Mid-Major Top 10: Northeast Conference

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Several of the conference's best players left last season, and another almost left but changed his mind the next day. So where does that leave us now? Top heavy, that's where.

An awful lot of talented players left the Northeast Conference at the end of last season, from Shane Gibson to Kinu Rochford and a whole mess of players in between. The player rankings might surprise you given the preseason team rankings I made, but a talented bunch of players and a successful team aren't always the same thing, as numerous sports teams have shown us in the past.

That said, how does the top Northeast talent stack up heading into the season?

1. Karvel Anderson (Robert Morris) - 12.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg

Anderson's numbers are not all that impressive overall, unless you consider the fact he maintained that scoring pace all season despite playing the last six weeks with a broken wrist. He is fully healthy and will likely be the Colonials top scoring option this season, and I imagine he will contribute an even greater performance with full-time minutes given what a strong shooter he is.

2. Jalen Cannon (Saint Francis Brooklyn) - 14.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg

Cannon was a strong presence down low and one of very few bright spots for the Terriers last season. He needs to continue to work on both his ability to get to the free throw line and his ability to convert once he is there on a consistent basis, and he will hopefully benefit from the continued growth of Ben Mockford (who just missed out on this list) as a fellow offensive threat to draw defenses away from him.

3. Lucky Jones (Robert Morris) - 11.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg

Jones struggled to stay out of foul trouble on occasion last season, and his defense needs to improve because he is better when he's aggressive on the offensive end. Overall, he was a serious enough threat from long-range as to make teams game plan for it, but he generally performed better when he was attacking to get high percentage shots and free throws off the misses. He can't afford to do that if he's not defending clean at the other end, and if those two things can happen, Colonials fans will quickly forget the seniors they lost last season.

4. Kyle Vinales (Central Connecticut State) - 21.6 ppg, 3.8 apg

Here is your second leading scorer (by a hair) in the conference last season, so why is he starting off fourth on this list? Efficiency, of course. Vinales played - and shot the ball - the most of anybody in this group. When you are averaging 18 shots (and seven three-point attempts) per game, it shouldn't be surprising for you to crack the national leaders in scoring if you possess some ability. Now that he's done toying with the idea of leaving for Toledo, if he can learn to share a little more (it isn't like Matt Hunter and Terrell Allen are chopped liver, themselves) and keep his scoring up with a reduced number of shots, he could quickly take his team to the top of the conference with him.

5. Jason Brickman (LIU - Brooklyn) - 9.6 ppg, 8.5 apg

Easily the best point guard in the conference, Brickman will not just be running the offense this season; this is essentially his team until Julian Boyd does/does not return after the New Year. He was an excellent distributor and was always able to capitalize on the remaining offensive scraps when he was playing with Boyd and Jamal Olasewere as the primary options. Will he have new weapons to work with this season, or will he be forced to play the role of alpha dog this season? Brickman is a strong player, but he'll need something around him for help.

6. Alex Francis (Bryant) - 17.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg

Francis improved across the board last season. Well, ok, almost everywhere, but perhaps we can live with a mediocre free throw shooter (67%) becoming a little more mediocre (61%) if he's still able to produce at a borderline double-double-per-night pace. I might have him higher, but he has the benefit of multiple talented teammates (Dyami Starks, Corey Maynard and others) and should, in turn, continue to produce at this rate. Unless Al Skinner has the Midas touch?

7. Rashad Whack (Mount Saint Mary's) - 13.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg

After wasting away on the end of George Mason's bench, Whack came to the Mount and made a big difference in his first season of playing time. He was not the most efficient shooter by a long shot, but he improved as the season went along, averaging 17.1 ppg and 4.2 rpg over the final 12 games of the season, including a 35 point performance against Sacred Heart. If his improvement can continue then he should join Julian Norfleet and Sam Prescott (look out below!) in making a strong core for Mount Saint Mary's to work around this season.

8. Louis Montes (Sacred Heart) - 14.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg

As Montes has grown with this team, his game seems to have traveled inside, and his outside shot seems to have vanished in the process. The Pioneers are going to either need him to rediscover that shot or have someone else pickup the slack now that Shane Gibson is gone. It remains to be seen how much of Montes' success is due to being the second option in that offense, and this season will give us a good indication of what he's really made of.

9. Dyami Starks (Bryant) - 17.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg

Much like Vinales, Starks is a serious weapon because he scores a lot - but he also shoots a lot, and therefore doesn't do as much with as little as teammates Francis or Maynard (whom I almost put on this list instead). If he can be a little more selective with his outside shot, perhaps the Starks we saw to close out the season (18.4 ppg over his last 12 games and sniffing 30 points several times) will be a big part of Bryant winning the conference once all is said and done.

10. Sam Prescott (Mount Saint Mary's) - 11.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg

Prescott came to Mount Saint Mary's from a strong but not outstanding showing at Marist two years ago, and he improved just a bit across the board. Much like Whack - unsurprising given the time to learn a whole new set of teammates and offense and the like - Prescott also improved late in the season, finishing with a 44 point game against Bryant that started a season ending nine game run of 15.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.8 apg and 1.8 spg. Prescott was all over the stat sheet late in the season, and could be primed for a big year in his senior season.

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