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NEC Power Rankings: RMU Remains Unbeaten, Bryant Stays Close

Every team in the NEC has played six games. Where does each team stand as we approach the halfway point of conference play?

Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE

1. Robert Morris Colonials (11-10, 6-0)

Robert Morris is the only unbeaten team in the NEC, despite recently suspending four players.  Their 6-0 start in conference play is the best start in school history.  RMU has already defeated Bryant on the road earlier this month, and beat Wagner at home this past Thursday.  Senior guard Karvel Anderson is currently 2nd in the NEC in scoring at 23.3 points per game, through six conference games.  He leads all players in three-point percentage at 53.5%.  The Colonials will face Bryant this Thursday at home at 8pm; the game will be televised on ESPNU.

Last Week: W 91-65 vs Sacred Heart, W 74-70 vs Wagner

This Week: 1/30 vs Bryant, 2/1 vs Central Connecticut State

2. Bryant Bulldogs (13-8, 5-1)

They'll have a chance to avenge their lone NEC loss this Thursday in what is shaping up to be the biggest conference game thus far.  They have two of the top-three scorers in the conference in junior guard Dyami Starks (20.5 ppg) and senior forward Alex Francis (19.1 ppg).  Bryant started NEC play 6-0 last year before stumbling to a 6-8 finish, which included a loss in the first round of the CBI Tournament to Richmond.  A win over Robert Morris on Thursday would help boost their confidence, and steer the Bulldogs in the right direction as they reach the midpoint of NEC play.

Last Week: W 87-79 vs LIU Brooklyn, W 83-79 vs St. Francis Brooklyn

This Week: 1/30 at Robert Morris

3. Wagner Seahawks (9-10, 3-3)

At 3-3, Wagner finds themselves currently tied for 4th in the NEC standings, despite being the preseason pick to win the conference.  The Seahawks are perhaps the most athletic team in the conference, and have the biggest frontline.  Three players are currently in the top-10 in rebounds per game: junior forward Mario Moody (6.7), senior forward Orlando Parker (5.4), and senior center Naofall Folahan (5.3).  Folahan also leads the conference with 2.5 blocks per game.  Wagner also has two-time defensive player of the year in senior point guard Kenneth Ortiz.  The Seahawks might be down, but certainly aren't out.

Last Week: L 87-83 vs Central Connecticut State, L 74-70 at Robert Morris

This Week: 1/30 at LIU Brooklyn, 2/1 at St. Francis Brooklyn

4. Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (8-12, 4-2)

Fairleigh Dickinson was picked to finish last in the NEC in the preseason poll.  Clearly, they don't care what everyone else thinks.  Senior point guard Sidney Sanders Jr. does everything for FDU: he leads them in scoring (19.2 ppg), assists (5.8 apg), and steals (2.1 spg).  If the Knights finish strong, he'll have a chance to be the NEC Player of the Year.  They still have to play Wagner twice, Bryant once more, and Robert Morris before conference play ends.  Only time will tell if this team is for real, or just a one-man band.

Last Week: W 86-85 vs St. Francis Brooklyn, W 86-73 vs Central Connecticut State

This Week: 1/30 at Mount St. Mary's, 2/1 at St. Francis (PA)

5. St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers (12-9, 3-3)

KenPom has them ranked 88th in adjusted defense, but unfortunately for St. Francis, they are ranked 300th in adjusted offense.  Their defense helped propel them to a 3-1 start in NEC play, but back-to-back road losses to Fairleigh Dickinson and Bryant have brought SFC back to earth a little bit.  Junior forward Jalen Cannon leads the team in scoring at 15.9 points per game, and is second in the conference in rebounds at 8.6 per game.  If they can fix their offensive woes, they'll have a punchers chance if they make the NEC tournament.

Last Week: L 86-85 at Fairleigh Dickinson, L 83-79 at Bryant

This Week: 1/29 at Sacred Heart, 2/1 vs Wagner

6. Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers (7-12, 3-3)

The Mount's "Mayhem" defense hasn't yielded the kind of results head coach Jamion Christian was hoping for thus far.  In just six NEC games, MSM ranks 6th in the conference for adjusted defense, per KenPom.  A bright spot for the team has been senior point guard Julian Norfleet, who has taken his game to another level this season.  He leads the team in scoring (18.3 ppg), assists (5.5 apg), and steals (1.7 spg).  This upcoming week will be a good indicator of where this team really is heading into the halfway point of conference play.

Last Week: W 83-77 at St. Francis (PA), L 75-71 at LIU Brooklyn

This Week: 1/30 vs Fairleigh Dickinson, 2/1 vs LIU Brooklyn

7. LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds (7-12, 2-4)

It's been a disappointing season thus far for LIU Brooklyn.  They have represented the NEC in the NCAA Tournament for the last three years, but the graduation of four starters coupled with the loss of senior forward Julian Boyd to an ACL injury has really hurt the team.  Senior point guard Jason Brickman is leading the nation in assists per game at 9.8, but the team lacks a dominant scorer.  There is plenty of time to make up ground, but early losses to conference favorites Wagner and Bryant aren't helping.  They still have to play Robert Morris twice, and have home games against the aforementioned favorites.

Last Week: L 87-79 at Bryant, W 75-71 vs Mount St. Mary's

This Week: 1/30 vs Wagner, 2/1 at Mount St. Mary's

8. St. Francis (PA) Red Flash (4-15, 2-4)

St. Francis is struggling right now, obviously.  However, they beat the two teams ranked below them already, so I gave them the nod here.  Junior forward Earl Brown leads the team in scoring (15.5 ppg) and the conference in rebounds (9.7 rpg), but outside of Brown, only freshman point guard Malik Harmon is stepping to the forefront.  Through six NEC games, the team ranks 1st in effective FG% defense and 2nd in offense, per KenPom.  But, they don't do the little things particularly well: worst in offensive rebounding %, second-worst in turnover %, and second-worst free throw %.

Last Week: L 83-77 vs Mount St. Mary's, W 68-66 vs Sacred Heart

This Week: 1/30 vs Central Connecticut State, 2/1 vs Fairleigh Dickinson

9. Central Connecticut State Blue Devils (5-14, 1-5)

An improbable win on the road against Wagner gave Central Connecticut the edge over Sacred Heart.  Other than that, it's been a really bad year for a team picked to finish 5th in the preseason polls.  Much like LIU Brooklyn, CCSU has been bitten by a little bit of bad luck: senior guard Matt Hunter was ruled academically ineligible in late December, and then junior guard, and leading scorer, Kyle Vinales broke his ring finger on his shooting hand.  All of that occurred before conference play, and has certainly contributed to their poor start.

Last Week: W 87-83 at Wagner, L 86-73 at Fairleigh Dickinson

This Week: 1/30 at St. Francis (PA), 2/1 at Robert Morris

10. Sacred Heart Pioneers (4-17, 1-5)

The highlight of Sacred Heart's season thus far is probably an overtime loss on the road to Boston College back in late November.  There simply aren’t a lot of good things you can say about a team that is 4-17 and 1-5 in the NEC.  Through six conference games, SHU ranks last in the NEC in adjusted defense, effective FG% defense, two-point and three-point % defense, per KenPom.  The loss of three-time All-NEC selection (two first-teams, one second-team) Shane Gibson certainly hasn't helped.  Also, senior guard Evan Kelley was leading the team in scoring at 14.1 points per game, but separated his shoulder in late December and hasn't returned yet.

Last Week: L 91-65 at Robert Morris, L 68-66 at St. Francis (PA)

This Week: 1/30 vs St. Francis Brooklyn