One more on this subject

Before I stop ranting about this particular topic, on which I'm quite right.

Here's a story from about the kid from Rider who's turning heads. The writer takes a shot at Monmouth's Dungeon (I know those exercise bikes all too well), but note what the kid says about why he chose Rider."

"Before his senior season in high school, Thompson chose Rider over schools like Monmouth and Central Connecticut for its proximity to his Mount Laurel, N.J., home and the chance to contribute right away. He then led Lenape High School to a state championship."

Nothing about not liking Boylan or Detrick.

Here's the link:

Some give and take

I love that people are reading the blog, even if they're disagreeing with me.
But to those who think appearance is everything, let me remind you that it's the players that win, not the building.
For instance, Sacred Heart's building is 10 years old, and while it's a fine building, it's not exactly the new Prudential Center. The Pitt Center isn't why the Pioneers are on the way up, it's a good coach with a bunch of good players.
Have you ever been to FDU and Monmouth? Again, I don't mean to turn this post into the ripping of other buildings, but it's not like the success those teams have had in recent years is because they've played in palaces.
Are CCSU's facilities as nice as some other places? Absolutely not. Does it help to show a shiny building to a recruit? Yes. Are these the determining factors in what teams are good and which aren't? No. That was my point.
As for me being an apologist... I don't think being honest makes you an apologist. Quite the opposite. Heck, I'd love to tell you that the Blue Devils are building a new 20,000 seat building and that every ticket had been sold for it. But instead I'm the guy who often says on here that fans don't show up enough to many Central events. I'm also the one that often says that a move to the A-10, AE or something like that isn't even on the radar from everything I've ever heard.
Something could happen with football if the auto-qualifier thing doesn't happen, but I'd be stunned if Central were out of the NEC for everything else in 2012. Stunned.
Gampel helped UConn, but if they didn't have Chris Smith, Cliff Robinson and Tate George, it wouldn't have mattered what building they were in.
Come to some games, and remember the advice players often get from coaches: stay within yourself.

Couple quickies

1) Can't really judge anything from today's game, too many illnesses and injuries. Simmons' shoulder doesn't sound bad, hopefully he's back by Thursday. As for the flu, at least now I know where I got sick! Stay off campus if you can for a few days, something's going around.
You have to like the effort though. They just ran out of gas.

2) BigBlueFan: Saw your post, we'll just have to agree to disagree, though history tends to side with me I still say.

3) To get to Ryan's blog, go the and click the blog section.

A little perspective people!

Look, I'm not necessarily an apologist, I'll point out what needs to be fixed (check just a few posts ago and some of the stories I wrote early in the season when Central couldn't score) but some of the fine folks over on the message boards are going a little wild.

Some points:
1) Great job by whoever did all that digging on the heights of NEC teams, but keep something in mind. Depending on the school and/or sport, listed heights can vary from accurate to close to almost completely made up.
Also, weights (and even sometimes heights) change. Ken Horton for example has gained more than 10 pounds this season. Kids can grow an inch, especially as freshmen/sophomores.
The main point is, while I'm not saying it's true about any specific player at any specific school this season, it's been my experience and that of others I've spoken to in the business that those listed sizes aren't exactly gospel. I know I've certainly looked at my notes from visiting teams and said to whoever was next to me, "there's no way that kid is 6-8."

2) There's really not that much difference between a couple of inches if both players are skilled. 6-9 is different than 6-5, yes, but a 6-6 kid can guard a 6-8 kid. Heck, Obie guarded kids much bigger than him all the time. I know he's a special example, but if you box out, you can do your job and battle against a guy a couple of inches bigger than you. Watch David Simmons and ask yourself if those couple of inches matter.
Those UMass kids were big AND really good, that's the difference. That's a team getting votes in the AP poll... a different level than what a young CCSU team is ready for in December.

3) As for all this drama about what sounds almost like the downfall of Central basketball... Remember the good old days, when the Blue Devils went 19-2 down the stretch and rolled through the league? Oh yeah, that was NINE MONTHS AGO.
Relax, enjoy the holidays, and know that you have one of the most respected coaches in the region running your ship. He didn't forget how to recruit since March. Give these eight guys he's brought in more than two months before you pass judgement. Maybe none of them will ever pan out, we don't know, but don't go crazy because someone else got a big kid.

4) The Arena: The last time we did a big Q and A with the fans like I'm trying to arrange now, C.J. confirmed that one isn't coming. Would it be nice? Of course. But what would you rather have: A shiny new building like QU just built, or the shiny NEC title banner Central just raised? Remember that it's not how pretty the package is, it's what's in it that matters. Would a new one help recruiting? It wouldn't hurt, but kids in large part go with a coach or program.

Saturday's stuff

We'll have a preview of the men's game Sunday either in the paper or on here this weekend, as well as a little feature on Javy, who's in town this week from Romania.
Saturday I'll see the women's team, which is starting to improve just in time for January. A notebook always remains possible... sorry things have been a little slow, I actually took a couple days off for Christmas!

Merry Christmas

First off, I wanted to say Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it and happy holiday season to everyone else. I hope, no matter what you call this time of year, that it was spent with loved ones and good times were had.

As for a couple of comments from yesterday.

1) Ryan's still blogging, he's just waiting for some juicy topics... you guys should give him some mail and questions like you do for me, that way he'll have more to talk about.

2) Check Central's history against UMass. There have been some big wins in recent years for the Blue Devils.

3) Central always looks for defense and rebounding first, which is why Simmons plays so much and Horton (who is a block machine who can also score.)

Answering a question

that was sent to me... this is just my personal observation, but I think Marcus isn't playing much because of the emergence of Simmons as a rebounder and Horton as a scorer. Palmer had a couple of nice outside shots last night, but he hasn't really turned into a banger inside yet (averaging just 3.3 rebounds a game). Especially in the second half, Central needed some help in the paint, not on the perimeter.
Again, this is just my opinion, but I think once he starts venturing closer to the basket, he could earn more time. Continuing to improve on the defensive end will also help his cause. I think he has potential, but remember, while he's not a freshman, he's still adjusting to his new surroundings just like the frosh are.

Before I forget

OK, last thing of the night before I crash, I'm exhausted. Just wanted to let you know that I'm hearing the same thing you guys read on the daily dish about the football schedule, and as soon as I can pin someone down on it I'll write it up. I get the feeling it's a little farther off than being ready to be annonced though, still in the planning stages, so it might be awhile.

For now I'll just say, as I did earlier, that you guys will like the schedule better (I think) this year.

Hello old friend

Javy was there tonight, I got the chance to talk to him a bit, then do a quick interview (I never forget you guys), and I'll write something up as soon as I can. For now I'll just say he's playing point (yes, POINT) for a team in Romania, making good money and seems happy. He also told me that Obie and Mr. Sobers are doing well also. There's even an Ingo update coming.

Thoughts on the trip and the loss

First off, I can't believe I get paid to ride with people I like, then watch a basketball game, then write about it, then ride home with the same bunch. What a country.
As for the game: I'll give Central more credit for playing as well as it did for as long as it did than I will blame for falling apart late. A young team gets in trouble in a tough environment, and things start to snowball quickly. In football they say the game "sped up" on a player.
The thing Central must do is learn from this. When you have so many young players, it takes time for them to realize that they can in fact stop the bleeding. There were a couple of times in the first half when UMass went up 5 and Central came back to take the lead. The key is to get back in the game quickly. It's much easier to get a five-point hole back to even than it is an 11-point hole.
The second thing a young team needs a game like this to discover is the need to work a big deficit slowly, assuming there's time. A couple of times early in the second half Central got back to within seven or so. The Devils never finished closing the gap and paid for it later, but that's what young teams have a tough time adjusting to. Too often they'll try and make up the margin all at once, as though the 25-point basket from the old Rock N' Jock games on MTV is going to drop from the rafters and the lead can be regained in one shot. The fact that Central kept hanging around instead of totally changing its game was encouraging. Once it got out of hand the game changed, but I liked the effort.
That whole long rant simply means this: Central showed it has (or is on the way to having) some poise. It wasn't scared to play in the big building. It didn't wilt early in the second half when it couldn't score and the lead was growing. Only after UMass had delivered about the 11th knockout punch did Central finally fall over.
It was an encouraging night, especially since the team didn't sound mentally defeated afterwards. Even Coach D, as competitive a man as you'll meet, was calm after the game. The Blue Devils got smoked tonight, but they learned something that could pay huge dividends down the road. Remember this night if Central comes from 10 down in the second half of a tournament game... hmmmm a big loss to UMass showing the Blue Devils how to dig out of holes, and the lesson leading to a 10-point rally in March: sound familiar?

usual suspects

No big shakeup. The Iron Five appears intact. Though the Minutemen appear to have actually grown taller since the first round of warmups. They're kind of scary at first glance, from a basketball standpoint I mean.

