It’s hard to believe its finall here, but on Monday night we finally get to see the first glimpses of the 2019-20 CCSU Blue Devils, as they host Coast Guard at Detrick Gym. The game will not be streamed on NEC FrontRow, which means you have to make the trek to New Britain.
Our NEC preview will be out later this week, but for those of your reading this, there will be some changes here. I will no longer be covering CCSU as in depth as I did last season, mostly because it’s difficult to come up with content when the team is not really covered by local media. But that doesn’t mean we’ll be ignoring the Blue Devils! No, I’ll be posting (probably) weekly “thoughts” columns like this, and will be active on Twitter.
Anyway, I have some thoughts, so let’s do it.
1. For those of you hoping this year will be better than last season, it depends on your perspective. Central has been picked either 10th or 11th in every published pre-season rankings, and will be relying on a number of underclassmen (10 of their 13 scholarship players are either freshman or sophomores). The Blue Devils return just 42% of last season’s minutes (only Wagner, at 25%, returns fewer) and do not have a clear All-Conference player. However, from what I’ve heard from people connected to the team, this team works hard and they play for each other. It should be fun to see them grow.
2. The thing I’m most excited to see is the newcomers. Yeah, that’s true every year, but even more-so this year, as Donyell Marshall and his staff brought in a ton of young talent. Myles Baker, a 6’2” guard from Chicago, has gotten rave reviews for his shooting, as well as his knowledge of the game, while Greg Outlaw, a 6’4” freshman, is kind of a jack-of-all-trades wing. JUCO transfers Zach Newkirk (sophomore PG) and Stephane Ayangma (junior big) should both start. Plus there’s freshman guards Trey Tennyson and Jamir Reed, as well as freshman big Xavier Wilson.
3. I’m eager to see what kind of offense the Blue Devils are running this year. Over the last two seasons, Donyell Marshall essentially ran the offense through Tyler Kohl as a point-forward (which was the right thing to do). This season’s Blue Devils don’t have that kind of playmaker, so it’ll be essential for Central to run a sound offense to get good looks in the half-court. Given the number of athletes Marshall has at his disposal, I wonder if we see some more pressure defense in order to try and create turnovers and get some easy buckets. The last two years the Blue Devils actually increased their pace (~69 possessions per 40 minutes, which was above the national average of 67.8) but were dead last in the nation in eFG% in transition (42.7%). A lot of missed layups.
4. I know I’m stating the obvious here, but I’d really like to see Ian Krishnan take his game to the next level. He was so good as a freshman; he’s got a beautiful looking stroke, he can defend, he’s got elite quickness, and he’s tough as nails. However, I thought he took too many bad shots; yes, he made a ton of mid-ranger jumpers, and he shot at least 98% when he took one hard dribble left and pulled up (ok, maybe a bit of an exaggeration). But I can’t help thinking he’s leaving points on the board by taking those long twos (even though he made a lot of them), rather than starting that move 5 feet farther back and turning them into three-pointers. Also, he really struggled putting the ball on the floor; if he can become an all-around scorer as opposed to a shooter, we’re talking an NEC star.
5. Speaking of mid-range jump shots, I’m sure people grew sick of me complaining about the number of two-point jumpers CCSU took last season…but I’M BACK BABY. To summarize; according to Bart Torvik, 28.4% of Central’s shots were “farther two’s” (aka mid-range jumpers), which was well higher than average (101st out of 353 D1 teams) and the highest in the Northeast Conference. Their eFG% were as follows:
Close Two: 51.5%
Farther Two: 38.3%
There’s been a lot of talk about mid-range jumpers in the basketball world, with Kevin Durant getting involved in the conversation. However, it’s more nuanced than “mid-range jumpers are bad”, though I do believe that 28% is too high. It’s no coincidence that the five most efficient offenses in the league last season (SFU, FDU, SHU, Bryant, and LIU) all took fewer than 21% of their shots from the mid-range.
It’d be nice to see CCSU look to increase the number of three-pointers they take (and make!), while also looking to get to the rim (perhaps in transition?). We will see.
6. Who wants a depth chart estimate? No one? Well you’re getting one anyway. This isn’t necessarily my prediction for Monday night, but let’s say by NEC play in January:
I have close to 100% confidence in Newkirk, Krishnan, Coleman and Ayanga (two returning starters, plus two JUCO guys). Baker I feel pretty good about, as I do Wallace as the first big off the bench. I have no idea who will be the backup at the point; Segwai is the only true point guard on the roster, but Tennyson, Reed, and Udofia (and perhaps Baker) all have some athleticism and versatility to them. I could see Marshall trying to play one (or more) of the freshman out of position at the PG spot in order to develop them, similarly to how, back in 2008, Howie Dickenman played Shemik Thompson, a natural 2G, at point his freshman season which paid off down the road. Similarly, the backup to Baker and Coleman at the wing could be anyone of Tennyson, Outlaw, Reed or Udofia. Or Marshall could choose to go big at times, with Coleman at the 3.
7. Could CCSU lost to Coast Guard on Monday night? The Bears finished 16-8 last season, 7-7 in the NEWMAC, and return four starters including 6’4” senior Packy Witkowski (17.0 ppg), 6’3” senior Noah Baldez (13.6 ppg), and 6’5” senior Justin Kane (9.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg). They’re an experienced group, and are unlikely to back down against a more talented, but younger, foe.