Yes, I do still exist! It's all about absence making the heart grow fonder... or grad school making writing harder. One of the two. Anyways, I figured I would fold my recap of the first full week into an update of the power rankings I did in the preseason, which may have been a tiny bit wrong. So as a refresher, here is how I ranked the squads heading into the season many moons ago;
1. Central Connecticut State; 2. Bryant Bulldogs; 3. Robert Morris Colonials; 4. Wagner Seahawks; 5. Mount Saint Mary's Mountaineers; 6. Long Island University - Brooklyn; 7. Saint Francis Brookyln Terriers; 8. St. Francis (PA); 9. Sacred Heart Pioneers; 10. Fairleigh Dickinson
I know it's early, but I think a few things are evident already. First, I wildly overestimated Central Connecticut (and Kyle Vinales) as far as their ability to score their way out of trouble.Their great numbers last season hid their streaky play, and that has yet to change at all this year. I also horribly underestimated Jason Brickman and Dyami Starks' ability to lead their teams, and never saw Wayne Martin coming. Allow me to rectify these errors with my first real, actual-information based ranking of the season.
1. Robert Morris - Welcome to the Karvel Anderson Show, ladies and gentlemen.
O.K., that's rather hyperbolic of me, but it does just so happen that Anderson has 42 points and has made 7-of-12 from long-range in the Colonials' two wins, and only 13 points (shooting 3-of 10 on threes) in their lone loss. They eventually pulled away from Savannah State, then had to charge from as much as 11 down to topple Lafayette.
Against Eastern Michigan, the Colonials were up by as many as 11 in the first half, but had to battle back late from a nine-point deficit before the gas ran out. Mike McFadden and Lucky Jones have contributed, but they'll likely need more than that to avoid having this trend continue beyond the Kentucky game. And yes, this is a team that will likely lose badly to Kentucky.
2. Bryant Bulldogs - They've played a couple of quite opposite games thus far - big difference between road games at Gonzaga and Dartmouth - but that doesn't seem to have bothered Dyami Starks, who has scored 35 points twice in as many games. I think it's obvious at this point that Starks is unlikely to maintain this ridiculous pace, but that he and Alex Francis will get theirs. The question is whether Corey Maynard and/or Joe O'Shea (the only other players to do much offensively) can sustain the tertiary production the Bulldogs will need this season.
3. LIU - Brooklyn - February 8th is a date to keep an eye on now. In the Blackbirds' first two games, Jason Brickman has recorded 24 assists; at that pace, LIU's game against Saint Francis (PA) should be the night that Brickman becomes only the fourth player in NCAA history to reach 1,000 assists. Be sure we will be keeping an eye on this.
All those assists have made a big difference to the Blackbirds, who would be 2-0 now if they had been able to turn shut-down defense into a bit more than a 73-72 loss to Indiana (a game they controlled but Brickman couldn't quite finish). Keep an eye on junior transfer Gilbert Parga and fellow junior Gerrell Martin, who are looking to establish themselves as reliable contributors to this offense.
4. St. Francis Brooklyn - The Terriers don't play a home game until Thanksgiving, but are off to a 2-0 start anyway after their season opening road trip to Florida. They started by defeating a rebuilding Miami squad - they missed their first 13 shots but eked out a win anyway, thanks in large part to 17 points and 8 rebounds from freshman Wayne Martin.
Martin also showed up in the subsequent come from behind win over Florida Atlantic - he only scored 12 points for the game, but that included eight of the Terriers' last 13 points, and the game winning lay-up with 32 seconds remaining. There's an outside chance the Terriers won't stay perfect since their road trip will wind up in Syracuse very soon, but undefeated is undefeated.
5. Wagner - You can see the potential here - against Penn State, Kyle Ortiz dropped 20 points, and Mario Moody and Orlando Parker both got within spitting distance of a triple-double, but it's hard to beat any team when you make one shot from the field in the first 10 minutes. The Seahawks evened out at 1-1, though that's tempered by seeing them play Chestnut Hill College at home and nearly frittering away a 21 point lead (all the way down to 71-63) before sealing the win.
It was nice to see Jay Harris contribute against St. John's last night, but hopefully if he continues it his future production can serve some greater purpose than desperation three pointers to keep the Seahawks' margin of defeat under 20 points. It would also be awesome if Naofall Folahan could do more with his size than just occupy space on the court.
6. Central Connecticut State - The good news is, Kyle Vinales is still Kyle Vinales. That also is the bad news. In their opener against Yale, Vinales dropped 30 points, but only six of those points came in the second half, as the Devils were outscored 37-14 in the last 14 minutes to turn a 17 point lead into a 16 point loss.
In their second game, a 35 point loss to Purdue, the pattern continued. Vinales scored 22 points, but only two in the first half, and Faronte Drakeford added 16, but none in the final 19 minutes. This offense appears to be bountiful with streaky scorers, and we'll see if Vinales will share the ball enough for him to average twenty-whatever points and have it actually matter this season.
7. Saint Francis (PA) - This could be a rough season for the Flash. Earl Brown is back and producing to help pick up that slack from last season, but Ben Millaud-Meunier has yet to do anything with his increased role, nor has anyone else shown consistent production for a team that has a narrow win over Navy as the lone win on their ledger thus far. It's true for any team that multiple reliable scoring options are necessary, more so for a St. Francis team whose non-conference schedule only gets more challenging from here.
8. Fairleigh Dickinson - Look at it how you want. I'm sure Greg Herenda will take the positive from the Knights winning their first game of the season for the first time in 11 years, even if it was against Caldwell College. I may choose to see it as a blip for now, as they (and senior Mustafaa Jones) followed it up with a disappearing act against Hofstra, where Jones made a three to give the Knights a 9-8 lead four minutes in. FDU made one more shot over the next eight minutes, while Jones didn't make another basket all night.
After their outing against Hartford, it looks like Mathias Seilund and Sidney Sanders, Jr. might be able to stick as legitimate non-Mustafaa scoring options, but it was rough to see the Knights piss away a 15-2 game-opening run by the end of the half, and then close the game by scoring four points in the last four minutes. Baby steps, guys.
9. Mount Saint Mary's - I'll give credit where credit is due. Opening your season with road games at West Virginia, Villanova, and BYU is a great way to challenge your team, build your reputation and all those positive things. Unfortunately, the Mount has yet to rise to that challenge.
Julian Norfleet has resumed his role as floor leader in Shivaughn Wiggins' absence, however he is the only player on the floor who is both taking and making enough shots to consistently make a difference. Rashad Whack finally showed up offensively against BYU last night, but I don't think it bodes well that Tyler Haws had the night off and the Cougars still racked up 108 points. The Mountaineers have now allowed consecutive opponents to shoot 60% or better from the field, and as any expert will tell you, if you miss the same percentage of shots your opponent makes, you will likely lose.
10. Sacred Heart - The Pioneers' offensive numbers are a bit skewed by heading all the way to double-overtime against Holy Cross, so I won't make too many comments. Louis Montes has been consistent on offense, but the Pioneers blew an eight point lead at the end of regulation against the Crusaders, topped off by Montes fouling out on the and-one that sent the game to overtime (after having only two fouls with 12 minutes to play).
There are signs of life, namely from Evan Kelley and Steve Glowiak, but they need to finish stronger - and Montes needs to stay out of foul trouble - if the Pioneers want to improve on this slow early start.