Arrived Safely

What an interesting place. The Mullins Center is really as dark as it appears on tv, but after years of wondering I now know why. The lights here are all facing the court. That seems obvious, but most places have more lights covering the stands. That's why the seating areas seem dark here, because they're behind the lights for lack of a better word.
It's actually much like MSG (and to a lesser extent the dungeon of Monmouth).
I'm sitting literally on the midcourt line on the floor, can't have a better seat. Now hopefully the teams give us something good to watch.
Lineup might be shaken up. The monitors that usually list the starting 5 only have Tristan up. Everyone else is here, however. so it could just be that the UMass people only knew Tristan. I'll post if there's anything dramatic, but I'd expect any changes to be based on trying to matchup with the Minutemen's ridiculous size, not anything else. My goodness this UMass team is tall.

A big test

Just getting ready to ship out and head to the Mullins Center... kind of excited because I've never been there.
Also excited because this should be a fun game. While Central is a big underdog, both teams will want to push, which should make it entertaining. Can Central's defense do enough to keep it in the game? The longer they can hang in with their defense, the better the Blue Devils can fare.
Also, they'll have to shoot well again. Not 65 percent like the other night, but well enough to keep it close if it becomes a shootout.
Expect the same lineup, but if anything changes I'll let you know ASAP


A few thing I haven't seen discussed much I thought I would touch on.

1) Joey Henley was granted a sixth year by the NCAA and will play basketball again next year. I don't have a problem with that move, the kid was legitimately injured, and the rule actually might motivate kids to go to grad school. I think it's a win-win.

2) Albany got housed by Dayton in the Gridiron Classic. That league must have been pretty good, because Albany impressed me when I saw them.

Shameless plug

Ok, this isn't totally CCSU related, but bare with me a moment. On Wed. the Herald releases its season All-Herald teams, but this year we're doing it in a special section and adding player and coach of the season awards.
There's lots of info on kids from the area, including kids who will be playing college sports in the region for the next four years (including a piece on a girl from Plainville heading to Fairfield written by yours truly).
So forget the recruiting services... if you want to know about the best talent from the New Britain area, check the Herald Wednesday.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled Blog Central.
Tomorrow I'll mention an old bit of news that I never heard discussed around here, and a nugget or two from around the NEC.

more on the tourney that isn't

It seems like I've struck a nerve with my little tournament idea. I wish I remembered why it popped in my head. Anyway, HCC was probably a pipe dream... maybe it would have to be at UofH or something.
As for the media exposure, arrange it on a day when UConn isn't playing (or at least on a day when it's not playing a ranked foe) and the media is ALL OVER that day. Yes, it would be a one-day pop, but it would be fun.
As far as the media taking note of "other schools,"... I'll refer you to a couple of blogs during football season on the subject. Here I'll just say... build it and they will come. The media goes where the crowds are, not vice versa. Clamor for coverage and it will be there.
Hey, take me for example. I learned how to blog for you people! :)

Random thought

Let me start by making sure to be very clear: What you're about to read is NOT EVEN RUMORED TO BE TRUE. As far as I know, it has never even been discussed. It's NOT HAPPENING, at least anytime soon.

Ok, that said. I don't know what got me thinking about this, why I thought it was a good idea, or how the subject came up, but I was thinking about a tripleheader at the Civic Center. Something I've roughly titled the NEC vs. Connecticut challenge.
(Yes, I know UConn is in the state, but I'm forgetting them because this needs and even number of teams and they're a level above.)

Anyway, would you pay maybe 50 bucks (we need to get the building for the day and make money for this to work) for this tripleheader?

1 p.m.: CCSU vs. Yale
4 p.m: Sacred Heart vs. Fairfield
7 p.m: Quinnipiac vs. Hartford

Again, this isn't even remotely based on anything real, I just thought it'd be fun to kick around for a minute.

GPA is better than RPI

One of the things that I like most about covering college athletics is when I get to meet kids who combine great skill with great smarts. What follows is from CCSU's website, and it sums up what I'm talking about perfectly.
"Central Connecticut State women's soccer earned its sixth consecutive NSCAA/adidas Team Academic Award. The Blue Devil program maintained a 3.17 GPA during the 2006-07 academic year."
My GPA never approached 3.17, and the only sport I played in college was NBA Live.


Nice win by the women this week. Dugan is becoming a very nice player. She does a little bit of everything. The Blue Devils have some scorers, and if they're executing, they'll get some wins.

Curb your enthusiasm

Sorry about the delay, but I've been working on a few things for the paper and had TONS of office work to do last night after the game.
As for the win over the Fightin' Blue Hens.... well they ran into the Runnin' Blue Devils, didn't they?
Howie told the opposing coach after the game that he caught them on their best day, and he was right. My bold prediction: If Central shoots better than 60 percent all season, it could win a national championship. :)
Of course, Central won't be that hot all year, that was a special day. Kudos to all of those who made the trip in the ice. I know the coach appreciated it, and I'm sure the players did as well.
I think there are many good signs to come out of the last two games, and I think this is a much more confident team than it was even two weeks ago.
Once you get a couple of good wins, you start thinking you can do it again. My only caution is not to expect things like Sunday to happen all the time. Just like I'll caution you not to panic if things don't go perfectly during this next road stretch.
I do like that a rotation has developed. I think the "iron five" as coach called them after UMBC is the starting lineup (barring injury) from here on out. Of course, I've been wrong about 323 times about that sort of thing already this season.
As for the person who wants to end the weave.... every team has a system. UConn has run that curling kind of play since I was about 12.
The key for this team, in my humble opinion, is energy. That manifests itself in a few ways. The biggest are aggresiveness on defense and pace. If Central forces teams to rush on offense and gets steals, that helps. The second part of that is the pace of the game. It's dangerous for a young team, but Central seems to look better when it's trying to get numbers and getting either to the basket or an open jumper quickly.
A couple of feature/notebook things coming this week, plus more blogs now that I have some time!

What's on tap

Interesting little feature I put together coming soon on players who kind of personify Central basketball: Tough, not necessarily big in size, but big in heart. Not the most natural scorers, but people who fill the stat sheets.
I won't spoil who they are, but if you figure one person on each team, it should be easy to pick.

Women are at Stony Brook tonight. Man would it be nice to see them get a win and start rolling before NEC play kicks into full gear, but for now (and for this year really) the idea is simply to get better.

Couple of more games coming before the holidays (I'm gonna try like heck to get to UMass), so I'll try and keep your thirst for all things Devils filled with some features and notes.


What a performance. The best win of the season, perhaps the best effort of the year. A brilliant start by the Blue Devils was capped by a big finish.
There was quite a shaky stretch in the middle, but it's hard to expect a team this young to be solid for 40 minutes straight.
What to take out of this win?
1) Central can beat good teams. The talent is there. UMBC had a cold night and Barbosa was banged up, but the Blue Devils belonged on the court with the opposition.
2) Stability is a wonderful thing. Shemik and Tristan seem to be the backcourt of choice, and David Simmons has done more than enough to take a role in the frontcourt along with Horton. The third guard/small forward role might change, but those four are set for the time being.
3) Defense. If Central can defend at this level all season, it can figure out ways to score enough points to win.

Going for offense

It's Tristan, Shemik, Joe, Ken and Simmons in the lineup tonight. Let's see if smallball pays off.

