Checking In On… the NEC

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2011

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.

 

Looking Back

The pre-2012 portion of the Northeast Conference schedule didn’t give us a whole lot to discern, with a couple of exceptions. Defending conference champ Long Island will once again be a tough out for rival foes. Central Connecticut State appears to be a threat with more players stepping up to help standout guard Ken Horton. Robert Morris has its young talent playing well and Wagner, despite having the “luck” to open the conference season at LIU, gave the host Blackbirds all they could handle. At the start of the season, I labeled Wagner (7-2) as a dark horse for the NEC title. Now, they are getting referenced in the same sentence as “contender.”

Leading Off: On December 6, Wagner defeated a talented Hofstra squad (58-43) in Staten Island, signaling another solid non-conference win for Danny Hurley and company. Meanwhile, King Rice earned win number one on the season as Monmouth nipped Navy (69-67) in Annapolis on Tuesday.

Player of the Week:  Ken Horton, 6’8″ Sr. F, Central Connecticut State – Has averaged 31 points in the Blue Devils’ two NEC games so far, highlighted by an impressive 32-point outburst against Bryant. Horton was dangerously effective inside (nine rebounds) and out (6 of 10 from three).

Rookie of the Week: Lucky Jones, 6’5″ Fr.  G/F., Robert Morris – Jones averaged 12.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in the Colonials’ two wins. Ironically, a product of New Jersey and famed high school national power St. Anthony’s, Jones face off against the Garden State’s two NEC schools.

Central Connecticut State's Ken Horton is averaging a conference-best 22.5 points per game so far this season (ccsubluedevils.com)

Power Rankings

  1. Central Connecticut State (5-3, 2-0): Earned a road win at Bryant before defeating Sacred Heart at home in overtime. Ken Horton (22.5 PPG), Robbie Ptacek (21.3 PPG) and Kyle Vanales (20.0 PPG) not only pace the Blue Devils in scoring, but the entire NEC. Ptacek, who has tallied 21,177 career points, moved ahead of his coach, Howie Dickenman, on the school’s  all-time scoring list.
  2. Long Island (5-4, 2-0): Lost at Iona before defeating Wagner and Mount St. Mary’s at home. Junior forward Jamal Olasewere averaged 18.3 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game during the three-game stretch. Julian Boyd, another junior, also performed well during the stretch (15.3 PPG/9.3 RPG).
  3. St. Francis (PA) (2-7, 2-0): Dropped a non-conference tilt to Niagara before sweeping Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickinson to jump out to a 2-0 conference mark. Anthony Ervin (9.4 PPG/4 RPG) has been a real spark off the bench. Ervin scored 19 points against FDU, his third consecutive double-figure scoring outing coming off the bench. A good omen? Since 2000, each time the Red Flash began NEC play 2-0, they finished .500 or better in conference.
  4. Robert Morris (7-3, 2-1): Defeated FDU and Monmouth at home in conference play. Redshirt junior guard Velton Jones averaged 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3 steals per game during the two wins. Sophomore guard Coron Williams, another redshirt, scored 19 points in the win over FDU. Defensively, the Colonials have been excellent. Through the first eight games of the year, Robert Morris has held opponents to an average of 25.9 points in the first half.
  5. Wagner (7-2, 1-1): Tough assignment to start NEC play. The Seahawks dropped the opener at LIU in a hard-fought game before coming home to earn a convincing win over St. Francis (NY). Jonathan Williams (17.0 PPG), Tyler Murray (16.5 PPG), Chris Martin (12.0 PPG) and Latif Rivers (10.0 PPG) exemplified Wagner’s balance and production as all four players averaged double figures on the week. The win over St. Francis (NY) snapped a five-game losing streak against the Terriers.
  6. Sacred Heart (5-5, 1-1): Scored a big win at Quinnipiac before dropping an overtime heart-breaker at Central Connecticut State. Junior Shane Gibson notched a season high 32 points against Central Connecticut. Junior guard Justin Swidowski, one of the NEC’s best shooters and rebounders, recorded a double-double (21 points/10 rebounds) in the Central Connecticut contest.
  7. Quinnipiac (4-4, 1-1): Lost to Lehigh before splitting a pair of games in conference play. The Bobcats dropped a decision to Sacred Heart before defeating Bryant. Senior guard James Johnson scored 25 points in the loss to Lehigh. Ike Azotam (18 points/16 rebounds) had his fifth double-double of the season in the loss to Sacred Heart.
  8. St. Francis (NY) (2-5, 1-1): Defeated Mount St. Mary’s on the road before dropping a one-sided affair at Wagner. Sophomore guard Ben Mockford led the way with 19 points in the win over Mount St. Mary’s. Mockford was 5-13 from three in that game and is the NEC leader from deep as the sharpshooter is averaging 3.14 treys per contest. Dre Calloway is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Senior Justin Newton filled in for Calloway at the point during the win over Mount St. Mary’s.
  9. Fairleigh Dickinson (1-7, 0-2): Dropped games on the NEC “Western Swing” with losses to St. Francis (PA) and Robert Morris. In the four-point loss at St. Francis, the Knights did manage to shoot their season best from the field (57%). George Goode enjoyed a career-high effort (21 points, 12 rebounds) in that contest.
  10. Mount St. Mary’s (1-7, 0-2): Lost the NEC opener at home against St. Francis (NY) before dropping a road game at Long Island. Senior Danny Thompson scored a career-high 21 points at LIU. Thompson added seven rebounds and four steals. The senior currently leads Mount St. Mary’s in scoring (10.1 PPG) and rebounding (8.4 RPG).  Despite the loss to LIU, “the Mount” committed only seven turnovers (20 turnovers per game this season).
  11. Bryant (1-8, 0-2): Fell to Central Connecticut State and Quinnipiac. Sophomores’ Alex Francis and Corey Maynard were bright spots. Both averaged 15 points during the two games.
  12. Monmouth (1-8, 0-2): The Hawks were swept at Robert Morris and St. Francis (PA). Tough going in King Rice’s first season. Monmouth has led only eight minutes, five seconds during its first eight games. Being away from home hasn’t helped — Monmouth’s first home game of the season is December 10.
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