For the second time this year, it has become necessary to think about what Long Island will look like without Julian Boyd. This time, it isn't trouble with the law that is causing it.
Julian Boyd has a torn ACL. His season is done.
This is not a minor suspension against league foes. This is the end of his season, and pending an appeal for another season after this one, possibly the end of his NCAA career.
This makes things a little more difficult for the Blackbirds in the Northeast Conference, but it doesn't make it impossible for them to win the league title again. Given the performances of the players so far this season (and that includes a dismal stretch to begin the year), the team was on track to possibly have three players top the 5.0 HOOPWAR level, a mark that should have had them eying that crown already.
Boyd was one of those players, set to repeat his season of a year ago when he finished as the NEC Player of the Year. This year's performance might have been overshadowed so far by the performance of teammate Jamal Olasewere who has been slightly better defensively, and marginally better overall for Long Island, according to HOOPWAR.
Jason Brickman, who has been underrated as a true point guard in much of the literature that has accompanied this season, has also exceeded maybe the modest expectations put upon him. He is also on track for a 5.0 HW30 eason, after just a 1.7 HW30 mark last year.
Together, Brickman and Olasewere should provide much of the value that the Blackbirds need to continue their run to the title without Boyd. But it will become much more difficult.
The offense should be there. Given the performance of Brandon Thompson in his expanded minutes, Long Island should have enough firepower to continue to score.
The issue really comes with rebounding and the defensive side of the ball. Boyd provided an extra presence inside to clean up the glass. Long Island was already struggling with grabbing offensive rebounds; without Boyd, the potential candidates to help improve in that area are slim.
We also point out the defense because Boyd was performing a major effort blocking shots and getting his hands on the ball. So far this year, he was at a 15.35 DEF100, based mostly on his rebounding skill and blocking ability.
Putting EJ Reed or Khalil Murphy in his place are definitely a step back in terms of the defensive ability they provide over the course of a game. In the limited minutes that Booker Hucks has played, he has been a better option, but we are definitely talking small sample size in this case (just 37 minutes on the season).
The bench was already a little thin at the forward position which could result in Long Island needing to play more "small ball" if the frontcourt players get into foul trouble. That wouldn't be an enjoyable situation, but at least the Blackbirds have had a couple of shooters emerge.
As Nick pointed out, we will likely learn a lot about the tactics that Long Island will employ long term during the next game against St. Peter's. Saturday's win over Manhattan without Boyd didn't necessarily tip their hand because the news was so fresh -- you can make adjustments for a single game that don't necessarily carry forward.
The St. Peter's game will be the first where they will have had time to fully adjust to the loss of Boyd and what it means for the rest of the season. Only then can we see the real impact and rotation shuffling that will occur for the long haul.