Thoughts on the start of NEC play

Wow, where to start.
Ok, first, the Sacred Heart game. Central, as Howie put it best, wasn't going to win that game if it had gone on until Christmas.
The Pioneers, at least at this stage in the season, are too big, too versatile, and too experienced for the Devils.
The Mount was a different story. Central bore down on defense, got tough on the boards and battled all night long. The Blue Devils just lack players who can provide consistent scoring. Three years from now, I'm convinced Ken Horton will be a player. I think Palmer has potential, and could find his niche by February. I like that Joe is adding more dimensions to his game and doesn't seem to mind playing any role.
All that however, won't lead to wins unless someone can take the round orange thing and put it through that red cirlce with the net on it.
There were some prime examples of the lack of luck and execution on Central's behalf on Saturday. Simmons' trip into the lane in the final minute showed his tenacity, and he ended up getting an extra point out of the deal, but if he'd made the dunk, Central might have had time to foul at the end after Shemik's three.
As for those critical of the press after Simmons' play... MSM was good at the line, and I'm siding with the four-time coach of the year on this one.
I don't know if this was his reasoning, but here's mine for playing it that way. Central, if it got the steal, only needed to score once. If you foul, then they make free throws, you might have to score twice as the game goes on and you're doing the whole foul-score-foul thing. The fewer possessions Central needs this year, the better. Besides, if Tristan gets the steal, which he darn near did, coach looks like a genius.
The second one was a bright spot for Simmons, worked his tail off, as exemplified by his saving a ball in the paint and baseball passing it ahead to Dannie. I like Dannie in the lineup, I think it spreads out the duties and helps on defense, but he'll have to show he can score a little to earn that role consistently.
In the end, I think Central's best chance to turn this around for this season is to win defensive struggles. If Central can stop the opposition, it won't need tons of points. And if the others can do just enough to get Tristan going, I think the Blue Devils have seven or eight NEC wins in the 60's in them.
But until someone else steps up and scores, and until the Blue Devils show they can defend on a regular basis, there is much work to be done. Let these last few non-league games become a final training camp.
Then the real fun begins.

Technology stinks

I just spent 20 minutes spilling all my thoughts on the weekend, but it didn't make it up for some reason. I'll try again in the morning.
For now I'll leave you with the crux of my thoughts: Central just can't catch a break, but the Blue Devils have to create some breaks.
Making a layup or short-range shot will greatly help.

Early lineup

Thanks to Bruce, who already spoke with Coach: Dannie, Shemik, Tristan, Simmons and Horton sounds like the first five tonight.... but that's early. Could be a change before now and gametime. If there is I'll let ya know.

Final preparations

Heading over to Detrick now to get ready for the start of NEC play. I'll post any lineup changes as soon as I get them, but I expect to see Dannie, Tristan, Ken Horton and Marcus in there. I think it's that 5th spot that could rotate a bit.

Remember, get out on the shooters. That's the key. If you're not there tonight, every time you hear Bruce say the words "open three" and it's someone in red taking the shot, that's very bad news.

That's the big key tonight, along with no turnovers, good rebounding and good pace.

Let's do this.

Hangin' with Mr. Cooper

Bonus points to anyone who gets the reference.
Since he was so helpful and classy during the last four years, I thought I'd take a special occasion to pass along a message from Andrew Cooper.
He made a "public" thank you after the loss to UMass, but I wanted to make sure it was truly public.

"I would just like to take this time to say thank you to Central Connecticut State," he said. "The people of the admissions department and all of the people who have helped me."

"Coop" was a bulldog. I'll remember always hearing him exhorting the team on, during good times and bad.
"Let's go boys, yeah? Pick it up." "30 minutes boys." Things like that.
He always talked, win or lose, and he always led.

Between his leadership and Jonathan Agbatar's skill, Central has two big holes to fill next year. But the Blue Devils have tons of freshmen capable of stepping up and filling those shoes.

And we go

OK, it's usually a soccer term, but it applies for Thursday night. Central and Sacred Heart will both look to score tonight, so shooting well and taking good, patient shots will be key.
If the Blue Devils can get out on the run, they'll be in good shape offensively. If Sacred Heart can get the ball into the hands of its shooters, it will be in good shape.
Central has shown that it can defend, but will need its best effort of the year at that end of the floor come Thursday. If Dannie Powell plays as well as he did on Saturday and Tristan Blackwood is his usual self, Central should be just fine in the battle of the backcourts.
With Shemik and Joe providing lifts off the bench (assuming the same lineup as Saturday), Central should be able to match the Pioneers' energy.
It may not have the luster of the last matchup, but this is pretty interesting nonetheless.

Hoops recruits

Coach Dickenman gave us some thoughts on the three newcomers for next season today... Shimeek Johnson (I'm going to have name issues next year, I can tell already) is 6-6 and versatile player, an inside-outside type.
He's one of the highest-regarded players Central has ever recruited, but rankings from high school don't mean much... it's what he does at Detrick Gym that Blue Devil fans will be interested in.

So to review, next year Central will have Shimeek Johnson, Shemik Thompson, and Tamir Johnson.

Robby Ptacek (did I mention I'll have trouble with names next year?) is a shooter. He's very strong and is active defensively. but he'll be young chronologically when he arrives in New Britain.

Chris Baskerville is a guy state hoops fans know. A tough kid, and from what coach was saying today, a real good kid.

But that's for another day. I'll have thoughts on the Sacred Heart game tomorrow.

not tonight after all

I have some quotes and a couple stories I want to share with you to wrap up soccer season but I left my tape on my desk. So hopefully we can do all that tomorrow.

Quick thoughts

I have to help get the paper out, so I'll post a bunch of things tonight when I get home, but wanted to leave you with 2 quick thoughts for now.

1) The field was a joke. It was brutal. It was the first time in my nearly 30 years in one that my chair didn't sink into grass. I couldn't tell the difference under me between the blacktop and the field. That's no good.
But, with that said, and while I think the NCAA ordering the game to go on despite everyone at the game telling them not to was a hideous call, Blue Devil fans can't blame the weather. The field was ice when UMass had the ball, too. The Minutemen simply had the right shoes and the right amount of execution to weather the storm.
2) Great turnout. A Rudd Field record as I understand it, and there might have been more blue than Maroon in the stands. Considering the weather and the delay, it was an impressive showing. Blue Devil nation came through for this team throughout the tournament.

Hoop talk

I've been saying since I hinted at it in the season preview that I like Dannie and TB3 (my shorthand for Tristan's triples in my notes during games that I always thought would be a cool nickname for him) is my favorite backcourt option. Shemik would be a nice spark off the bench, and Joe has shown (at least to me) that he's OK with the move to an instant offense kind of guy. He was also full of life tonight, grabbing 8 boards.
I'd like to see coach stay with this setup, but he's much smarter than I am, so if he doesn't he has a good reason.
The battle for playing time among the bigs will sort itself out. The real key to the season, in my opinion, is finding the right mix on the perimeter.

One other thought: It might be two games from now or two years from now, but I have a feeling I'll be writing the name Ken Horton a lot in the future. Some guys play basketball, others are basketball players. Horton strikes me as the latter.

Some soccer notes

On Wednesday morning, Shaun Green was walking through the lobby of CCSU's hotel where he saw David Tyrie preparing. No, not for the game, but for a test he had on Friday.
The men's soccer team hasn't been in the classroom as much as usual over the last few weeks, but that doesn't mean they haven't been working hard to keep track of the real reason they're at CCSU.
"Our professors have been very understanding and very happy for the team," Yan Klukowski said. "I think the majority of us are doing quite well."
The Blue Devils have also handled newfound fame well. There's been tons of media attention besides just me in recent days, but the team has been most touched by the outpouring of well wishes from students and staff.
"It's been nice to come back to," Tyrie said of the support. "It's fantastic that the school has taken that much of an interest. I don't think it's had time to sink in though, because it's one day and right back into another hotel."
So remember Blue Devil fans, these guys are students, and they are fighting off the need for one heck of a nap thanks in part to the support they get from their fellow students. I won't say they deserve a win more than UMass, which I'm sure works just as hard, but I know these kids deserve congratulations and support.
If half the people who've told me they'll come if the weather's OK make the trip, then there will be tons of support.

Inspiration: Klukowski watched the men's basketball team win the NEC tournament last March and knew what he wanted to do. So in the spring he began training harder than ever, running hills. He remembers the "sweat freezing to my back."
"I thought to myself, I want a piece of this," Klukowski said of that night in March.
He's got it now. The Blue Devils are NEC champs, but they now have the chance to reach a goal they didn't even dare dream before a couple of weeks ago.
Green watched that basketball game as well, and decided at that moment to dedicate himself even more towards having one of his own. But if you know Green, you know he's never been afraid to have big dreams.
"Is is likely that we'll win the national championship? Probably not," he said. "But as long as we're alive we have that possibility. Even if it's just a two percent chance, there's still a chance until someone knocks us out."
There's a pretty good chance that Sunday will be a special day in Amherst and New Britain.

