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College Basketball Odds, Picks, Futures: 2022-23 Northeast Conference Betting Preview

College Basketball Odds, Picks, Futures: 2022-23 Northeast Conference Betting Preview article feature image
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Photo by Oliver McKenna/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Ziggy Reid (Merrimack)

The anticipation is that this year’s Northeast Basketball Conference is poised to be anyone’s ball game.

Bryant, the reigning champions, have stepped up in class by joining the American East Conference.

Mount St. Mary’s also moved on and joined the MAAC.

The NEC brought in Stonehill College to fill the void. But the Skyhawks will join Merrimack in lacking eligibility to play in the NCAA tournament.

That leaves only seven programs fighting for the golden ticket to join the Big Dance in March.

Only one player from last season’s All-NEC team returns to the conference. Four new head coaches are making their debuts with new programs.

With all the new changes happening in the offseason, that leaves a lot of uncertainty among the projected standings. This will likely be one of the most wide-open conferences in the country this season.


2022-23 Northeast Conference Futures Odds

Team
Odds (Via BetRivers)
Merrimack +200
Wagner +200
St. Francis (PA) +350
Sacred Heart +400
Central Connecticut State +1100
Long Island +2000
St. Francis Brooklyn +2500
Fairleigh Dickinson +5000


Merrimack Warriors

It’s unfortunate that the top team in the NEC isn’t eligible to play in the NCAA tournament, but here we are.

The NEC will allow the Warriors to play in the conference tournament to have an eight-team bracket, but the NCAA won’t allow them into postseason play. 

The Merrimack defense was elite last season through its extended 2-3 pressure zone. The defense led the Warriors to a top-20 turnover percentage and top-five steal rate.

The offense is led by the only returnee of the All-NEC team last season in Jordan Minor. The 6-foot-8 forward was dominant last season, averaging 15 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest. He finished strong, with eight double-doubles in his final 10 games.

Minor also led the conference in block percentage and offensive rebounding percentage.

Merrimack being allowed to play in the NEC Tournament gives it a bit more incentive this season. Though they can’t play in the true March Madness, a conference tournament victory would send a big message about the ludicrous waiting period for programs joining Division I.


St. Francis (PA) Red Flash

The NEC has taken a big hit with the loss of top talent from last season. But St. Francis (PA) may be the biggest beneficiary of that, as it returns 79% of its minutes from last season, according to Bart Torvik.

6-foot-10 center Josh Cohen has potential to be the NEC Player of the Year. The junior is coming off of a season in which he averaged 13 points and seven rebounds per game. Over the final nine games, he improved his scoring to 19 points per game.

Cohen was the engine for an offense that displayed phenomenal passing abilities out of the post. But the Red Flash struggled to convert from beyond the arc, hitting just 32% (279th nationally).

If Rob Krimmel’s group can avoid the injury bug this season, then it’s a top contender to be representing the NEC in the NCAA tournament.


Sacred Heart Pioneers

Sacred Heart returns only 43% of its minutes from last season after losing three of its top four scorers in the offseason.

The starting backcourt transferred from the program after averaging a combined 32 points per game.

The success of this year’s squad will be reliant on some incoming MAAC transfers.

The Pioneers welcome Aidan Carpenter (Siena), Raheem Solomon (Niagara) and Brendan McGuire (Quinnipiac), who will all have an immediate impact on the program.

Anthony Latina’s group was solid on the offensive end last season, but the defense was horrid. The group ranked 352nd in defensive efficiency last year, allowing 75 points per game.

If the trio of MAAC transfers can improve the defensive metrics, then Sacred Heart has real potential to finish near the top of the conference this season.

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Fairleigh Dickinson Knights

A rebuild may be an understatement for what Fairleigh Dickinson is going through. The program opened the season going winless in non-conference play last season before finishing with a 4-12 conference record down the stretch.

The program lost its top five scorers to the transfer portal and brought in St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Tobin Anderson to start from scratch.

