: RMU-5
Sacred Heart is led by sophomore combo-guard Cane Broome. Broome leads the team in minutes (37.1), points (19.9 ppg), assists (3.0), steals (1.8) and is second in rebounds (5.1). When you’re talking about the five best players in the conference, Broome is one of them. 
SHU does not defend the three point line well. Opponents are shooting 39.6 percent as a team, 322 in the country. That’s a big advantage for Robert Morris. Outside of Brome, they don’t really have another go-to scorer. Guards Jordan Allen (12.2 ppg) and Quincy McKnight (11.2 ppg) are second and third on the team in scoring, respectively. 
This doesn’t mean RMU can sleep on SHU’s forwards. Tevin Falzon is a proven veteran who will play with a  ton of energy, block shots and rebound the hell out of the ball. New Mexico State transfer forward Matej Buovac is coming off his best game of the year on Dec. 28 at Hofstra, where he had six points and eight boards. He can shoot it from three, too. 
The Colonials also have this going for them:
This is one Robert Morris should get. They’re more talented, but a lot of their efforts have to go towards slowing Broome. 

Predictions:

–Chris Cappella
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