New lineup

Just learned that Dannie Powell is expected to start at the point. I like it, I'm a big believer in getting as many ballhandlers out there as possible. The Mountain Hawks are big though. This could be tough.
Let's do this.

Weekend plans

Spent Friday working on the soccer preview, hence no recent blogging. I wrote an in-depth preview for the paper, and I'll have a nice sidebar that reminds us of who these kids really are before the game that I'll post here on the blog.

I'll squeeze in some thoughts on hoops too, but as up-and-down as this group of freshman (as expected) has been, I firmly maintain that we won't know much about this team until January.

Home cooking?

Per a request I talked to people in the know this afternoon, and if CCSU wins Sunday, there's pretty much no chance they would host the quarters. CCSU is among (though now I bet the committee wishes it could start over) the lowest seeds in the dance.
That, however, didn't come from the NCAA itself, so yell at my sources, not me, if I'm wrong. However, I'd put it at 2 percent that CCSU would get a home game.

However, I'd put Central being there at 50 percent, which isn't bad at all.

Button up for a good cause

Saturday's basketball games will mark the annual CCSU Button-Up Connecticut Coat Drive. Anyone who donates a winter coat will receive a free general admission ticket to both the games. The women start at noon and the men go at about 2 p.m.
So be generous, bring a coat so that someone less fortunate can be warm while we watch another exciting basketball season.

Clearing a couple things up

Now I'll admit I knew nothing about the men's soccer tourney before this all started, but having done some checking...

UMass is the higher seed, that's why they're hosting. UMass was the higher seed in their pod. If you think of it like the basketball, it would go: BC, Tulsa, (the national seeds) Harvard, UMass (the hosts in the first round) then BU and CCSU. It had nothing to do with Central not having a good enough field.

Using the same logic I think CCSU goes to UIC or SMU, but let's worry about that next week.

PS, a men's thought

I won't lie, between being at the women's game and watching the soccer game on a video feed, then hustling to write two stories, I didn't get to follow much of the men's game tonight except for scoring updates and an occasional check of GameTracker.

I did pick up two things. First off, there seems to be more offensive diversity, which is a good sign. Secondly, it was 20-7 I believe early, and the Blue Devils rallied and fought to stay in it all night. Say what you will about this year's team, but they refuse to let anyone blow them out.

At some point, that trait will have to start leading to wins in order for it to matter. But for now, it's a glimmer of hope. Remember what I said from Day 1: Don't judge this team until January.

Are you kidding?

That was the theme of the day in Devilland. At one point tonight, coach Green said to me, "CCSU is playing for a spot in the final 8. Did you ever think you'd hear those words?"

Honestly, I did not. Though it couldn't have happened to a better bunch of people. And to see the support they're getting from the community and at the school is pretty neat. By the way, the bracket has opened up like the sky during a summer thunderstorm. There's no reason now that this team can't make the national semifinals. Especially if it's going to score 3 goals a game.

Great first half from the women tonight, not much after that. I'll post more on both of these games tomorrow, just wanted to touch base with you all tonight. I will say that, while they were late-arriving, the turnout to see coach Piper's first game was impressive.

The second half defense was not.

By the way, I know I've been a little behind in the hoops coverage, but I do promise that will pick up. At the rate this soccer season is going, however, that might not be until the middle of December.

Quite frankly, soccer season was supposed to be over a couple of weeks ago. And even more honestly, I have no problem with the fact that it's not. We'll be all over the two key NEC games that the hoopsters have coming up, but right now, Blog Central is Soccer Central.

Belief without evidence

It's a pretty cool thing. To have the faith in yourself and your teammates that things will work out, no matter how bleak they may seem at the time, is a special trait.
Shaun Green has it, and it's rubbing off on his team.
By now, anyone reading this blog or anything in the paper under my name knows the story. Green was sitting in the rain after CCSU's latest gut-wrenching loss, the season seemingly over. A year in which Green had worked himself to the bone getting the biggest recruiting class in school history, acquiring corporate sponsors and doing everything he could think of to raise the program's stature had gone up in smoke.
"At one point we were 2-8-2 and I was thinking to myself, how can this be," Green said. "How can so many people put in so much work and not get any rewards for it?"
Still, Green never let his team stop working as hard as he and his staff were. The program kept plugging. Now, eight incredible games later, the Blue Devils are a win away from the Sweet 16.
"There's a thing in life called belief without evidence," Green said. "Religion is founded upon it. People believe in God but they haven't seen him. I believe in God, but I haven't met God. I believe in UFOs. There's 260 million planets in a galaxy and 260 million galaxies. There's got to be something out there, however I've never seen a UFO. My point is this: These guys believed in this team when the evidence didn't point to it."
While the science and math might be off, all the statistics, starting with the team records, indicated that Central had the worst team in the league. But the Blue Devils were undaunted.
"Don't ever let anyone tell you that you're finished," Green told his team.
It didn't. Seven wins and a tie later, CCSU is the conference champion and the first men's team in school history to win a NCAA game. Now it's up to Tulsa to try and tell the Devils they're finished.
The Blue Devils don't believe that will happen. But no matter what the result is on Wednesday night, this team has been given the rewards it so badly searched for in October.
"It's validation," Green said. "In anything you do in life you always look for some form of validation so that whatever you do has some worth to it. What we did by beating Harvard was validate all our work."
They've also given us all evidence that belief is all you need sometimes.

Weekend up North

What a weekend. Got the chance to spend Friday in my old stomping grounds of Boston, but you guys don't care about that, even though NU is quickly getting back in the thick of things in Hockey East!

The game today was fantastic. I never thought Central would have the chance to score three times, nor did I think the Devils could do it to be honest. Both of Harvard's goals were pretty, and you have to be really impressed with the way both teams battled. Harvard kept tying the game and seeming to take control, while Central kept battling back to take the lead again.

Yes, CCSU caught a huge break in the final seconds when the ball hit the crossbar, but luck is often the residue of hard work and preparation... at least that's what a tee shirt I used to have told me. Put it this way: Central put itself in the position to get lucky in the final seconds.

This blog will be quick as I have to go write my story now, but I wanted to give credit to the TONS of fans who made the trip. And to the guy who sent me that comment today... there were bleachers full of Central fans at Harvard today... I've been to state championship high school games, college games, all kinds of soccer... and the only crowd I've ever seen bigger than today was the last time the Revs were in New Britain.

What I'm thankful for

As Thanksgiving draws to a close (it did for you normal folks hours ago, I'm just getting to bed in a minute), I thought I'd go through the list of a few things I'm thankful for in the professional sense. Obviously I'm most thankful for my family, friends, and our troops, police and firemen that keep us safe every day, but I'm talking for now about CCSU sports. Some of these will be a little bit "inside," but you'll appreciate most of them.

I'm thankful for getting to work with coaches who are as better people than they are coaches. What Mick D'Arcy did last year at Quinnipiac says all you need to know about him, and he's the nicest guy you'll ever meet. Same goes for Shaun Green, Howie Dickenman, Charlie Hickey, Jeff McInerney... the list goes on and on.

I'm thankful for the perfect storm that is my beat: a DI college with accessible people.

I'm thankful for Tom, Jason, Derrick and the CCSU SID staff that goes above and beyond the call of duty all the time in an effort to help me, and by extension, you the fans. They work harder than any of you know.

I'm thankful for a coaching lesson I got last week, and for the little moments like it that make my job so unique.

I'm thankful I've converted a Knicks fan into a Celtics fan.

I'm thankful that the "competition" is so often a teammate.

I'm thankful for the tent on the soccer field and the people who hauled it to Berlin so I wouldn't end up sick.

I'm thankful that Beryl Piper will be given a chance to grow the women's program and that she was given a chance. It was a risky hire, but she deserved to have someone take a chance on her.

I'm thankful that Piper and McInerney both want to recruit in-state when possible. It's good for the state and the teams.

I'm thankful it's basketball season.

I'm thankful I've seen a large portion of Tristan Blackwood's career at Central, and for the final chapter he's about to write.

I'm thankful to have learned Javier Mojica's story, never mind that I got to tell it. And I'm most thankful that things worked out for him the way they did considering where he started from.

I'm thankful for all the great games I've been able to see at "work." From four overtimes vs. La Salle to the women's soccer team holding off LIU to the baseball team giving everything it has the last two years.

Most of all, I'm thankful for you the readers. You make what we do possible.

