That was a tournament game in everything but name. Incredible energy, if not execution, by both teams. I have to echo Coach Dickenman's feelings that it's a shame Tristan didn't have a big night on Senior Night, but Dannie Powell stepped up, and Joe was fantastic as well.

CCSU had way too many missed chances on offense, it was a night when very little clicked. The Blue Devils were a touch off inside as well. Q isn't that much bigger, it shouldn't have had that easy a time inside, though Central made a good adjustment and actually outrebounded Q from halftime on.

What can you say about DA? He did it a bunch of times wearing the home white in the building, and was spectacular last night. Forget the half-court shot to win the game, that's mostly luck. More impressive were the two or three daggers he hit previous to that, each of which could have won the game had CCSU not responded.

I still don't believe that teams that don't have legit second options don't go far in the postseason (for instance: right before Horton's three, we were discussing on press row who would take the shot and there was debate... there's never any doubt who's taking the shot for Q), but DA is a heck of a first option.

This is a season-definer for both teams. Does the Q take this momentum into the playoffs now that it knows it can win on the road? Do the Blue Devils bounce back, as Joe was insistent they would do, or is this the game that finally breaks this young bunch?

Finally, a quick answer from something I saw over at CCSUfans: Shemik got hit with an elbow with about 7 minutes left in the first half (somehow, he picked up his 2nd foul on the play). I'm no doctor, but he was awfully woozy when he left, and he appeared out of it when he came back to the bench. I do know he went to get tests done, but as of the time I left to get back to the office it was just a "facial injury". I'd be surprised to see him Sunday, but the kid is tough, he should be there for the NEC's.

Dave update

This is why Tom and the crew are the best... questions get answered ASAP. First off, I was wrong off the top of my head, Simmons did play against UMass. This is the first time he's dressed since, but he is not expected to see the court tonight.
I'll try and get word on when he'll return (if at all, which I'd still be surprised by) after the game.

update from courtside

Truthfully, his practice time was so limited Wednesday that I didn't even consider asking if he was back because I thought there was no chance, but David Simmons is in uniform tonight for the first time I believe since the Delaware game. I have to go back and check, but wanted to get that news out there right away.

Time to play the game

This is the first game of the year I'd have paid to get into if I wasn't working. There's been an atmosphere around campus the last couple of days that I haven't felt since last March. I picked up on it during Wednesday's practice and being around tonight. There's a ton of media in town. It's a big deal tonight.

And I can understand why. Big game, important for seeding, and Tristan vs. D.A. one more time. I can't wait, and no I'm not rooting for anyone. I actually enjoyed working with DeMario while he was here. The are class people throughout the NEC that I've enjoyed talking to, from SHU to Wagner to Quinnipiac to the Mount. I root for stories, not teams per se. Ryan's right about that.

As for tonight, watch for the Blue Devils to run early and often, and for the Bobcats to try and shoot themselves out of their recent rut. First to 75 wins this one.

Time to play the game.

Bonus points for anyone who gets either reference, that or the original let's do this. Post here.

"Let's do this"

I see the confusion. "Let's do this" is an old wrestling term. I don't even remember who said it... I use it occasionally before a game as if to say "let's play... let's get it started," or something to that effect, not "Let's go Central."

It just means, enough talking about what needs to happen, let's see what happens, let's play the game. It has nothing to do with rooting for someone.

Sorry if I gave the wrong impression, just trying to give the blog a little personality! I'll change it to my favorite wrestler's catchphrase... from now on it will be "Time to play the game."

Quick rebuttal

I'll be back Monday with thoughts on the finish of the season, just wanted to respond to one comment I got.

If I'm a schill, why did I pick CCSU sixth in the league before the season? (It's on the record, go back and look at the season preview in the paper.) Why was I critical of them after the LIU game? Why when I was doing the "what has to happen" blog last week did I say Central would go no better than 1-1 against RMU and SHU? And I'll go back and look, but I believe I called that generous.

Why do I constantly tell people not to get overly enthusiastic not just about this season, but the future of the program in general? Would a schill be basically saying, as I have, that moving to a bigger conference or getting a big arena is a pipe dream?

I defended one of the best players in school history because he's one of the best players in school history and I felt that people were overlooking the little things he does. I was trying to provide insight from being around them so much about some of those little things. If that makes me a schill, then fine.

Who to root for

Well, this is moving day in the NEC.

If you're Central and you want fourth, you simply must win out from here. As I wrote today, no more stinkers allowed, and because of the last one you have to pull an upset in Fairfield.

The big key tonight for CCSU is RMU over the Mount. The Mount wins and fourth place is gone. If they lose, the Mount has two more games against teams fighting for their seasons to drop one more and help Central.

Quinnipiac should win at The Rink tonight, and you could make a case that the Cats skid down the stretch considering their brutal schedule.

That's the help CCSU needs. If Quinny wins one (after tonight, which they should win) then root for them to finish strong and get fourth if you're pulling for Central. I still think that's the best matchup for the Blue Devils, though several of my esteemed colleagues disagree.

After tonight, we'll be able to start doing ifs and ors for the playoffs.

First, CCSU needs a win tonight.

Let's do this.