Anderson brought along three players from his Division-II program to help implement his up-tempo playing style. He previously pressed at a 54% rate, which would be far-and-away the highest of any NEC program this year.

The Knights will lack size, but they are hoping the up-and-down tempo will help make up for that. They could very well be a potential dark horse in a conference that is lacking experience this season.


Wagner Seahawks

Wagner was poised to go to the NCAA tournament last year after a 21-6 season and 15-3 record in conference play. But the program laid an egg in the NEC Championship losing by nearly 30 points to Bryant.

That would be the final game for four seniors who led the team in scoring and accounted for 64% of the points last season. Among the group was two-time NEC Player of the Year winner Alex Morales.

That would also be the final game for head coach Bashir Mason, who left the program after 10 years to join Saint Peter’s.

The program returns less than half of its minutes from last season and will be relying on the production of Zaire Williams and DeLonnie Hunt. The two combined to average 14 points per game last season and are being asked to take much bigger roles in the offense this season.


St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers

Head coach Glenn Braica has been dealt a tough hand over the last two years with St. Francis Brooklyn.

Star point guard Chauncey Hawkings transferred just before the season started last year, which left the group shorthanded and resulted in an 0-8 start.

In this offseason, Braica lost Michael Cubbage and Patrick Emilen, who led the team in scoring last season.

In addition, he won’t have a home-court advantage, as the program is building a new gymnasium.

A few JUCO transfers don’t appear to be enough to move the needle for the Terriers.

The NEC is such a wide-open conference, but my hopes aren’t high for St. Francis Brooklyn this season.


Central Connecticut Blue Devils

Central Connecticut finished last season with a 7-23 record while winning only four conference games in the regular season.

But the Blue Devils were scrappy last season, losing five of their conference matchups by single digits.

The program ended its season on a positive note, winning its first conference tournament game in 11 years.

Head coach Patrick Sellers had one of the youngest groups in the country (ranked 325th in the nation in experience, according to KenPom).

He returns 57% of the minutes from last season, and no player is more important than senior point guard Nigel Scantlebury — who averaged 13 points, three rebounds and three assists per game.

But Scantlebury can’t fix the underlying issue that has plagued the Blue Devils. The program ranked outside the top 300 in 2-point percentages on both ends of the floor. Opponents converted on 54% of their two-point shot attempts (308th) while the offense connected on just 43% (353rd).

Central Connecticut has won five conference games or worse in each of the last four seasons.

Finishing among the middle-of-the-pack would be considered a successful year two for Sellers.


Long Island University Sharks

Long Island was one of the streakier teams in the NEC last season. The Sharks won four games in a row in early January, along with six in a row to end the regular season.

After defeating Sacred Heart in the opening round of the conference tournament, the Sharks were sent packing by Wagner in the semifinals.

Now the program enters a full-blown rebuild mode after replacing head coach Derek Kellogg with Rod Strickland.

After the coaching change, the roster was all but depleted by the transfer portal. Strickland is left with less than 30% of the returning minutes, according to Bart Torvik.

We’ll see if Strickland sticks with the up-tempo playing style that led the Sharks to the sixth Tempo rating in the country last season.

Long Island will be undergoing major changes across the program, and I’ll be looking to fade the Sharks early in the year.


Stonehill Skyhawks

Stonehill joins the NEC from its previous Division-II ranks. The Skyhawks hope to find the same success that Merrimack did after making the jump, but that is a high bar to reach.

The program brings back two super seniors in Isaiah Burnett and Andrew Sims to keep some continuity flowing.

Sims is the big man who averaged 15 points and six rebounds last season. Burnett is a point guard who is a jack of all trades.

But the competition level will be a significant increase for the Skyhawks.

The NEC is littered with athleticism that isn’t displayed at the Division-II level, along with defensive schemes that will prove to be tough to navigate. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Stonehill finish among the middle of the conference, but that is its ceiling in my projections. 

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