Styles make fights

And there won't be a better clash of styles than on Saturday in Cambridge. Central's big tough defense against a team in Harvard that scored more than 40 goals this season. The Crimson's top two players combined to score more goals than CCSU did this year.

Still, I kind of have a hunch that Central has a chance. The defense is solid, and their will is something to behold. I keep saying it, but it bares repeating. This team was dead. It has no business being here. After the way its heart was ripped out on top of a bad start?

But don't tell the Blue Devils that. They're here, and they truly think they can win. It says here that they do, in PK's. What the heck? I hear Tulsa's lovely in the winter.

I'm taking a day off on Friday and heading up to Boston early to see some old college friends, but I'll be with the Devils in Cambridge on Saturday. I'll catch up with you all when I get home Sat. night.

Nice win

The Blue Devil men get the first 'w' of the win, and show off some big qualities.

First off, they weren't shaken by another big deficit (including a ridiculous shot to end the half), nor by letting a lead get away late. Joe seems back on track, and Tristan might be bolstered by a big shot at the end of a game. The fact that Central is consistently able to get him chances at the end is another good sign.

A rebounder or two must emerge, but we'll worry about that tomorrow. Tonight is just a night for the Blue Devils to enjoy a win and their fans to rejoice.

If your'e planning a trip

And you should, soccer is kind of a fun game to be in the crowd for because you don't really have to focus every second like basketball or football for fear of missing something... you can see a play developing over a few seconds and get ready, and talk to your friends during midfield play if you're not a hardcore fan.

But anyway, the game has been moved to Noon on Saturday.

fun at Chili's

It was a great night, the kind that reminds you of the real reason you cover sports. A bunch of young guys hanging around, eating together and waiting for their moment on national television.

We'll have more of a preview later in the week, but for now I'll just say that this one is interesting. A fantastic offense against a defense that couldn't be hotter. It's Red Wings vs. Devils all over again.

For the record, the New Jersey Devils, the defensive team, swept the Red Wings, the offensive juggernaut, in the 1995 Stanley Cup finals. Maybe that's a good sign for this group of Devils.

My favorite moment of the night was this:

After CCSU's bracket came up, a team in blue was shown scoring a bunch of highlight-type goals. The place went nuts before one player yelled, "wait, that's not us!" That was followed by a chorus of boos.

It's little things like that that make my job so much fun. I haven't listed as many little anecdotes on here as I originally planned to, mainly because I'm never sure if the other people are okay with me sharing them. So just to the on the safe side, I save most of them. It's kind of too bad, because I have an absolute CLASSIC from the other night's basketball game.

The fun before the storm

So tonight I get to cover another Selection Show party, it's been awhile since I've seen one, I love them. I'm the guy who goes crazy when it's Selection Sunday (CCSU or not), heck I get excited in the office on what we call "bracket day" for high schools.

The men deserve a ton of credit, and should get a rather cool scenario, getting to experience the dance without having to get themselves to some far off land. And yet, they'll still get to play one of, perhaps the very best, teams in the country. No word on whether Greg Oden will be involved.

Now, our couple of hoops thoughts per your questions. Wanamaker was supposed to be out until around the holidays, I'll see if that changed.

Shemik did get a look at point the other night, and I got the impression after the game that coach wants to see more from him there. It DEFINITELY helped Tristan's comfort level.

Also, remember not to make bold assesments in November of a team full of freshmen. Tamir's going to improve. Simmons has shown flashes... the rebounding is going to be solid. Shemik is a player, even though we don't know his position yet. Hall is getting the chance to contribute.

Seriously, don't get too high on this team in the good moments, and certainly don't get too low during the bad times. We just don't know enough yet. I know we live in a world now where we all have to have opinions immediately on everything, even if evidence isn't there to support it, but give this group time before we start putting players in the Hall of Fame or declaring others useless.

Some stories write themselves

So after getting robbed by the NEC and losing another game in controversial fashion, the Blue Devils find themselves 0-3-1 in league play and in need of running the table or help just to make the playoffs.
They respond by going 4-0-1. Quinnipiac falters down the stretch. Central goes to the NEC tournament and beats mighty Monmouth for the second time in a month on a field where the Hawks hadn't lost an NEC regular season game in close to three years.
Then, they down the two-seed, SFPA, who took one in New Britain when Central's tying goal in the final seconds is waved off. Revenge is sweet.
Oh, and they do it all after nearly losing their leader less than two years ago to a heart attack.
Amazing stuff. I couldn't write a better script myself. Well, there's one more thing that makes the story better, but you'll have to read the paper Monday to find out.
I'll tell you one thing about the next chapter in this story. When the Devils go to UConn (I'd be stunned if they are sent anywhere else), they have a shot. Soccer is like Hockey in that the best team doesn't always win. CCSU's defense is solid. If they can get one break or convert one good chance, the Blue Devils could pull off another stunner.
After all, considering the last month, would anything this team does surprise you?

Some stories write themselves

So the men's soccer team gets robbed by the NEC, loses another game in controversial fashion and falls to 0-3-1 in the NEC. Just to make the playoffs, they must run the table and/or get help.
They go 4-0-1. Quinnipiac falters down the stretch. Central squeaks in. They beat the top seed, Monmouth, for the second time in less than a month. The Hawks hadn't lost an NEC game at home in 3 years. Then the Devils beat SFPA in the final. The Red Flash are the same team that held off Central when an offensive foul in the final seconds negated a CCSU goal.
The Devils do all of this less than two years after nearly losing their leader to a heart attack. You couldn't write a better script. Actually you can, but to read why you'll have to see my story in the paper in the morning.
I'll tell you one thing about the next chapter in this story. Soccer is a lot like hockey in that the better team doesn't always win. With Central's defense and one lucky play or one good chance converted, the Huskies (I'd be stunned if CCSU is paired with anyone else) could be in trouble.

last little thing of the night

Then I'm going to bed. Just want to, since I pointed it out the other night, mention that the championship banners at Detrick are now in order if my eyes served me right tonight.


Ever wondered what happened to Jermaine Middleton? Read Bart's column on Monday.

Joe update

It was for defensive reasons (mostly at least) that Hall started over Joe tonight, according to Coach Dickenman.
I don't have a feel for Hall yet as a player, but anyone who defends is o.k. in my book. Plus, I like the idea of Joe off the bench for instant offense. And you have to give him this, he didn't let his play suffer by sulking. 12 points on 4-for-6 from three in 27 minutes.

Yet more changes

Joe has become the instant offense man off the bench. I believe it's tied to Coach's attempt to get Tristan more rest. The move is a surprise, so I'll ask after the game, but it could have something to do with wanting more scoring off the bench.
Or it could be due to Joe's defensive struggles. That might actually be a better bet, I might be overthinking this.
I'll dig into it after the game, however.

The rout is on

and I don't mean at the Yale Bowl. Though that one is far more surprising than the one I'm watching.
Albany's just better. Every weakness we've seen in the Blue Devils this season has been exploited to perfection by the Great Danes. CCSU just doesn't have the horsepower this season to hang with them it would appear.
Still, as I said in Gameday today, the Blue Devils deserve tons of credit for getting this far with such a young team. When the squad that just played for the conference championship comes back next year with another year under its belt, it could be a bigger year.
Of course, now that I've written their eulogy, watch the Devils score 28 straight now.

A couple of hoops notes

Well, my day off has turned into four stories, but that's what I do for you people!

3 quick things.

1) Larry: Hang on there brother. I like the way this team is fighting and their athleticism too, but let's not go putting them at the top of the conference until they figure out how to win a game, k?

2) Still want everyone's predictions and thoughts on mine, as well as more questions I can dig into for you. I broached the whole "we need to pass more" topic again this week in Gameday. Give me something new you want me to chew on.

3) A bit of breaking news. CCSU can't say anything about this until she signs, but the women's hoops team will be getting a letter of intent from Gabby Oglesby from Career in New Haven. She'll sign it on Tuesday.

I just got this news and haven't seen her play, but I know someone who has, so I'll find out more about her for you. For now I can tell you she already had 1,000 points as a junior on a team that went 61-14 over those three seasons. She has a shot to break the school record for points this season.

If Central can start getting Connecticut kids the way coach McInerney has, it will only help raise interest in the program. The state seems to be producing more big-time women's players than men in recent years (at least from the Herald area... we have four girls and 2 boys playing D1 this year), and there aren't as many top-level hoopsters locally as their are football players for some reason, but any local connections help increase fan interest.

