NEC Preview: Robert Morris, Mount St. Mary’s among the contenders

Associated Press

Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Northeast Conference.

In the recent history of the Northeast Conference a safe bet would be that Robert Morris would make its way to the conference tournament title game. In six of the last seven years that has been the case, with last season’s run being capped by a three-point win over regular season champion St. Francis-Brooklyn. Andy Toole’s team faced challenges throughout, including a 2-6 start to the season and a stretch in conference play beginning January 31 in which they dropped four of six.

But as they have in the past under Toole the Colonials found a way to bounce back, ending the regular season with three straight wins and taking that momentum into the NEC tournament. Now, the question is how this group will account for the loss of two of their top three scorers in Marcquise Reed and Lucky Jones. While the loss of the tough, versatile Jones was expected since he was a senior, having Reed transfer (to Clemson) came as a surprise when he announced his intentions in the spring.

The good news for RMU is that the cupboard isn’t bare. One of the conference’s top players in Rodney Pryor is back for his senior season as are junior point guard Kavon Stewart and a sophomore forward in Elijah Minnie who can be an all-conference caliber player. One area in which the Colonials will need to get better this season is on the defensive glass, as opponents rebounded nearly 36 percent of their missed shots. And with the NEC race looking to be tighter than last year’s, which SFBK won by three games, “little things” such as that could be the difference.

One team looking to make a move up the conference pecking order is Mount St. Mary’s, which had issues establishing consistency on the offensive end of the floor in a 15-15 campaign. Jamion Christian’s Mountaineers finished the season ranked 283rd in adjusted offensive efficiency, and they weren’t particularly good at getting to the foul line either. Junior guard BK Ashe, who led the team in scoring in a sixth man role, is back as are starters Gregory Graves and Junior Robinson.

The Mount finished last season with an effective field goal percentage of 47.2 percent, and the hope is that another year of experience for players such as the three mentioned above will lead to strides being made on that end of the floor. If that proves true, Mount St. Mary’s will be a factor in the title race.

St. Francis-Brooklyn, which won the regular season title for the first time since 2004, will have to account for the loss of NEC Player of the Year Jalen Cannon and fellow first team all-conference selection Brent Jones if they’re to repeat. But head coach Glenn Braica has some talent returning to Brooklyn, including NEC Defensive Player of the Year Amdy Fall, guard Tyreek Jewell, forward Chris Hooper (all seniors) and sophomore guard Glenn Sanabria.

Where Cannon’s absence may be felt the most (even with his leading the team in scoring) is on the boards, as he was the NEC’s best rebounder and a big reason why the Terriers managed to rebound 39.6 percent of their misses. Those second-chance opportunities were critical for a team that finished the year shooting 29.1 percent from three and with an effective field goal percentage of 46.3 percent. While St. Francis-Brooklyn needs to improve their shooting either way, players such as Fall, Hooper and fellow senior Antonio Jenifer will need to raise their production on the boards as well.

Bryant has to account for the loss of the conference’s leading scorer in Dyami Starks, but it’s important to note that Tim O’Shea welcomes back six of last season’s eight most productive scorers led by forward Dan Garvin. Garvin was a second team All-NEC selection last season, and if anything the loss of Starks should lead to a more even distribution of the scoring opportunities. The question in all of this is whether or not players such as sophomore guard/forward Bosko Kostur and senior guard Shane McLaughlin can take advantage of those opportunities.

LIU Brooklyn, which enjoyed a run of three straight NCAA tournament appearances from 2011-13, was the eighth and final team to qualify for last season’s NEC tournament after missing out in 2014. Jack Perri’s Blackbirds are a year older and in all likelihood better equipped to consistently challenge some of the upper echelon teams in the conference. Two of their top three scorers, Gerrell Martin and Elvar Fridricksson, have moved on but overall three of their five six scorers from a season ago return led by sophomore guard Martin Hermansson.

LIU Brooklyn’s biggest issue last season was shot selection, with that issue being the reason why they made just 39.2 percent of their shots. With their returnees a year older and two impact transfers in point guard Aakim Saintil (South Alabama) and power forward Jerome Frink (FIU) on board, look for the Blackbirds to make decent leap up the NEC standings.

