NEC Thursday Preview: CCSU Visits Sacred Heart

January 13th, 2011
Another weekend of Northeast Conference action tips off tonight with a full slate of games, highlighted by Central Connecticut State heading south to take on a Sacred Heart team that's won its last three games. The Blue Devils and Pioneers are two of the six teams with 2-2 records in league play, and with just eight spots available in the NEC Tournament games like these ultimately make all the difference. This season has been a bit of a departure for those used to watching the Pioneers, traditionally one of the higher scoring teams in the conference. But with the heavy personnel losses Dave Bike's program incurred at the end of last season, Sacred Heart needed to adjust their style of play. Shane Gibson and Jerrell Thompson combine to score nearly 29 points and as a team the Pioneers average a shade less than 65 points per game, shooting 42% from the field.

It's been the opposite for the experienced Blue Devils, who had guards Robby Ptacek and Shemik Thompson back along with forwards Joe Efese and Ken Horton (who missed all of last season with a knee injury). They average 68 points per game on the season and while averaging the same number of possessions per game as Sacred Heart, the Blue Devils have been the more efficient team offensively. The one thing that the Pioneers have done better this season is get to the foul line, boasting a free throw rate of 40% and scoring 22.6% of their points from the charity stripe. With the likes of Corey Hassan gone Sacred Heart doesn't have the same number of players who can light it up from deep as Gibson is their best bomber, but players such as Louis Montes and Evan Kelley can hit the shot if left alone.

What's likely to be the difference between two teams that look to have a number of similarities in terms of the statistics? Rebounding, more specifically which team can keep the other off of the offensive glass. Both teams grab more than 30% of their misses, but the also allow their opponents to grab more than 30% of theirs. Sacred Heart's numbers are slightly lower but that might have something to do with the fact that the opposition is executing at an efficiency of 98.0 on the offensive end of the floor. Central's done a better job of turning their opponents over as well, and if Gibson and Thompson fail to take care of the basketball the Blue Devils have a chance to leave Fairfield with a much-needed conference victory. Also of note tonight is a matchup of two of the best backcourts in the conference in Brooklyn as first-place Wagner (Tyler Murray and Latif Rivers) takes on St. Francis (NY) (Akeem Bennett and Ricky Cadell), FDU visits Robert Morris and Monmouth visits Saint Francis (PA) in a game matching one team looking for its first conference victory (SFPA) and another that needs wins to get back into the NEC Tournament conversation.

Weekly Honors

Player of the Week: Wagner guard Tyler Murray (24.7 points, 4.0 rebound and 3.0 assists per game in a 2-0 week for the Seahawks)

Honorees to Date
11/15 F Justin Rutty (Quinnipiac)
11/22 F Ken Horton (CCSU)
11/29 G Jerrell Thompson (Sacred Heart)
12/6 G Akeem Bennett (SFNY)/F Kamil Svrdlik (FDU)
12/13 Rutty
12/20 G Shane Gibson (Sacred Heart)
1/3 Gibson

Rookie of the Week: Wagner guard Latif Rivers (16.3 points and 5.3 assists per game in a pair of Wagner victories)

Honorees to Date
11/15 G Alex Francis (Bryant)/G Latif Rivers (Wagner)
11/22 Francis/G Julian Norfleet (Mount St. Mary's)
11/29 Rivers/F Ike Azotam (Quinnipiac)
12/6 Rivers
12/13 G Dominique Langston (Quinnipiac)
12/20 F Naofall Folahan (Wagner)
1/3 Francis/G Jason Brickman (LIU)

Thursday, January 13
BRYANT at QUINNIPIAC 7:00 pm
CCSU at SACRED HEART 7:00 pm
FDU at ROBERT MORRIS 7:00 pm
MOUNT ST. MARY'S at LONG ISLAND 7:00 pm
MONMOUTH at SAINT FRANCIS (PA) 7:00 pm
WAGNER at ST. FRANCIS (NY) 7:00 pm

Saturday, January 15
BRYANT at SACRED HEART 3:30 pm
CCSU at QUINNIPIAC 4:00 pm
FDU at SAINT FRANCIS (PA) 7:00 pm
WAGNER at LONG ISLAND 4:30 pm
MONMOUTH at ROBERT MORRIS 7:00 pm
MOUNT ST. MARY'S at ST. FRANCIS (NY) 4:30 pm

Hoops Talk Live Today 6-7 PM EST