Thoughts on the first home game

If effort won championships, the Blue Devils would be ranked first in the country after last night. They moved on defense, were active on the boards and moved the ball around. Perhaps most impressive was the way they made Albany's ridiculous size advantage a non-factor. Hustle and being in the right place can make up for lack of height.

Offensively, there's some work left to do. Tristan is pressing, and sort of admitted to as much after last night's game (notebook coming Friday with more). Once he learns to trust his new running mates, and once they give him enough reason to trust them, he'll stop trying to do everything.

But I will say this: he's capable of doing everything. As poorly as he shot the ball Wednesday, he led the team in rebounds, ran the offense and was the best defender.
The kid's a machine. There's literally nothing he can't do on a basketball court, and he's as nice a kid as you'll meet. Last night, after a tough loss, he went out of his way to greet each reporter with a handshake, then did the same as he left the interview room.
Not that any Blue Devils have been disresprectful in my four years watching them, but Tristan just stands out in that way. He's never said no to an interview, and I've bugged him during some unusual times, and is the kind of guy who will take the heat, as his quote last night indicates. He wouldn't blame his miss on a bad call.
(For the record, it was right in front of me, and he WAS fouled at the end of overtime.)

I liked David Simmons' work a lot, but I'm not going to go crazy after one night. Just like I'm not going to lose hope on Tamir because he didn't get a ton of rebounds against a much bigger team.

Joe's bigger, Tristan's bigger, and the Blue Devils had more bulk inside than they have in some time last night. There was a lot to take out of the game, especially in the way the team fought back from a big hole and worked so hard on defense.

Shemik, I think, is going to become a fan favorite. He's quick, he doesn't mind shooting the ball, and he's tough. The kid has a cut almost the length of his cheek under his left eye.
I'm not going to burden him by comparing him to a recently departed fan favorite, but the Thompson has a similar kind of intangible quality, at least to me.

The bottom line is this. The Blue Devils will struggle early while they figure things out and the newcomers get their legs, but this will be the kind of team you don't want to play in March. It might be like three years ago, when CCSU was the eight-seed, but ask Monmouth if that team was an easy out come tournament time.

I don't think Central will be an eight, by the way. Speaking of which, now that we have some game scores to look at, and you've had the chance to see your squad in person, what do you guys think of my preseason predictions? What are yours?

I'm writing Gameday tonight, so I'll save football talk until tomorrow.

Fired up!

Oops, wrong sport. But I am excited. I'm in my seat just a step to the right of the midcourt stripe, and I'm psyched. I'm a basketball guy first and foremost, so I can't wait to tip tonight. Plus, as I said yesterday, I'm eager to see all these young guys play.

I'm a little surprised that the banner's on the left. I figured it would be with the other two on the far side, by the visitors bench. Maybe that's where the 2008 banner will go?

Let's find out.

Time to raise the banner, have to go.

Random thoughts

Very excited about the game Wed. night. It will be my first banner ceremony at Central as a reporter (the women's soccer team never really does anything too formal publicly). Should be fun. Looking forward to seeing the boys in person. I think there's a clear 6 or 7 man rotation already, with plenty of time to find a couple of more guys to steal some minutes.

History in the making tonight, as Tristan begins what will be a year-long assault on the CCSU record book. He'll likely pass Justin Chiera tonight, and could, with a good game, catch some guy named Dickenman.

What people don't know about him, however, or at least don't talk about as much, is his distribution. He's already in the top 5 in school history in assists, and moving up fast.

Joe looked assertive the other night, I'm interested to see what he does tonight, as well as my current favorite Shemik. Also can't wait to see Marcus Palmer.

The Danes are huge, but Central is fast and (I think) deeper than last year. It will be an interesting clash of styles.

Good effort by the women, who managed to live at the foul line. If nothing else is working, get yourself extra chances by being aggressive. This is going to take some time, but Beryl will get them going eventually. If tonight is any indication, the Blue Devils are playing hard.

Final thoughts on the weekend

Good things coming out of the Princeton loss.... terrific first half, then a great comeback when things were bleak late. That game could have gotten out of hand, and Central ended up having a shot to tie or win instead.

I hope I'm right about Shemik, I think he has a chance to be good quickly. Not Tristan-good, but useful. They have some good frontcourt guys too... if only they had one big boy.

Finally, to finish my thought from earlier... I've had more than one coach tell me the two years or more bit, and I buy it. I wasn't saying that Central isn't or shouldn't be working on a passing game. In fact, I was saying just the opposite.

For the record, yes I would like to see Central get more diverse on offense. My point was simply that you can't just run a few passes late in a blowout and expect that the few extra plays will improve your passing offense in time for the Albany game.

It takes a couple of years to truly install an offense and rep after rep to be able to break it out in a game. That was the only thing I was trying to clear up for people, and it's this: Whether or not CCSU passed down 34-7 on Saturday, or a few more in (insert game here) would have very little impact on this game this week. It's too late for that. The Blue Devils, and every team for that matter, are who they are at this point in the season.

Now, with that said, CCSU fans have two choices going into Saturday. They can whine about what their team isn't and take a negative attitude into the NEC title game, or they can get geared up for the biggest game of the year.

Central has never won the NEC on its home field. Remember the discussion we had not long ago about media coverage and general buzz? This is your chance. Make this the biggest game of the week. Sell your building out, go crazy and help guide your team to the title and the postseason.

Yes, there are issues to be addressed about the program's future. But they won't be fixed this week. Live for the moment, you're about to witness a special one.

Very quick on football

Because it was such a non-game on every level, I won't talk too much about it. I'll just say this to some of my friends over on our favorite CCSU message board.

It literally takes thousands of reps to master a particular play, ask any big-time coach. You can't work on something the week before a big game and expect to be able to use it the next week. Football at any kind of advanced level just doesn't work that way. If you wanted CCSU to pass a lot against Albany, the prep work for that would have had to start literally 2-3 years ago, not last week.

This isn't Madden where you can work on a play for a couple of hours and get the hang of it.

Good job girls

I think we got a little greedy with the women's soccer team.... actually more so spoiled. They can't win every year, and being the 2-seed in the conference tournament in a year where they made some national powers work for wins.

This was a good group of kids who worked as hard off the field as on it. I'll never forget two years ago, when I saw two players hustle down to the field before a big game with their bags, whip them off and get into uniform just in time to play. They had come from class, which is always first and foremost at Central.

"We'd be hypocritical if we said, now you can miss class," CCSU coach Mick D'Arcy told me before the Devils left for the tourney . "If we have a game at 3 p.m. and they have a class at 1, they go to class from 1-2. They're supposed to go dressed in their gear and come right down. We try not to change anything now that we've been doing all year."

They didn't, and it's a commendable thing. Next week I'll be writing about all their academic awards. They are what student-athletes are all about.

First of 3 today

Catching up after a much-needed weekend of rest.

The men look really good right now. As I mentioned earlier, Shemik was one of the most intriguing of the newcomers. I like him. I worry about Tristan having to be point and a scorer, so if he and Joe can take the heat off of him, they'll be in good shape.

Don't go crazy yet, though, Princeton's going to make some shots before we're done here.

Thoughts on the weekend

Just thought I'd give you some thoughts on this weekend's fun.

We'll start with the big one, the women's soccer team in the NEC tournament. Central didn't play well Sunday at Sacred Heart, but didn't know the significance of the game at the time. You could make the argument that every team should be up for every game, but I have a feeling that if the Blue Devils knew that Monmouth was going to lose, it would have been a different story.
They also rested some people in that game, which was played on the old turf field there as opposed to the grass at Monmouth.
In case you didn't notice, I'm saying that the rematch on Friday afternoon will be different. Soccer's a funny game, and the team that deserves a W doesn't always get it (ask Monmouth about Sunday), but expect the real Blue Devils to show up. If they do, a spot in the NEC title game will await on Sunday.

Volleyball has its final two home matches of the year this week. They'll also have a high seed in the upcoming NEC dance, which is next weekend, along with men's soccer. I'll have much more on them next week.

This week has been about the basketball previews, which are done and ready to run. The women will be in Friday's paper, and the men on Saturday.

I'll save my thoughts until after they run (can't spoil all the fun), then I'll delve deeper into those two teams.

Football is really on the backburner this week, but it'll be in the forefront next week for the NEC title game.

Catching up

I've been a bad boy being off the blog for a couple of days, but rest assured it's not because I was taking it easy. I've been working on your basketball previews, which are bigger than we've ever done before, so they've taken a lot of effort.

