With conference play slated to tip off, we quickly examine the State of #NEChoops through a few key developing storylines.
⇒ There has been plenty of chatter about the parity in NEC men’s hoops this season, but if history has any say in the matter, there will be one or more teams that eventually separate from the pack. The eventual NEC regular season champion has won at least 14 games in each of the last ten years. You have to go all the way back to the 2003-04 season to find a year in which parity truly reigned in the NEC. That season, Monmouth and St. Francis Brooklyn finished tied for first that year with 12-6 records and only four games separated the teams in first and eighth place.
⇒ Robert Morris will be shooting for its sixth NEC regular season title in eight years and 12th overall. The Colonials, who have posted a 99-25 league record since the start of the 2007-08 season, have won a conference-high seven NEC Tournament championships.
⇒ Three current men’s coaches have won NEC Tournament titles. Central Connecticut’s Howie Dickeman took the Blue Devils to the NCAA Tournament in 2000, 2002 and 2007. LIU Brooklyn’s Jack Perri led the Blackbirds to the NEC crown in 2013 and Mount St. Mary’s Jamion Christian guided the Mount to the NEC championship last season.
⇒ St. Francis Brooklyn senior forward Jalen Cannon heads into conference play on quite a roll. Cannon has posted five straight double-doubles for the NEC preseason favorites and leads the circuit with 9.6 rebounds per game. He ranks 12th in NEC history with 917 career rebounds and needs to average 6.4 boards over the next 18 league games to unseat Quinnipiac’s Justin Rutty, who pulled down 1,032 from 2007-11. Also racing his way up the NEC chart is Sacred Heart senior guard Phil Gaetano, who ranks third all-time with 620 assists.
⇒ Call it a youth movement. As it stands, eight of the NEC’s top-30 scorers and nine of the top-20 in assists are freshmen. Sacred Heart’s Cane Broome (14.1 ppg) and LIU Brooklyn’s Elvar Fridrikkson (11.2 ppg) have made an immediate impact as the two freshmen currently lead their respective clubs in scoring.