After those five the race becomes more about making sure you qualify for the conference tournament, with the top eight teams getting a berth. Wagner, which last season went winless in December (0-6) and lost their NEC opener, managed to do enough to get into the conference tournament. Bashir Mason’s Seahawks should be better than that this season, even with the loss of leading scorer, with four of their top five scorers returning and Dwaun Anderson healthy after playing in just one game due to injury.

Sacred Heart will be led by sophomore point guard Cane Broome, and with forward De’Von Barnett sidelined with a shoulder injury Jordan Allen and Matej Buovac become even more important options for head coach Anthony Latina. Saint Francis University welcomes back guards Malik Harmon and Greg Brown, which should help them in the race for an NEC tournament berth. Central Connecticut State and Fairleigh Dickinson missed out on the conference tournament last season, and the climb out of those two dreaded slots appears to be a bit steep for both. The Blue Devils lost their top two scorers and the Knights bid adieu to their top three, meaning that there are some sizable holes for both to fill.

Look for this to be a fun race, with the NEC champion likely not being determined until the final weekend of the regular season.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “I gotta think The Mount is. They’ve got a lot coming back. They were tough last year, and because they’ve got a lot back they’re going to be good. Their guard play is good and that’s what you need in this conference.”
  • Sleeper: “I don’t know if I’d call them a sleeper but I think St. Francis-Brooklyn will still be up there. They lost two first team all-league guys but I still think they’ll be pretty good. They’ve got a lot of pieces.”
  • Star to watch: “I’d put (BK) Ashe and (Rodney) Pryor in the mix. They’d be up there for me, and I don’t think Jerome (Frink) will be too far behind those guys either.”


The senior guard/forward was Robert Morris’ leading scorer in his first season with the program, averaging 15.6 points per game, and he shot relatively well in posting that figure. Pryor shot 48.1 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three, ranking eighth in the NEC in the former category and second in the latter. And with fellow double-digit scorers Marcquise Reed (transfer) and Lucky Jones (graduation) having moved on, Pryor will be in a position where he’s asked to do even more from a production standpoint. And he can.


  • Cane Broome, Sacred Heart: The 6-foot Broome averaged 14.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game as a freshman.
  • BK Ashe, Mount St. Mary’s: In a reserve role the third team All-NEC selection averaged a team-best 11.9 points per game.
  • Daniel Garvin, Bryant: The 6-foot-6 Garvin made 31 starts last season, averaging 10.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
  • Amdy Fall, St. Francis-Brooklyn: Fall (6.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg) is the NEC’s best shot blocker (2.8 bpg), and with Jalen Cannon moving on the NEC Defensive Player of the Year will see even more playing time.


1. Robert Morris
2. Mount St. Mary’s
3. St. Francis-Brooklyn
4. Bryant
5. LIU Brooklyn
6. Wagner
7. Sacred Heart
8. Saint Francis U.
9. Central Connecticut State
10. Fairleigh Dickinson

Arizona State extends Hurley through 2025-26 season

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TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State has agreed to a contract extension with men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley that runs through the 2025-26 season.

The deal announced on Tuesday is subject to approval by the Arizona Board of Regents. Hurley’s previous contract was set to expire after next season.

“Coach Hurley has made our program relevant nationally with many significant wins and an exciting style, along with a firm commitment to the academic success of our student-athletes,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said in a statement. “He has made it clear to us that he wants to be here and we have done likewise with him. We share a strong confidence in the present and future state of Sun Devil men’s basketball.”

Hurley led the Sun Devils to 23 wins this season and their third trip to the NCAA Tournament the last five times it has been played. Arizona State beat Nevada in the First Four before losing to Texas Christian on a last-second shot last Friday.

The Sun Devils have won at least 20 games four of the past six seasons. They are 141-113 in eight seasons under Hurley.