First off, the soccer teams. What a great job by the men. Perhaps what the NEC did was the best thing to ever happen to the Blue Devils. It clearly inspired them. Whatever got them there, they deserve tons of credit for not laying down when they appeared done earlier this year.

The women lost a game that could have paid big dividends on Sunday, but don't appear down. I talked to Mick D'Arcy today (and I'll do more tomorrow to get ready for the NEC preview) and the Blue Devils seem focused and just fine about going to Monmouth. It will be tough, but they can definitely win two games there.

I'll have plenty on the football team next week, just a brief Gameday this week. The Blue Devils have to be ready to Saturday, they certainly don't want to head to Albany on a down note, but this is a house money kind of day.

This is the best time of year, with tourneys going on and hoops getting ready to go. I'll try and blog as much as I can, but make sure to check the paper this week, you'll see me (and your Devils) all over the place.

Final thoughts

Well, maybe these Blue Devils are like the Colts after all.
Ok, not quite, but a very nice effort in the second half. I figured the game was over after the fake (which CCSU is now 4-for-4 on in Coach Mac's tenure), but it was a solid finish by the starters.
The reserves have tons of work to do, obviously, but they're very young and will get valuable experience from games likes this. Still, it would be nice if Central didn't let these teams get close, but a win is a win.
I'd never disrespect the work the players and coaches put in every week by calling next week meaningless, but the main concern against Stony Brook will be making sure the Devils don't suffer any injuries.

One aside. I should have written this by now, but I haven't yet, so let me make up for it now. I've been impressed with the way the Blue Devils have presented themselves this season. Guys like Jo Jo Freeman, Ryan Holmes and Ernie Greywacz have answered every question, even the tough ones, with class, respect, and intelligence.

They've been a pleasure to work with this season, win or lose. They're never rushing to get away, no question is too stupid (or can be asked too many times), and no weird circumstance (a broken tape and a sudden case of the stutters come to mind for me) has caused them any outward annoyance.
They're truly a group you guys should be proud to root for.

Halftime hits

Well, good and bad for the Blue Devils so far. They're moving the ball and forcing turnovers, but those turnovers are masking the fact that the Pioneers did a decent job moving the ball in the first half.
We all called the fake field goal up here in the booth, but it was a great bit of execution by Central. Keep this going for one more half, get the job done and get ready for next week's tuneup for the big one in two weeks.


Quinnipiac just tied their match with SFNY, so Central needs only to win on Sunday (2 p.m. at home) to make the NEC tournament.

Friday fun

Gameday's done and ready for you guys to read in the morning before you head to the game. They're expecting a big crowd.... they've moved bleachers (I believe from the old softball field) over to behind the end zone by the road, so there's some more room.
Speaking of fans, your Blue Devils need you this weekend. First off, the football team has a gut-check Saturday, and can use a full house. There will be a time, especially early, when the team will need the crowd behind it as it looks to save its season.

Another team that needs some love is the men's soccer team. Senior day is Sunday, and the Blue Devils are playing for their playoff lives. After they were jobbed of two points in a NEC conference room against FDU then suffered a pair of tough losses, the Blue Devils needed to win their last five games just to have a chance at the playoffs.
Well, they've won four, and have one to go on Sunday. They win and get a Quinnipiac loss or tie in its next two games (the Bobcats were winning at last check before I wrote this), and they're in. This is a team that had every excuse to lay down, and instead is playing for a shot at the playoffs. They deserve all kinds of respect for what they've done, no matter what happens.

Hoops thoughts

O.k., you guys kept hounding me, so I figured I'd finally chime in on hoops. I've started my work for the preview, in fact it's almost ready to be written. We'll have tons of good stuff in the paper, so make sure you pick that up. I'll let you know when it's going to run.

Some early observations from talking to coach Dickenman and seeing the team practice. First off, Tristan Blackwood is a machine. Gosh that kid is the real deal. Nicest kid you're ever going to meet, too. He'll likely be at the point. I have a feeling he'll be an Iverson-type point, though. If possible, his shot looks even better this year.

Dannie will be back, and I think he'll be more confident this year. He'll never be a big scorer, but he'll be a very good defender and able to help out for good stretches at a time.

I talked to Joe the other day, and he seems much more comfortable. I think he's ready to take on more responsibility.

The newcomers are intriguing. Coach is right, Ken Horton looks like a young Donyell. Now, obviously he has leaps and bounds to go to even be close to that level as a player, but in terms of the way he carries himself, it's a scary resemblance.

There's a few guys banged up right now, but I like their potential. There are some big bodies, and certainly more depth than last year. I'm not saying there's the same quality yet, but the quantity is better. If some of them pan out (and a couple show some serious offensive potential) this team has a chance to be better than we think.
There are a couple of potential rebounders, a couple of people to play point, and some potential scorers. If any of the new guys can contribute right away, CCSU will be in good shape.

The key will be defense. The Blue Devils need to find five guys to stop the other team at key times. If that happens, this year could be far from lost.

We'll have plenty more before the season, just wanted to give you a quick progress report. The main thing to take from this blurb is that Coach may have some options, especially by the time NEC play rolls around.

Thoughts on the weekend

Some quick hits. Since I didn't finish my football thoughts yesterday, let me start there. Just an awful defensive performance. Sinisi was a tough runner, and Monmouth's offense was confusing, but that shouldn't stop you from tackling.
Not to be left out, the offense also needs some abuse. Putting up 36 points is nice, but six turnovers isn't. The worst part is most of them weren't really forced.
As for the offense, here's my weekly plea to you the fans. Remember, coaches spend the entire week breaking down film of both the opposition and their team, both from games and practice. Things are discussed, gone over, worked on, then gone over again.
Plays are called for reasons, and not becauuse a coach likes or dislikes a certain player. If the CCSU staff had evidence that the passing game would be more effective if it were used more, it would use five wideouts on every play. The Blue Devils are a run-first team because that style best fits the strengths of this particular team. As boring as you might all find it, winning ugly is better than losing just to try and be exciting.
You'll see some passing to mix things up, but it won't be what you guys seem to be calling for. Nor, in my opinion, should it be. Monmouth couldn't run Central's offense and Central wouldn't have the same success running Monmouth's. You can't just say, oh, that looks good, let's do that.
As for the one comment I read this week about practice... I can assure you that both offense and defense are practiced. The Devils didn't forget to work on it last week.
The women's soccer team has turned it on at just the right time, and very well could host the NEC tournament in two weeks in New Britain. The men also deserve to be commended. What a run it's on when it was needed most. Now they have two home games with the season on the line. It wasn't long ago that such a scenario seemed impossible.
Volleyball keeps rolling, things could be VERY busy around here in two weeks.
I'm also doing all my prep work for basketball right now, lots to come soon.

A quick aside from a Nation member

I usually leave the non CCSU sports talk to Ryan (check out his blog on the Herald's main site, the kid is smart and funny and talented) but I had to chime in after something I just saw.
First off, if you've met me, you know I'm a big Sox fan. I won't waste time bragging, but I saw a moment during the party that defines why we love sports so much.
Tim Wakefield, who told the Sox to give his spot on the roster to Jon Lester because Wakefield's shoulder would only allow him to pitch once and the Sox might need help later on in the series, was being interviewed on NESN.
As he was talking, Mike Timlin came over, and on live television, interrupted to talk about what a class act Wakefield was and how much he meant to the other players both personally and professionally. Then, two men who are both in their 40s and set for life financially, shared tears and a hug.
That's what this is all about. This was the kind of moment that makes us care so much.
Yes, all of these guys have tons of money, or will someday soon. But for as jaded as we get about tickets and salaries and the competition between fans and writers and bloggers, it all comes down to moments. At the end of the day, we go through all we do in order to experience them.
In that moment, two men who spent the last eight months together more than they were with their families while fighting for the same goal embraced when they achieved that milestone. Neither cared about money. They weren't filming a commercial.
All that mattered was the moment.

Halftime thoughts

What a weird first half. Central could easily be down 35-7, and they could easily be up big too. Four turnovers in a half make it very tough to win anything, though. I actually think they might be opening things up too much. Especially in the rain, just give it to Hull and Jo Jo and let them milk the clock. The more Central has the ball, the less Monmouth does.
Let the biggest 30 minutes of the season begin.

