On Saturday night, CCSU will welcome Division III Arcadia University to New Britain for an exhibition game. It'll be the first time the public has a chance to see the 2018-19 Blue Devils.
Arcadia, which is located just outside Philadelphia, plays in the MAC Commonwealth Conference. Last season the Knights finished 14-14 overall, 8-8 in the conference, and also lost an exhibition game at Drexel 95-81.
The Knights return leading scorer Phil Pierfy, a 6'5" forward who averaged 15.7 ppg and 6.3 rpg. 6'1" guard Da'Kquan Davis averaged 14.2 ppg, and 6'3" guard Josh Scott chipped in 13.3 ppg.
But let's face it, those that will be there (it will not be streamed via NEC Front Row) will be there to see CCSU, not Arcadia. So what should you be watching for?
(Programming note: We will have full game previews beginning with the season opener at UHart)
1. Point Guard Play
We've written at length about the point guard situation at CCSU. To recap; it hasn't been great. Last year's starter, Eric Bowles, transferred, as did Eduardo Camacho, who red shirted last season.
At this point in the season, it's anyone's guess who will see the lion's share of the minutes at the 1. Tyson Batiste, Will Ellis, Thai Segwai, Ian Krishnan...Tyler Kohl? Saturday night will give us a sneak peak at a possible depth chart at the position, as well as the strengths/weaknesses of the newcomers.
I still believe the best possible outcome is Batiste earning the job; he's a veteran (the longest tenured Blue Devil) who knows what Donyell Marshall wants, plus he's a leader who has the intangibles to run the team.
Whoever can take care of the ball and defend will get this job; there will be very little pressure to put up points. But let's be honest; an improvement at the point is imperative for this program to improve upon last season.
2. Where does Jamir Coleman fit in the rotation?
Coleman, a JUCO transfer from South Plains College in Texas, is an intriguing newcomer. He's listed at 6'7" 215 lbs. (the same as Joe Hugley), yet the CCSU roster has him as a G/F. Marshall told Ryan Peters in the Blue Ribbon Preview that he can really get after it on the offensive boards.
So where does he fit? Can he be a lockdown perimeter defender, a la Shak Laney from last season? Can he allow the Blue Devils to go "big", with a lineup featuring Coleman, Kohl, Hugley and Bute on the floor all at once?
Rarely do coaches bring in JUCO players unless they're expected to immediately join the rotation, so I'm eager to see how Coleman fits into the equation.
3. Any Philosophy Changes?
When Donyell Marshall took over the program, he made multiple comments regarding wanting to get out in transition. Yet that has not happened; last season the Blue Devils averaged 64.5 possessions per 40 minutes, 329th slowest in Division 1.
Now the roster is his, with every player having been brought in by Marshall and his staff. Does that mean they will look to play a bit faster? Perhaps even some pressure defense? It'll be interesting to see how this team looks different than in the previous two seasons.
4. The Three-Point Shooting
Last season the Blue Devils struggled from behind the three point line, especially once Austin Nehls' season went off the rails in January. In conference play, they shot a league worst 29.9% from deep, which was even worse than in Marshall's first season (34.8%).
Nehls is now gone, and outside of Joe Hugley (39% last season), there are no proven outside shooters on the roster. Kashaun Hicks showed flashes (37.5%), however Marshall showed frustration with him in other phases of the game, specifically defensively. Junior Chris Williams has ability to knock down shots (he scored 49 points in a summer league game), and freshmen Ian Krishnan and Mike Underwood come in with reputations as knock down shooters.
Nothing that happens Saturday night will answer the question of if the Blue Devils can shoot enough from outside to compete for a league title, but we will get an idea as to who is willing to take them.
At NEC Social Media Day on Wednesday, Donyell Marshall confirmed that Tyler Kohl was out during the early part of the pre-season with a broken left hand, but he is back and healthy.
Outside of Kohl, we've heard absolutely nothing regarding any potential injury issues with the Blue Devils. But it wouldn't be the beginning of a basketball season if there isn't at least one injury affecting the roster. Who is in uniform and who is in street clothes will be the first thing to look for when you walk into Detrick Gym.