If you missed Part 1 of my casual observations of the NEC thus far, click here. Today, I am going to tackle the remaining five teams in the conference. Let's go!
Robert Morris Colonials (2-9):
The wins aren't coming, yet, but the pieces are all there: They have the best player in the conference in senior guard Rodney Pryor, arguably the best head coach in Andy Toole, and have a track record that suggests they'll turn things around come league play. Of course, they'll need to get healthy. With that said, they'll need to get some consistency from junior point guard Kavon Stewart and get all the new faces accustom to their roles.
Pryor has been sensational of late, and has become a factor on the boards for a team that is currently without senior forward Aaron Tate. He's scored in double-figures every single game this season, and has two more double-digit rebound games (3 total) than he did all of last season. Sophomore Elijah Minnie is going to be unguardable by other NEC players, so long as plays within himself, it will go a long way in helping this team make a deep playoff run. In my opinion, this is still the team to beat until someone knocks them off.
Sacred Heart Pioneers (1-8):
Another team that should benefit from playing conference games, or heck even a home game. Sacred Heart will have played just two home games before January 7th, which includes opening league play at Robert Morris. You could have made the argument that a starting five which included junior forward De'von Barnett would have been one of the best in the league, but their outlook still isn't as bleak as their non-conference record suggests.
Sophomore point guard Cane Broome is the best player at his position in the NEC by a large margin, while a newcomer at the other guard slot, Quincy McKnight, has a lot of potential so long as he can stay out of foul trouble. Senior forwards Jordan Allen and Tevin Falzon look like a very formidable frontcourt. The former has become a consistent double-digits scorer, while the latter figures to be bigger factor come January. The loss of Steve Glowiak has limited their options from beyond the arc outside of Broome. I suspect that McKnight won't continue to connect at a .067 the entire season, however.
St. Francis (PA) Red Flash (4-5):
Are we sleeping on this team or are they performing as expected? I am still big on senior forward Ronnie Drinnon being a 15 and 9 guy against conference opponents. Much like the aforementioned Stewart, junior point guard Malik Harmon has been inconsistent and is now at the point in his collegiate career where it’s now or never. Senior guard Ben Millaud-Meunier is putting together a really strong season, statistically, thus far. He's scored in double-figures for four consecutive games; the longest streak of his career. Millaud-Meunier has also more than doubled his career assist average per game, and almost twice as many rebounds. The increase in minutes certainly provided an opportunity, but not every player cashes in. Thus far, Millaud-Meunier has been a somewhat surprise for his team.
A pair of freshman have also been nice surprises. Guard Isaiah Blackmon is currently fourth on the team in scoring at 9.4 points per game, but has cooled off as the month has gone on. Forward Josh Nebo is second on the team in rebounding at 5.8 per contest. He's also the only player on the team to average over one block per game. St. Francis (PA) hasn't enjoyed a rim protector in recent seasons, and his addition should alleviate the weight on Drinnon's shoulders in the paint.
St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers (3-7):
The loss of sophomore point guard Glenn Sanabria to shoulder surgery has pushed this team into the bottom three teams in the league, in my opinion. Their best scoring option, senior guard Tyreek Jewell, is probably the most inconsistent leading scorer for a team in the NEC. Roughly 40% of this field goal attempts are three-pointers, and he's connecting at a 25% rate; that's not good. The Sanabria injury has also forced head coach Glenn Braica to insert junior guard Yunus Hopkinson into the starting lineup, which hurts their depth.
Maybe senior forward Chris Hooper can continue to make strides as one of the few options in the paint on the offensive end, but that's a lot to ask from a guy who’s never been in that role. Fellow senior forward Amdy Fall will be a presence defensively, but he's never averaged more than five attempts per game; he'd be an unlikely source of offense at this point in his career. Look, when you lose last year’s NEC Player of the Year in Jalen Cannon and my pick for MIP (Most Important Player) in Brent Jones, you're going to take a step backwards. No one is out of it in mid-December, but it seems a lot more far-fetched things have to go right for this team than others.
Wagner Seahawks (5-3):
Where was this Corey Henson last year when he was on my fantasy team? The sophomore guard is still adjusting to being much higher on the opposing teams scouting report, but has done an admiral job accepting that role. He's yet to have a game with more turnovers than assists and has reached double-digits in the scoring column in six of the team’s eight games. Along with the rise of Henson, the loss of Marcus Burton has been eased by the return of senior guard Dwaun Anderson, who played just six minutes last year. Good for at least one SportsCenter Top-10 dunk per season, Anderson has scored in double-figures every game this season. He's probably better off realizing his destiny as the conferences version of Ismail Muhammad and lay off the three-pointers, but his return is most welcome for a team that needed some consistency on the perimeter in the wake of Burton's departure.
The track record is there for senior forward Mike Aaman to turn things around once league play starts, provided he stays healthy. Wagner has a handful of contributors elsewhere, and have found some success this month with their starting lineup that consists of four guards, and bringing forwards off the bench. They have the best defensive efficiency in the league, and have four home victories and one on the road, which is better than just about everyone else. Only time will tell if this team is a true contender, but if they continue to defend at a high level and get a few more guys that can put the ball in the basket, they'll be in the mix.