Just another rainy Saturday

We're underway at rainy Arute. I don't know if it's the early start, the rain or that it's on tv, but there seemed to be a sparse crowd when I came in. From the box I can't see down to see if it's filled in.
Ok, off to work, hope you guys enjoy the game.

What a weekend

I'm finishing up Gameday now, then I have to get ready for the biggest women's soccer game of the year in New Britain against LIU. The Devils and Blackbirds have a long history, and enter today tied for second in the league. This game and the game against Monmouth will go a long way towards determining who hosts the NEC tournament. More importantly, a win today gives Central its swagger back.
The men are at Monmouth today, and the Hawks haven't lost an NEC game in more than two years.
After my double-duty with NBHS football tonight, I'll be getting up early to give you guys all the coverage from Arute when the Hawks' football team comes to town. I won't spoil Gameday for ya, but let's just say there's a quote in there you're' DEFINITELY going to enjoy from coach Mac.
It's getting to be that time of year, when every game gets a different feel.

I'm back

Sorry it's been awhile since I've blogged, it was a busy weekend. First off, how about those Red Sox, eh?
Ok, back to what you guys care about, your Blue Devils. We'll start with the football game. I had the pleasure of driving down with a bunch of guys you know, and we had a great time. Days like that make my job interesting, even if we did have to go over every bridge in New York (I hate heights).
As for the game itself, it was a gutty effort. The defense was dominant for more than a half, and the offense saved the day when it had to. Throw in a little luck, and the Blue Devils cleared their path to the NEC title. Albany won't be easy, but the Devils will be the favorite at home.
The passing game was better, though it will never be what a lot of fans around here wish it was. Remember, plays are called for specific reasons, it's not that a coach or group of coaches just likes one style more than another. You go with what works, as Jo Jo Freeman once told me.
The pass defense wasn't shaky, but it was the one area I'd like to see improved most based on last week. I wrote down Matt Abbey's name in my notes way too often.
How about the guts Mac showed on the reverse call? If that doesn't work, Wagner wins the game on a field goal. I'm certain of it. But it did, so the Blue Devils look like geniuses.
Anyone have any questions about the Wagner game for a guy who was on the sideline? How about this week's Monmouth tilt? Don't forget, 11 a.m. start.
Big weekend for the men's soccer team, which looks like it's getting its ducks in a row. But it may be too late. The women are making a serious run at the NEC, with huge home games coming up. They could use a big turnout for the LIU game in particular. I believe their Dartmouth game is off so that the Monmouth game can be replayed, I'll find out tomorrow. I doubt it will be rescheduled, though.
The volleyball team keeps rolling. If they win the NEC regular season title, we could be looking at one of the biggest weekends in CCSU history coming up in early November.

A clarification and a note about yesterday's blurb

Just wanted to make one clarification about my NEC/Bryant blurb last night.... I was referring to the sports that are D-1 when I said they're supposed to avoid D2 schools.... so that applies more to basketball as I understand it and soccer than football, which is (I can't say 1-AA or the NCAA will be mad). I also got that detail very quickly and didn't have time to break down all the details.
Also, I'm sorry things were a little vague... there were two reasons. First, I got the scoop at about 9:30 p.m. Wed. night, and had to write that story and a volleyball gamer. The second reason was that I was trying (in a short time frame no less) to get as much detail in as I could without a lot of hard facts, and I also, when writing something like that, have to make sure that the sources aren't revealed.
Now that it's official, I'll get you more details, hopefully Friday for Saturday's paper.

Just a couple of goodies

You guys have been so nice to me that you get an extra notebook this week, plus Gameday on Saturday. (I'll be at Wagner, by the way, so expect full coverage on Sunday).
As for the rumor of the day, as I understood it there was a meeting this week involving key people from NEC schools, but expansion, while expected to come up, wasn't necessarily going to be voted on.
I'm sniffing around to see if it was, but don't go crazy yet, it wasn't guaranteed to be decided on at this meeting as I had it explained to me. I'll try and see if something changed.

Allow me to add my two cents

First off, what a weekend. I think I wrote six stories. Two great soccer games and the football team pulling out a giant victory.
I'll have more on that as the week goes on, we're planning a bunch of notebooks.
I wanted to chime in on the topic of the day, however, and that's media coverage of the Blue Devils.
First off, I think a lot of the fans' focus is misplaced. Don't try and be UConn, find your niche as the number two team in the state. Without any disrespect to the great people I work with at Central, the Huskies are always going to be top dogs (pun intended) in this state media wise. The goal of Central fans who want more attention should be to fight off Hartford and Yale.
With that said, there are two ways to do that. The first is by winning, which the people at Central are getting pretty good at. No one ignored CCSU's tourney run last year. I'm always amazed by the other writers who are suddenly next to me at soccer games when the women make the tournament. If the football team makes the postseason, it'll be fighting off all the media who will show up.
The second (and most important) step is up to you, Blue Devil fans. We the media cover what people want covered. That's why Britney Spears is a bigger deal than the president.
As CCSU has garnered more buzz in recent years, our coverage at the Herald has increased (I'd never be going to Wagner for a football game like I am now in the old days). Now you guys have a blog dedicated to your school and on Saturday there were four stories in the local paper on your school. That other paper in the state staffs just about every football game now, as well.
But now you guys have to step up. The crowd on Saturday was smaller than it was for the Southern game. You want to draw reporters? Give us a crowd to follow. We go where you go.
If you want more buzz, you have to create it. It doesn't work the other way around. The media won't help you create buzz, you have to give them a reason to cover you. CCSU gave you 4,000 more seats. Fill the seats you have, then all the extra ones, and more media guys like me will come, I PROMISE. You want the TV channels to come? Make sure they know that New Britain is the place to be.
Until then, you're stuck with me. :)

Second helping

I try to keep my opinions out of the actual paper, but on the blog it's o.k. to rant a little, so I'm going to.
First off, let me say that I'd have the same opinion had CCSU men's soccer team been given a victory it didn't deserve instead of had a deserved win taken away.
What the NCAA and NEC has done here is wrong, in my humble opinion. I'm all for using modern technology to fix mistakes. I have no problem with replays to decide if a ball went in the net, a shot came after the buzzer or what player threw a punch.
Those calls in those situations (hockey goal, basketball buzzer-beater or any sport with a big fight), however, are made by the referees. They aren't made days later in an office.
Appeals should be used for rules interpretations, not judgement calls. If the wrong player was red-carded and you want to overturn a suspension, fine. If it can be proven that the game's score was wrong due to a mathematical error, that should be fixed. But to say a referee can't determine when he blew his whistle is a scary proposition. Next he won't be able to decide for himself if a ball was inbounds.
To be fair, let me say that while the NEC was wrong for using the process it did, its judgement was correct. According to the letter of the law, Central's goal shouldn't have counted, the whistle had blown before the ball was in the net. But can't common sense be used? If the ref was blowing the whistle to signify a goal, then should the fact that he made his ruling less than a second too early out of anticipation be held against the team that scored?
More importantly, if we're going to start appealing judgement calls, when does it end? Will every close call be sent for computer analysis? Does that mean we wait three days from now on to find out who REALLY won a game?
At the very least, there MUST be a clear list of things that can be appealed, and they should be heard during the game. Almost every team has video cameras at a game. Let's have a laptop at the scorer's table, load the video and settle it before the game goes on. You want to have instant replay in all sports? Fine. Do it on the field. That way, even if an appeal is granted, the team being denied doesn't have to wait three days to find out it didn't win.
Games are meant to be watched and remembered on videotape. They're meant to be decided on the field.

Gut check

Well that wasn't pretty, but it got done.
There will be games against bigger names, but if the Blue Devils reach their goal of an NEC championship, this is the game they should look back on. The Blue Devils fought through a rough first half, with the defense making sure the game was there for the taking.
What impressed me most was the way Coach Mac and his staff were willing to stay with what they knew would work eventually. I can already see the Internet buzz that will come tonight and Sunday: 75 rushes in one game is insane. Well, for this team, it isn't.
As Dennis Green would say, the Blue Devils are who they thought they were. But, they didn't let Robert Morris off the hook.
Those who want a high-powered passing attack will likely need to find a new team to root for. You saw the inconsistencies in the CCSU passing game today, though it should be given credit for some huge plays when they were needed. It's not about how many times you come through, it's when.
What you also saw, however, was a team that finds ways to make big plays. Ernie Greywacz saved the day twice on defense, and Central scored when it had to.
Wagner won't be easy next week, but I'll be down there to let you know how it goes.