This Week in the NEC

    
December 8th, 2009
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One weekend through NEC play is now in the books and the question is which happening is more of a surprise: Saint Francis (PA) tied atop the standings at 2-0 or Mount St. Mary's tied at the bottom with a 0-2 record? I'd go with the former given the Mountaineers' slow start last season, only to end up playing for the conference's NCAA berth in March. We know that Milan Brown's team will be heard from by season's end with players such as Jeremy Goode and Jean Cajou leading the way. As for the Red Flash, Devin Sweetney is once again leading the way but unlike last season he's got some help.

Freshman guard Anthony Ervin averaged 13.5 points per game in the two wins and as a team Don Friday's club has become a better defensive team while also playing more efficiently on offense. It remains to be seen if the Red Flash can keep this up once league play resumes at the end of the month but at least they're off to a good start. As for the Blackbirds, Jim Ferry's team won the games they were supposed to, beating both Bryant and Central Connecticut State at home. Jaytornah Wisseh may be the headliner but there's also two talented freshmen in Kenny Onyechi and Jamal Olasewere to account for. Olasewere, who was Choice Hotels NEC Rookie of the week, averaged 11.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in the aforementioned victories.

Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac are also undefeated, playing one league game apiece last week. Corey Hassan (SHU) and James Feldeine (QU) are two guards who should be in the running for all-conference honors at season's end and the Bobcats have one of the best forwards in the NEC in Justin Rutty. CCSU and St. Francis (NY) each emerged with a split, with the Blue Devils earning their win over the Terriers while SFNY beat Bryant on Saturday. Brian Nash's team is a bit deeper but if you follow the NEC you know it isn't wise to underestimate a Howie Dickenman-coached team.

Four teams are at the bottom of the standings without a conference victory and the aforementioned Mountaineers being the most surprising of the quartet. The Mount is far too talented a team to be stuck at or near the cellar for the duration of the season. Fairleigh Dickinson has talent, most notably explosive guard Sean Baptiste, but as their loss to Quinnipiac showed they're going to need some other options to become consistent weapons if they're to get back into the NEC Tournament.

Bryant is ineligible for the league tournament but they've got the ability to keep someone else out of it; Tim O'Shea's Bulldogs let one slip away at St. Francis (NY) on Saturday. As for Wagner, Mike Deane's squad essentially has the same problem as Bryant: they simply lack the horses needed to make an impact on the conference race. With conference play being shelved until the end of the month it feels a lot better to be a team with a pair of wins as opposed to a pair of losses.

Standings
                          Conference        Overall
Long Island               2-0              4-3
Robert Morris             2-0              3-4
Saint Francis (PA)       2-0              3-5
Quinnipiac                 1-0              4-3
Sacred Heart              1-0              4-3
CCSU                        1-1              2-4
St. Francis (NY)          1-1              2-5
Monmouth                 0-1              2-6
FDU                          0-1              1-7
Mount St. Mary's        0-2              3-5
Wagner                    0-2               0-6
Bryant                      0-2               0-8

Weekly Honors

Choice Hotels Player of the Week: G/F Devin Sweetney (Saint Francis (PA); senior) Sweetney averaged 18.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game in a 2-0 week for the Red Flash.

Choice Hotels Rookie of the Week: F Jamal Olasewere (LIU; freshman) Olasewere averaged 11.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in a pair of victories for the Blackbirds.

Upcoming Schedule (in alphabetical order by NEC school)

12/9 Bryant at Yale 7:30 pm
CCSU at New Hampshire 7:00 pm
FDU at Lafayette 7:00 pm
Long Island at Iona 7:30 pm
Monmouth at Rutgers 7:30 pm
12/11 Sacred Heart at Hartford 7:00 pm
12/12 Columbia at Bryant 1:00 pm
Albany at CCSU 2:00 pm
FDU at Missouri 7:00 pm
Long Island at Lafayette 1:00 pm
Penn at Monmouth 7:00 pm
Robert Morris at Duquesne 7:00 pm
Wagner at Saint Peter's 2:00 pm
12/13 Quinnipiac at Vermont 1:00 pm
Sacred Heart at Fairfield 4:00 pm
St. Francis (NY) at Syracuse 2:00 pm
Saint Francis (PA) at Drexel 1:00 pm

Game of the Week: Robert Morris at Duquesne

The Dukes have grown into one of the better teams in the Atlantic 10 but by no means is this an impossible task for the Colonials. RMU will need Rob Robinson to play with consistency and stay on the floor, something he was unable to do against Mount St. Mary's on Thursday night. The question for Mike Rice's team will be how they fare against a backcourt that's proven to be talented despite the graduation of Aaron Jackson. Ron Everhart's club has the ability to challenge for a top-four spot in the A-10, which would make this a good win for Robert Morris.