Northeast Conference tournament preview

2 Comments

The most commonly used saying when talking about basketball during the month of March is “if seeding holds”.

Its how we predict what the best matchups will be. Its how us media folks try and build our schedules during the month. Its how ESPN tries to predict which games it will broadcast. Think about it like this: if seeding holds, than I am going to have a great time covering the Final Four for the CAA Tournament.

I got a feeling that in the NEC Tournament, seeding is not going to hold. One reason? The conference is deep. Seven teams finished with double figures wins. They had three teams finish the regular season with more than 20 wins. That’s rare when you play in a league where guarantee games make up a large portion of the regular season. Another reason? The computers don’t love favorite LIU. John Templon of NYC Buckets has been running tournament projections for a number of conferences, and LIU only made the finals in just over half of his projections. Wagner, his computer suggests, in the favorite while three-seed Robert Morris won the tournament almost a third of the time.

Games aren’t played in a calculator, but if the numbers are right — and, quite often, they are — this is going to be en exciting tournament to follow.

The Bracket

Where: Campus sites

When: March 1st-March 7th

Final: March 7th, 7:00 p.m., ESPN

Favorite: Long Island

LIU is the reigning tournament champion. They won the conference this season. They have the league player of the year on their roster. This group can play, and they proved over and over again during the year. There is also adequate reason for impartial fans to root for the Blackbirds: this team plays at the third-fastest pace in the country. They get up and down the floor, and is there anything better than watching a talented basketball team let its athletes get out in the open court and make plays?

And if they lose?: Wagner

The sentimental pick is an easy one. In 2010, Wagner won just five games. Now? They are 24-5 after finishing second in the NEC with a league record of 15-3. Their head coach is Danny Hurley, the brother of Duke legend Bobby Hurley and the son of famed New Jersey high school coach Bob Hurley, who has built St. Anthony into a powerhouse. Wagner is an aggressive defensive team that thrives on forcing turnovers. Two things to consider: the Seahawks won at Pitt this year, but they went 0-2 against LIU.

Sleepers: Robert Morris finished the season in third and, like Wagner, they are a stalwart defensive team. They are also the best rebounding team in the conference. Most telling, however, is that Bobby Mo has been the NEC’s tournament representative a handful of times recently. This group won’t be intimidated by the pressure of a knockout tournament. Quinnipiac and St. Francis (NY) are also worth keeping an eye on.

Studs:

Julian Boyd, LIU: The NEC’s POY this season, Boyd is a versatile and strong 6’7″ forward that will remind some folks of Rob Jones of St. Mary’s.

Kyle Vinales, Ken Horton and Bobby Ptacek, CCSU: These three all average more than 17.6 ppg and sit in the league’s top four in scoring. How often do you see that at the Division I level?

Shane Gibson, Sacred Heart: Playing on a team without many offensive options, Gibson averaged 22.0 ppg without turning into a gunner. He shot 43.6% from three and had the ninth-highest efficiency rating of any player in the country that used at least 28% of his team’s possessions.

Velton Jones, RMU: Jones is the engine that makes Bobby Mo go. He’s a terrific on-ball defender and a dangerous penetrator and creator.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Marquette lands Fordham grad transfer Joseph Chartouny

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Marquette pulled in a quality graduate transfer commitment on Friday as Fordham guard Joseph Chartouny pledged to the Golden Eagles.

The 6-foot-3 Chartouny was a three-year starter for the Rams as he should help offset the loss of guard Andrew Rowsey to graduation. While Chartouny isn’t nearly the perimeter threat that Rowsey was, he should be able to help significantly on the defensive end for Marquette. Chartouny put up 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game last season as he was one of the more productive all-around players in the Atlantic 10.

One of the nation’s leaders in steals the past three seasons, Chartouny has much better size to play alongside Markus Howard in the Marquette backcourt than Rowsey (5-foot-11) had. Since Howard is also 5-foot-11, Chartouny can now guard the bigger and more athletic perimeter matchup as Marquette tries to improve its porous defense from last season.

Marquette still has an open scholarship for next season as they’ve been investigating other transfer options to bolster the roster. Returning most of last season’s roster, the expectation will be for the Golden Eagles to make it back to the NCAA tournament next season.

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle to test NBA draft waters

Abbie Parr/Getty Images
1 Comment

Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.

Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.

Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.

Maryland’s Kevin Huerter declares for NBA draft, won’t hire agent

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
1 Comment

Maryland wing Kevin Huerter announced on Friday afternoon that he will be declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, giving him the option of returning to school by May 30th.

“This will be a great experience for Kevin to get honest feedback from NBA teams and executives,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “Taking advantage of this opportunity will allow Kevin and his family to make an informed decision about his future.”

Huerter is a 6-foot-7 wing known for his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He averaged 14.8 points and shot 42 percent from three as a sophomore.

He is also the third player from Maryland to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft. Justin Jackson, a borderline first round pick who missed time last season with a shoulder injury, has signed with an agent while Bruno Fernando is testing the waters. Maryland, who has an excellent recruiting class coming in, will be a preseason top 20 team if Huerter and Fernando both return to school.

Huerter is a borderline first round pick.

Michigan’s Charles Matthews to test NBA draft waters

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Michigan guard Charles Matthews announced on Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft, but that he does not intend to sign with an agent, meaning he has until May 30th to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

“After careful consideration with my parents and coaching staff, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent,” said Matthews. “I give thanks to the Lord for this amazing opportunity, as well as the entire University of Michigan for their support. Go Blue!”

Matthews, a redshirt sophomore that averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 boards for the national runners-up, was a four-star prospect coming out of Chicago and spent his freshman season at Kentucky.

Matthews is a likely second round pick with the potential to climb into the first round should he prove to be a more consistent three-point shooter. He shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season.

Virginia’s Hunter to return to school for sophomore season

Eric Espada/Getty Images
Leave a comment

De’Andre Hunter announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be entering his name into the NBA draft and will return to Virginia for his redshirt sophomore season, a decision that will have as much of an impact on the 2018-19 college basketball season as any that is made this spring.

Hunter, now a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was one of the breakout stars of the 2017-18 season. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hunter averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 38.2 percent from three in just under 20 minutes a night for a Virginia team whose pace severely limits the kind of numbers a player like him can put up.

Throw in his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the paint, and Hunter is precisely the kind of player that NBA teams are looking to land as basketball becomes more and more built on positional versatility and the ability to space the floor.

And it’s that versatility that will make Hunter so important for the Cavaliers next season.

Let’s go beyond the simple fact that he is going to be the only guy on the Virginia roster that can create his own shot against length and athleticism and that there is a chance that he could end up being an all-american next season if things play out the right way. What makes Hunter so important to Virginia his that his defensive versatility is what allows Virginia to matchup with teams that want to try and play small-ball against them.

That’s precisely what UMBC did in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game that Hunter missed with a broken wrist. We all know how that played out, and I’m not even dumb enough to pin all the blame of a 20-point loss to a No. 16 seed on a guy that played less than 20 minutes a night.

Virginia choked once they realized that there was a chance this could happen, but I would argue that a major reason they couldn’t ever truly assert their dominance was because they were unable to matchup with UMBC’s four-guard lineup without Hunter.

With Hunter back, Virginia is the No. 6 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. If he had declared for the draft and signed with an agent, I’m not sure I would have had the Wahoos in the top 20.

He takes Tony Bennett’s club from simply being good to once against being a contender for the ACC regular season title.