I'm fresh off my Hawaiian vacation and ready to go all-in on college basketball for the next two and a half months. I'm not sure if my wife is ready, but I'll worry about that later. I spent last Saturday sick in my Maui condo from a stomach bug, listening to St. Francis light up Sacred Heart for 99 points. That didn't make me feel much better! But it gave me an opportunity to study the NEC over the break and provide you with my second edition of the Pioneer Pride Quick Hits. In here, I posted some interesting facts regarding the NEC.
- As a frustrated Sacred Heart fan, the national coverage over the Hurley brothers is starting to get a little nauseating. First an Andy Katz article and now Jim Halley of USA Today. Well I'm here to throw a little cold water on the fire, so take a look at these numbers. Since infamously losing to Wagner in late December, Pittsburgh and Santa Clara have combined to lose nine straight games! Both teams remain winless in their respective conference divisions and have seen their RPI drop substantially as a result. Because of their opponent’s nosedive, Wagner’s RPI (now at 78) has continued to dip - despite their current seven game winning streak - so much so that a NIT bid isn’t a guarantee should the Seahawks fail to win the NEC regular season or postseason championship. Yes, road victories over Big East and West Coast Conference squads are certainly worthy of praise, but perhaps these teams weren’t as good as we originally thought. I may need to revise my NEC greatest victories list in the future.
- The surprise of the NEC thus far has been the performance of the Terriers of St. Francis New York, who were picked 11th in the NEC Preseason Coaches Poll. Stefan Perunicic and Ben Mockford have been hot in conference play, totaling more than 6 three-pointers per game. Freshman Jalen Cannon has been productive in his new starting role, averaging 11 points and 9 boards in his past five contests. So do the Terriers belong in the top tier of the NEC elite? Not so fast. If you toss their blowout loss to Wagner aside, St. Francis has five victories over opponents with a combined NEC record of 7-23. Sure, St. Francis has taken care of business, but they have yet to square off against CCSU, LIU, or Robert Morris. The remaining schedule still isn’t too challenging, but I view them as no better than a five seed come NEC tournament time. Even John Templon of www.nycbuckets.com recently highlighted how lucky St. Francis has been. Let’s see how they respond against Wagner on Thursday.
- Last month, the Northeast Conference announced the creation of a marketing grant intended to improve game attendance for its institutions. An eligible grant of $4,000 will be awarded to each of the twelve schools, and in return the school will set up a program designed to draw more fans to their home games. So far, the NEC’s investment in Sacred Heart has proven to be as prudent as purchasing Italian government bonds. With more than half of the season complete, Sacred Heart is averaging a pathetic 550 fans per home game, good for dead last in the NEC. In contrast, the Quinnipiac Bobcats have drawn a NEC leading 1,863 fans per game – I’m sure in large part thanks to their state-of-the-art TD Banknorth Sports Arena. The attendance numbers should improve for SHU in the coming weeks with school back in session, but I’m guessing that this whole “Heart Attack” student spirit club promotion will be an epic fail. Much like the Green Bay Packers. But look at the bright side, if you are one of the few to attend a game at the Pitt, your odds of winning a giveaway are excellent!
- The NEC season is only a third of the way through, but I'm starting to get excited about Fairleigh Dickenson's quest to infamy! No conference team has ever finished with zero or one conference win at season's end in nearly twenty years, unless you count Bryant's 2009-10 season (which I don't since they're not even tournament eligible until next season). There's still a long way to go and lots of inferior basketball to be played, but for the moment FDU is 0-6 and has the second worst scoring offense in NEC history (57.8 ppg). On the flip side, LIU has a chance to become the first NEC team to average at least 86 points per game in NEC play, since the 1997-98 LIU Blackbirds scored an amazing 94.7 points per game.