Central Connecticut's dance team had a lot to be excited about over this past season. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)
For several years, the Northeast Conference coaches spoke of parity and ‘getting hot in March’ and ‘it’s (the title) up for grabs’. Sounds like proverbial ‘coach speak,’ only this past season it rang true to form. A .500 team did get white hot in March and wound up cutting down the nets. St. Francis Brooklyn put together an outstanding tournament, winning three road games in the process, to claim the title. Their record was .500, yet the Terriers defended and did a few other things during the season, as successful teams do. Numbers are from conference games only and courtesy of bbstate.com:
1) Robert Morris (+10 efficiency margin, 13-5 record)
2) St. Francis Brooklyn (+8, 9-9)
3) Central Connecticut (+5, 14-4)
4) Bryant (+5, 14-4)
5) Sacred Heart (0, 11-7)
6) Fairleigh Dickinson (-4, 7-11)
7) Saint Francis U (-7, 5-13)
8) Mount St. Mary's (-7, 6-12)
9) LIU Brooklyn (-10, 6-12)
10) Wagner (-14, 5-13)
1) Saint Francis U (81.8 possessions)
2) LIU Brooklyn (76.5)
3) Wagner (74.5)
1) St. Francis Brooklyn (63.4 possessions)
2) CCSU (67.3)
Interestingly, the three fastest tempo teams were unable to break even. The most methodically patient were among the NEC elite.
1) St. Francis Brooklyn (98 offensive efficiency)
2) Robert Morris (96)
2) Central Connecticut (86)
1) Central Connecticut (81 defensive efficiency)
2) Robert Morris (86)
3) St. Francis Brooklyn (90)
3) Bryant (90)
In the NEC, every team but one was above the 20% TO rate. Theobjective, as noted many times, is to keep the TO rate South of 20%. The one team under 20 was Wagner, at the bottom of the standings but out on top with a 19.6% metric.
The turnover rates can go a long way toward explaining how no team hit an efficiency of 100. Shooting was not a strong part of NEC offenses either. Only eventual champion St. Francis Brooklyn cracked 50% in eFG percentage at 50.6%. True shooting (TS) was a bit better with free throws entering the calculations. There were seven cracking 50% with St. Francis Brooklyn again setting the conference pace at 55.2%. Free throw rates also explained the sub century mark efficiencies. No team hit 20% in FT rate, with Bryant (18.8%) eventually emerging as the leader.
The championship: St. Francis Brooklyn 77, Robert Morris 62
The attention was on the men. Could the Terriers cut down the net and advance to the Big Dance? Ultimately, it was John Thurston’s women, 9-9 in the regular season, bringing the prize home to Remsen Street.
The pace was 60 possessions, which bbstate termed ‘excruciating’. The Terriers enjoyed a significant 129-104 advantage in offensive efficiency. The eFG and turnover rates were relatively close:
eFG: St. Francis 57.1, Robert Morris 56.7
TO Rate: St. Francis 15.1, Robert Morris 20.1
The difference? A 44-31% advantage in offensive rebounding percentage. Grabbing 12 off the offensive glass allowed John Thurston’s club to extend possessions and produce a higher offensive efficiency.
St. Francis Brooklyn was a team with a high, but not dangerously high, TO rate 22%. The Terriers ended, controlled pace and shot the ball better than the remainder of their NEC opposition. They also caught fire at the most opportune time. As noted, the efficiency margin was +8 during the regular season. During the three game postseason run, the margin was an off the charts 19.6, as a good a reason as any for the Terriers bringing the NEC hardware back to Brooklyn Heights.
Final call of the 2015 Northeast Conference Championship, courtesy of Jason Guerette via the Terrier Sports Network: