NEW BRITAIN - In a season that is vastly different than anything anyone has experienced before, the CCSU men’s basketball team is doing its best to accommodate a schedule that can change at any time while simultaneously grinding to push the program several steps in the right direction.
Entering winter break with a record of 2-5, the Blue Devils earned their second win of the season in half as many games as last season. Both of their wins came against Northeast Conference opponents and their three worst losses coming against out-of-conference teams in their first three games of the year. Despite the record looking poor on paper, the team is feeling good about itself and can feel the energy within the program shifting from last year.
“It’s a big difference from last year,” junior forward Karrington Wallace said after CCSU’s home win over St. Francis Brooklyn. “I feel like the difference from last year, we’ve all grown, we’ve seen how all of the losses affected us. I feel like we’re just trying to get everything together and change that.”
With a pair of talented junior college transfers in Nigel Scantlebury and Tre Mitchell along with a group of motivated returning players, the Blue Devils were not going to let the pandemic stop them from trying to avenge their disappointing seasons of years past. With seven players averaging at least seven points per game, one of the most dangerous aspects of this team is its ability to attack with a variety of players.
“Once we shared the ball, it was harder for them to guard us and we played well together,” Wallace said. “Once we play well together, I think we can play with anybody.”
The way the NEC adapted its scheduling for the pandemic could also prove beneficial for the Blue Devils as they continue to grow and improve throughout the year. With teams playing both of their conference games against each other on back-to-back days, teams are able to immediately address what went right and wrong in the first matchup and try to fix it.
“It’s good because I think you can make adjustments really quick,” Marshall said. “I don’t know who else played this week, but I’m looking at the games we played, the games Bryant played. You look at our games this week, you look at the women’s games this week, so far it’s been the road team has won the first game and the home team has won the second game.”
One of the biggest differences between CCSU in its wins and losses so far this season is turnovers. Three of its losses featured 16 or more turnovers from the team and their three losses to start the season each had negative assist-to-turnover ratios. Averaging about a half turnover per game more than the conference mean, the Blue Devils will put a focus on protecting the ball better moving forward because they know it is what separates them between being a good offensive team and a much more potent threat.
“We definitely feel like when we move the basketball and we can get assists, we’re good,” Marshall said. “But definitely when we don’t turn the basketball over, we’re even better because we know we’re going to get good quality shots.”
Regardless of how good they are feeling about themselves over the break, positive energy is not going to be enough for the Blue Devils to contend in the NEC for the whole season. How the players handle themselves during their time off, both in the gym and with their health, will set the tone for how the 2021 portion of this season will go.
“Just being in the gym every day, even if it’s not going too hard, just getting shots up,” junior Ian Krishnan said. “But it’s really keeping our principles together, just practicing the same way.”
CCSU starts the new year with a pair of games on the road against Bryant starting Jan. 7. Bryant is currently 7-2 on the season and 3-1 in the NEC so these games could serve as measuring stick games for how the Blue Devils stack up against the rest of the conference.
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org