Niagara vs St. Francis (PA) Preview and Prediction
Niagara vs St. Francis (PA) Preview
After winning two of their first three games for their best start in nine seasons, the Purple Eagles have dropped their last two contests. The last game was against a school with a similar name as tonight’s opponent, St. Francis. A loss against the New York based-St. Francis, 75-63, brought the Purple Eagles record to 2-3.
Their opponent today will be favored and expecting a home win.
For the second consecutive season, St. Francis (2-4) was selected first in the NEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The team returns all five starters and 92% of its scoring from the 2017-18 season.
The Red Flash were 18-13 (12-6 NEC) last year, earning a postseason berth in the CIT before falling to Illinois-Chicago in the opening game.
Niagara leads 13-12. NU had its four-game win streak in the series snapped in an overtime defeat to the Red Flash last season.
After losing its top two scorers from 2017-18, Niagara has turned to Marvin Prochet to pick up the load. The forward has delivered at a clip of 20 points per game while shooting 48.3% from three-point range (14-of-29). Big man Dominic Robb is averaging 12.2 points per game and 5.6 rebounds in support of Prochet. Saint Francis had trouble containing Robb in last year’s meeting as he finished with 17 points and nine boards.
The dangerous duo rank first in a combined eight categories amongst MAAC competitors. Prochet is the MAAC leader in points per game (20.0), rebounds per game (11.3), defensive rebounds per game (7.7), offensive rebounds per game (3.5), total rebounds (45) and in double-doubles (4). Robb is first in blocks per game (4.2) and total blocks (21).
Robb doesn’t just lead the MAAC in blocks, but the entire college basketball nation.
They haven’t been able to stay consistent and struggle to get help outside of Prochet and Robb.
The other starters: James Towns, Chris Barton and Keleaf Tate have attempted 141 shots this season–they have made 42 of them–good for 29 percent. They are worse from three-point range. Who is going to step up to make the Purple Eagles that consistent team heading into MAAC play?
The Red Flash are supposed to be dancing in the NCAA Tournament this season–at least according to preseason pollsters, but their 2-4 record doesn’t jump off the screen.
St. Francis has played three teams currently ranked in the Top 25 rankings – Buffalo, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. The team also faced off with UCLA when the Bruins were ranked No. 20 in the country on Nov. 16.
Their schedule is about to get a whole lot easier and the wins will begin to pile up.
Keith Braxton and Jamaal King were two of the five selections on the Preseason All-NEC Team. Braxton leads the team in scoring (13.7 ppg) and in rebounds per game (8.8 rpg). King is second on the team in scoring at 12.8 points per game.
LINE: -5 St. Francis (PA)
Niagara has had an up-and-down start to their 2018-19 campaign–but honestly, I wasn’t expecting the Purple Eagles to look as good as they have.
Prochet and Robb have made great strides in their games from last season and are showing it with the numbers they are putting up.
Overall, the Red Flash are the more talented unit, who are beginning to play as a team again after dealing with a schedule that was daunting to say the least. In their last game the team recorded a season-high 26 assists, a victory over Div. II Bloomsburg, 113-59.
I like St. Francis to win and cover the points at home.
St. Francis (PA) 81 Niagara 72