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NEC preview: Darian Anderson, Rob Krimmel headline league preseason awards

NCAA Basketball: Fairleigh Dickinson at Rutgers Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

As the season preview continues, here are the preseason awards for the NEC. The league is coming off an offseason in which it was hammered by transfers, a few of which would’ve been favorites for player of the year had they returned. Instead, below are who we have tracking for honors in the NEC.

Player of the Year:

Darian Anderson, Fairleigh Dickinson

The FDU guard is entering his senior year in Teaneck, and coming off a very efficient junior year in which he averaged 17.0 points and 3.6 assists per game. On defense, he led the conference in steals per game (2.0 SPG), with 58 total on the season. He also has the third-highest player efficiency rating (20.7) of all NEC returners.

Due to departures from last year’s team, Anderson will be relied on even for more production. He already led the team in percentage of possessions used per KenPom last season. But with starting point guard Stephan Jiggets gone, Anderson -- who was primarily a shooting guard — will be handed the keys to the team. His numbers should only improve for a team that figures to be a league factor in 2017-18.

Newcomer of The Year:

Tyler Plummer, Wagner

Wagner got a steal with the late signing of three-star prospect Tyler Plummer. The Canadian played last season at Athlete Institute Prep, which featured four other players bound for Div. I schools, including Syracuse and Georgetown. Plummer averaged 16.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, and was also named the team’s defensive player of the year.

Adding a player of Plummer’s ability could prove to be a key replacement after Wagner lost key forward Mike Aaman last season. He may have to compete for a spot early on, but his ability to play efficient two-way ball should make him a big contributor immediately.

Coach of The Year:

Rob Krimmel, Saint Francis PA

Rob Krimmel took over a struggling St. Francis program in 2012 and finished 5-24. Last season, St. Francis finished with its best record under Krimmel (17-17) and reached its first conference championship game since 1991. It was also the Red Flash’s first time winning at least 17 games since 1997-98.

So why does Krimmel deserve this preseason award? It’s because he largely preserved a team in a conference in disarray due to transfers (besides losing key player Josh Nebo). He’s turned the program around, and his team has the most experience and talent returning in the NEC. If everything goes to plan, Krimmel will lead the Red Flash to their first NCAA Tournament since 1991.

First Team

Darian Anderson, Fairleigh Dickinson

See above. Anderson’s productivity and playmaking ability are enough to keep the Knights’ in the NEC hunt this season.

Keith Braxton, Saint Francis PA

If someone argued that Braxton should be NEC preseason POY, it would be understandable. Braxton averaged 13.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game as a freshman last season. The reigning NEC ROY will be the floor general for the NEC preseason favorites, and will have all eyes on him as the season begins.

Isaiah Blackmon, Saint Francis PA

Blackmon joins his backcourt counterpart for first team honors. He led the team in scoring as a sophomore, averaging 13.7 points per game last season. One area to watch is Blackmon’s playmaking ability, as he averaged only 1.4 per assists per game a year ago, but conversely did take great care of the ball with just a 14.0 percent turnover rate.

Junior Robinson, Mount Saint Mary’s

Robinson may be the shortest Div. I basketball player, but he also has some of the best pure athleticism and basketball IQ in the NEC. Robinson has a great ability to find his teammates, and can torch opponents from both beyond the arc (39.8 3P%) and at the free throw line (86.8 FT%).

Joseph Lopez, Sacred Heart

This is admittedly a dark horse pick, but Lopez should make the jump from all-NEC third team, as he was named a year ago. He was one of the league’s most efficient players last season, finishing in the top-five in many statistical categories, including leading the league in field goal percentage. Add in the fact that he is the top big man on the team with the best front court in the league, and he should be a double-double machine.

Second Team

Jashaun Agosto, LIU Brooklyn

Agosto, who was in the running for NEC Rookie of the Year last season, looks to start 2017-18 right where he left off. Agosto will be a key cog for the Blackbirds after losing Jerome Frink and Iverson Fleming, who were used in over half of the team’s possessions combined last season. That should mean a big jump in production for Agosto.

Mike Holloway Jr., Fairleigh Dickinson

Holloway averaged 11.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game last season and led the team in field goal percentage (56.6%). Look for him to produce even more this season as he leads the charge in FDU’s frontcourt. With great strength and athleticism in the paint, he’s one of the more imposing big men in the NEC.

Romone Saunders, Wagner

Saunders could very well be the most underrated player in the NEC. He only played in one game last season — the opening upset win over UConn — before missing the rest of the year with a foot injury. He has a career scoring average of 8.8 points per game, but dropped in 15 in that lone appearance in 2016-17. If he can play the whole season and stay consistent, we could be looking at a potential POY dark horse.

Tyler Plummer - Wagner

Our NEC Newcomer of the Year makes his way on to the second team. Plummer enters the NEC as a higher-rated recuit than the average NEC player, and played against elite high school competition. This should make for a smooth transition to Div. I basketball.

Adam Grant, Bryant

Grant will be Bryant’s top returning scorer (13.4 PPG). As a freshman he was named NEC Rookie of the Week twice, and also ranked second in the league in minutes played. He will be looked upon to step up even more this season with the departure of league leading scorer Nisre Zouzoua as he tries to lift Bryant into the upper half of the conference.