Campbell new TCU women’s coach after taking Sac St to NCAA

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

FORT WORTH, Texas – Mark Campbell was hired as TCU’s women’s basketball coach Tuesday after the former Oregon assistant took Sacramento State to its first NCAA Tournament in an impressive and quick turnaround.

Sacramento State was coming off a 3-22 season when Campbell was hired two years ago. The Hornets won 14 games in Campbell’s first season, and then made another 11-win improvement this season while finishing 25-8 with Big Sky regular-season and tournament championships.

During his seven seasons on Oregon’s staff before that, the Ducks had some of the nation’s top recruiting classes. That included Campbell recruiting Sabrina Ionescu, who became the AP player of the year in 2020 before she was the first overall pick in the WNBA draft.

Campbell replaces Raegan Pebley, who stepped down after nine seasons as TCU’s coach with a 141-138 record. The Horned Frogs were 8-23 this season, including 1-17 in Big 12 play during the regular season.

TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati described Campbell as an elite recruiter and program builder.

“Similar to his success at Sacramento State, he was instrumental in Oregon quickly becoming one of the nation’s most successful programs, reaching their first NCAA Elite Eight and then Final Four,” Donati said.

The Frogs haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2010. That was their ninth NCAA appearance, all coming in a 10-season span without making it past the second round.

Boston College extends Earl Grant through 2028-29 season

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON – Boston College coach Earl Grant has agreed to a two-year extension that will keep him under contract through the 2028-29 season.

Grant took over as Eagles coach prior to the 2021-22 season and finished 13-20. Boston College went 16-17 this past season, but it had three wins over nationally ranked teams for the first time in 14 years.

“My family and I have enjoyed being a part of this amazing community,” Grant said in a statement. “Boston is a great city and we are glad to call it our home. I am thankful for the efforts of my staff to help move the program forward.”

The Eagles finished 9-11 in Atlantic Coast Conference play, their most wins in the league play since 2010-11. Quinten Post also became the first Boston College player to be named Most Improved Player.

In announcing the extension, athletic director Blake James expressed optimism about the direction of the program.

“Earl has done an outstanding job leading our men’s basketball program over the last two seasons and we are looking forward to him doing so for many years to come,” James said.

Pitino returns to big stage at St. John’s: ‘I’ve earned it’

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK – The video banner above the entrance to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday read: “Welcome Rick Pitino.”

More like welcome back for the new St. John’s coach.

Back to The Garden, where he once coached the Knicks.

Back to the Big East, the conference that launched his stardom and where he won his last NCAA championship.

Back to big-time college basketball after a series of scandals made it seem as if that part of his career was over.

“So, when I went to Iona, I said that Iona was going to be my last job,” Pitino said at his introductory news conference at MSG. “And the reason I said that is who’s going to hire a 70-year-old ? No matter how much I think I’m Peter Pan, who’s going hire a 70-year-old?”

St. John’s gave the Hall of Famer a six-year contract to turn back the clock on a program that once stole New York City tabloid headlines away from the Knicks in the 1980s under coach Lou Carnesecca but has been mired in mediocrity for more than two decades.

The Red Storm once played most of their biggest home games at The Garden. Pitino said the goal is to have all their Big East games played there going forward.

“Lou built a legendary program. Legendary,” Pitino said. “I’m all in with everything that St. John stands for. I’m excited about it. I can’t wait to get started.

“And it’s going to start with a culture of work.”

Pitino, who was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island, has won 832 games in 34 full seasons as a college head coach, including NCAA championships at Kentucky in 1996 and Louisville in 2013.

The title at Louisville was vacated for NCAA violations, and another NCAA case related to the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting led to Pitino being fired by Louisville in 2017.

The final ruling from the NCAA’s outside enforcement arm on the FBI case came down in November and exonerated Pitino.

There was also a criminal extortion case in which Pitino was the victim during his time at Louisville that revealed personal indiscretions.

“Well, it doesn’t matter what you believe, what you don’t believe,” Pitino said. “The one thing all my players have said, because they all wrote letters for me: I’ve never cheated the game. I never gave a player anything that he didn’t deserve in life.”

