During the season, we’re going to be going deep on games featuring NEC teams. How frequently? Well, it depends, but at least one or two per week, perhaps more.
I was at Detrick Gym on Tuesday night for the Blue Devils season opener against Hartford. After a closely contested first half, the Hawks began pulling away at about the 13 minute mark of the 2nd half, and never really looked back. You can read the game recap and check out the box score, but you’re here for more than that. To the #Takeaways!
1. After scoring 104 points in their exhibition win over Division-3 Coast Guard, the Blue Devils scored just 0.80ppp on Tuesday night, as they looked like a team full of first-year players; they turned it over 19 times (26%) and spent a lot of time trying to get to the rim via the dribble, rather than using ball movement, and made just 10 of their 19 free throw attempts. They did have 15 assists on 22 made field goals, but that was more a function of the 47.1% eFG% (and lack of field goal opportunities due to turnovers) than it was a consistent sharing of the basketball. Defensively, however, this is a much improved team, as there is more quickness on this roster than Marshall has ever had here at CCSU. They held Hartford to 1.00ppp, despite some hot shooting from the Hawks, and were able to force 15 turnovers (20%).
2. The Freshmen- As has been talked about ad nauseam, the Blue Devils feature one of the youngest rosters in Division 1 (of the 176 teams to play a game against a D1 team on Tuesday, CCSU had the 3rd least experience of any program; the other two are Wichita St. and Memphis). Tuesday night’s opener was a mixed bag, with a couple of the young players looking overwhelmed by the speed of the game. However, Jamir Reed (13p, 5r, 4a in 23 minutes) and Greg Outlaw (13p, 6a, 5r) looked particularly impressive in this one. Reed, who reportedly had offers from George Washington, Bowling Green, Kent St., and Hartford, is a long/strong 6’4” wing who can shoot it (2 of 5 from deep), and make plays for others. Outlaw, who logged a team-high 32 minutes, showed impressive ability to get the rim, though he was just 4 for 12 from the field overall.
3. The Other Newcomers- While the roster is dominated by freshmen, Marshall has been high on his two Junior College transfers; Point Guard Zach Newkirk (sophomore) and big Stephane Ayangma (junior). Newkirk, who played 32 minutes, struggled in his first game at the D1 level; 4 assists, 4 turnovers, and 1 for 4 from the field, plus 4 fouls. Early on he looked to do too much with the dribble offensively, though he did settle on as the game wore on. Ayangma, meanwhile, came off the bench to chip in 5 points (2 of 5 from the field) and 8 rebounds in 24 minutes. Offensively he wasn’t involved much, but he’s shown himself to be the team’s best rebounder in the early going, and that should probably earn him more minutes.
4. Coleman- Coming into the season, Jamir Coleman was expected to be CCSU’s best player, and here’s what I wrote of Coleman in our NEC Preview:
“Jamir Coleman just drips athleticism. At 6’7”, he can jump out of the gym, put the ball on the floor, and has a very fluid jump shot (34% from three in 2018-19). With Tyler Kohl gone, Coleman is likely to be “The Guy” in 2019-20; he’s the only returning player for CCSU who has shown the ability to score at all three levels at the D1 level, and his presence should take the pressure off of Donyell Marshall’s young guns. If he can become more consistent, as well as improve on the defensive end where his athletic ability should allow him to be a plus defender, Coleman could easily put up some eye-popping surface level numbers. However, don’t expect him to play the same role that Kohl did a year ago; Coleman averaged less than 1 assist per game last year, and making plays for others isn’t really part of his game. Still, given the inexperience on CCSU’s roster, the Blue Devil offense will likely flow through Coleman.”
On Tuesday night, the inconsistent Coleman showed up; he attempted just 5 field goals (making two), turning it over four times and grabbing 4 rebounds in 18 minutes. It’s one game, so there’s obviously no need to overreact, but the Blue Devils will need Coleman to be a larger part of the offense if they are going to surprise teams.
5. The Blue Devils played this one without Ian Krishnan, who is academically ineligible for the first semester. This is a big blow to a young team, as Krishnan is one of the better shooters in the Northeast Conference, and the Blue Devils made just 5 of their 14 three-point attempts Tuesday night. However, this will give some of the younger players more experience, which will be good in the long run. CCSU’s semester ends December 23rd, so one would expect Krishnan to be eligible on 12/29 when CCSU hosts Robert Morris on January 2nd in the league opener for both teams.
One for the road: Much like CCSU, Hartford has an entirely new rotation given the graduations of their top 8 scorers; plus, Pittsburgh grad Transfer Malik Ellison is injured and was unable to play in this one. While Traci Carter is “the guy” for Hartford, 6’9” sophomore Hunter Marks was perhaps the most impressive player on the floor. Marks poured in 19 points on just 8 field goal attempts, and showed more quickness than one would expect in getting to the rim off the bounce. The Hawks, in general, have a bevy of three-point shooting (5 different players made a three-pointer, while 8 players attempted one), and put the Blue Devils away by making 10 of 26 from deep. 6’0” sophomore DJ Mitchell (3 for 5) and 6’6” senior Romain Boxus (2 for 4) were particularly impressive shooting the ball.