Guards in Abundance in the NEC

11 Oct

For most basketball team’s their success (or failure) goes hand-in-hand with the success (or failure) of their guard play. Guard play may be even more important at the lower levels of the college hoops landscape and one of those leagues that has a dearth of hidden gems in the back court is the Northeast Conference.
From Bryant to Wagner this 10-team league is one to keep an eye on if you enjoy watching ball handlers that are good at what they do.
The most notable of the NEC guards may be Long Island’s senior point guard Jason Brickman. With fellow senior Julian Boyd who re-tore his acl this summer out until January at a minimum Brickman becomes the Blackbirds’ leading scorer as Long Island tries for an unprecedented four-peat in the NEC. While Brickman may need to have an increased offensive role, what he is known for is his ability to find open teammates. He returns as the nation’s assist leader at 8.5 last season.
If you are looking at last season’s assist leaders, right behind Brickman is fellow NEC guard, Sacred Heart’s Phil Gaetano finished 2nd in the conference and in the country with 7.9 assists per game. Gaetano is the epitome of a pass-first point guard having registered double digits in just two games last season. With the Pioneers struggling to regain the success they had in 2008 when they reached the conference tournament final Gaetano is one of the lone bright spots for Sacred Heart but is definitely worth the price of admission.
If a more offensive-minded guard is your style, the Northeast has plenty of those as well led by Central Connecticut State’s Kyle Vinales and his 21.6 points per game good enough to be the 4th highest returning scorer in the country. Not only did Vinales lead the other Blue Devils in scoring but he also led them in assists at 3.8 and that duel threat is enough to keep CCSU in most games, just ask LaSalle who was knocked off by CCSU in early November led by Vinales’ 23 points.
At Bryant University sharp-shooting junior guard Dyami Starks who led the Bulldogs to a 17-win turnaround from a two win 2011-12 season. Starks led the Bulldogs with 17.7 points per game and with the team returning five of the top seven scorers including the dynamic Starks the team will be hoping to improve upon the #4 seed they had in last season’s conference tournament.
One of the most well-rounded guards in the conference is Wagner’s senior back court wizard Kenneth Ortiz. Ortiz was third on the team in scoring at 11.8 points and rebounds with 4.3 while leading the Seahawks in assists (5.4) and steals (2.0). Ortiz did all he could to help carry the Seahawks last March but his 11 points, eight rebounds and nine assists wasn’t enough to get by Long Island in the first round. Head coach Bashir Mason has an experienced squad (eight upperclassmen) and a floor general he hopes can lead them to the top of a wide-open NEC.
Outside of the NCAA Tournament the biggest upset had to be Robert Morris’ upset of Kentucky in the NIT. The Colonials don’t have a superstar; instead they are a team that went 10 deep last season for a team that averaged over 72 points per game. Coach Andy Toole’s squad prides itself on defense as evidenced by holding Kentucky to just 57 points in that NIT win. On the offensive end their leading scorer was 6-2 Karvel Anderson at 12.5 points per game. It was hard to pin point someone on the colonials roster as Toole’s style is so guard orientated that the official lists only five pure forwards on the roster. There may be no marquee player but there are guards galore at Robert Morris and just ask the folks in Big Blue Nation how well it works.
If you like guard play in college basketball make sure you check out some of the little-known quality that the Northeast Conference has to offer this season.

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