St. John’s president, the Rev. Brian Shanley, said the decision to hire Pitino was his call.

“Yeah, sure, there’s some reputational risk because of things that have happened before, but I think Rick is at a point in his life where he’s learned from things that have happened in the past,” Shanley told The Associated Press. “I think he’d be the first one to tell you he’s done things that he regrets. Who doesn’t when you get to be that age? I know I have. I’m a believer in forgiveness and new beginnings as a priest, and I think Rick’s going to do a great job for St. John’s.”

Carnesecca, 98 and getting around with the help of a walker these days, sat in the front row of Pitino’s news conference.

“I think it’s a home run with the bases loaded,” Carnesecca said.

Carnesecca was one of the Big East’s brightest coaching stars, along with Georgetown’s John Thompson and Villanova’s Rollie Massimino, when Pitino became Providence head coach in 1985 at the age of 32.

Thirty-eight years later, Pitino’s Providence ties helped him land at St. John’s after three seasons at Iona, a small Catholic school in New Rochelle, just north of New York City.

Shanley previously was the president of Providence. He helped turn around a lagging men’s basketball program by hiring coach Ed Cooley and investing in facilities upgrades.

“If I wasn’t a Providence Friar, he would have never even considered it,” Pitino said.

Shanley attempted to lure Pitino away from Louisville and back to Providence years ago, but he didn’t know much about the coach personally back then. He said he talked to a lot of people about Pitino this time around.

“I’d say my behind-the-scenes wisdom person was Mike Tranghese, the former commissioner of the Big East,” Shanley said. “He got me Ed Cooley last time, and I think we came out pretty well this time, too.”

Cooley was hired by Georgetown on Monday.

Pitino said he’s bringing his entire staff with him from Iona, which announced the hiring of Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tobin Anderson to replace Pitino earlier in the day.

Pitino will try to become the first coach to take six different schools to the NCAA Tournament as he gets one more shot on the big stage.

“I deserve it,” he said, “because I’ve earned it.”

Tobin Anderson leaving FDU to replace Rick Pitino at Iona

Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Tobin Anderson is leaving NCAA Cinderella Fairleigh Dickinson after one fairy-tale season and replacing Rick Pitino at Iona.

Iona athletic director Matt Glovaski announced the hiring a day after Pitino left to take the job at St. John’s of the Big East Conference.

Anderson led the No. 16 seed Knights to a win over No. 1 Purdue in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last week, only the second time a No. 16 seed has knocked off a top-seeded team. UMBC beat No. 1 Virginia in 2018.

“Iona University represents everything my family and I were looking for in a school, a basketball program and a campus atmosphere,” Anderson said in a statement. “Our goal is to build upon the tremendous tradition of Iona basketball and elevate the program to greater heights.”

Iona of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference was knocked out of this year’s tournament by UConn on Friday.

“We have long known him to be a fantastic coach and an even better person,” Glovaski said. “Now, with his team’s impressive run in the NCAA Tournament, everyone paying attention to March Madness also knows this. We’re delighted that he will be at the helm of our men’s basketball program.”

Anderson led FDU to a 21-16 overall record and 10-6 in Northeast Conference play. The Knights lost to Merrimack in the conference title game but got the NCAA berth because Merrimack was ineligible to compete as a transitioning school from Division II.

FDU, one of the shorter teams in the 68-team field, beat Texas Southern in a First Four game and followed that with the upset over Purdue. Florida Atlantic knocked the Knights out of the tournament on Sunday.

FDU had a 4-22 record in 2021-22. Anderson was hired after running the program at St. Thomas Aquinas, located less than 25 miles (40 km) from Iona’s campus. In nine seasons, he turned the team into a perennial Top 25 program in Division II after inheriting a team that won just five games prior to his hire.

Anderson got his first taste of Division I coaching, serving as an assistant at Siena for two seasons from 2011–2013. Before his time at Siena, Anderson was a head coach at the Division III level at Hamilton College and Clarkson University in upstate New York. He worked as an assistant at Clarkson and Le Moyne College.

Anderson graduated from Wesleyan University in 1995.