Freshmen and a senior

Chalk yesterday up to a group of young kids who came off one of the most draining games of the season and quite frankly, appeared to have nothing left.

Perhaps they came into the game thinking this one was going to be easy (they should have read the preview I wrote to know the Blackbirds were 8-3 at home and fighting for a berth.) But there were several times when they tried to mount a rally, but you could tell that the guys just weren't there mentally.

Stinkers like that are common for young teams, but can happen to anyone (I was at CCSU's game at FDU last year when the Blue Devils just stopped playing, and anyone who saw UConn on Saturday knows it even happens to ranked teams, too). Horton's quote was accurate... days like that happen, but can't happen in March.

I wouldn't get too worked up over these losses... the RMU game was a game agaisnt an older team that Central wins by 10 two years from now. And, as hurtful as the LIU one was, you can't say you're truly surprised if you've watched this team over the course of the year... sometimes they lose their steam.

As for Tristan: He might very well still be sick (he'd never admit it) but the bigger issue with him is that he's the focus of every team's defense. Throw in the fact that the players around him are still getting their legs under them in terms of being go-to players (some times they feel it, sometimes they don't), and it can be tough for him to take over games in the way some people want him to.

Another HUGE factor is that he's asked to do much, much more than score. He's the primary defender, the main ball-handler and the team's pillar of strength. It can be a tiresome burden to mean so much to a team. Last year he could fill in for a night when the emotional leader (Javy) had an off night or the pillar (Obie) was missing.

This year he's asked to do it all almost every night. Many times he has. Sometimes he struggles. It's perfectly fair and understandable to rip a kid when he has a bad night (he didn't do very many productive things against LIU, I'll be the first to say it) but, as someone who's around the team quite a bit, I must take issue with the questioning of his leadership. He is revered by his teammates and does more little things than most will ever know.

And remember one final thing: The other team is playing defense, too. Sometimes, they do it well.

More Hall

Aaron Hall gets the call today along with TB and Shemik, with Marcus and Kenny up front. This might be Central's most explosive lineup offensively, and the Devils will need all the points they can get today.

Greetings from Brooklyn

Where the women's game has just begun. Had about the easiest trip ever with the media contingent, let's hope that's an omen for the rest of the day.

This is my first visit to the Wellness Center. Nice court, good lighting, fun little setup. The fans are right on the court here, so if this place has reason to get loud, it can get intimidating for the visitors.

It's think pink day here, just like CCSU did last week. Hopefully the attention that college basketball has given the cause this month pays off, and people continue to help fight cancer of all kinds. I can't think of a sport that does a better job with a specific charitable or awareness cause than college hoops does in the fight against cancer.

The Blue Devils need to think win today against a very good offensive club. I can't say much more than what I did in the paper today... look for Central's guards early in this one. If Shemik struggles handling the ball or TB is off with his shot, this could get dicey. Fourth place isn't out of reach yet, but it would be with a road loss today in a winnable game.

Ok,, back to work, the women, also fighting for a playoff berth, are within two against a very good LIU team more than 10 minutes in.

Well, this will be interesting

Well, Central gets another shot to enter the NEC elite Thursday night, and can prove it belongs in that class with a win over a very good RMU team. The Blue Devils' toughness, which has been the focus of this winning streak (along with second-half production) will be a big factor. CCSU matched up with Wagner, a team people thought would push it around. Can the Blue Devils do the same to the Colonials, winners of seven straight?

Marcus Palmer must continue to be tough, and Ken Horton must be on offensively while being his old "block-machine" self on the defensive end. CCSU must also do a better job against RMU's pressure than it did in the first meeting between the teams. Shemik has been brilliant of late, and must keep the Blue Devils away from the turnover bug tonight.

So those are your "What to Watch for's" tonight:

1) Fight back: CCSU must be as physically and mentally tough as it was against Wagner.
2) Rebound and run: CCSU has made getting a board and starting a break an art in recent games.
3) Execute: Holding onto the ball and not wasting possessions is essential in what could be a low-scoring affair. Of course, every time I predict a low score the game becomes a shootout. If so: Advantage Devils.

Saturday night part 2

This was originally going to be part of the basketball post, but I decided to make it a seperate thing.

I spent Saturday night at CCSU's Champions Banquet for the men's soccer team.
Want to take a second to thank them for inviting me, and giving me praise that went well above and beyond what I deserved. It was a priveledge to get to watch them make that run, and I hope you guys all enjoyed the coverage not for my sake, but for the kids. They deserved the attention they got. Like I said at the party: I've seen some dominant teams at CCSU, but I've never seen a team come back from such odds. It was impressive to say the least.

And a quick addition to my brief remarks on Saturday. I meant to thank Jason for all his help during that NCAA run and Derek for helping me get you all those quotes from Tulsa and the NEC's.
And to Jackie and Kelly for keeping me company during all those Sunday afternoons with no other reporters around. I got one to join Red Sox Nation and the other to adopt the Celtics, so I feel like I accomplished something in return for their helping keep me sane in the rain on days when I had to do two games and the paper.
Now, if someone can only explain to me why soccer isn't a spring sport...

A final thought: I never cease to be amazed by the class of the people around the programs I cover. Win or lose, you out there in Blue Devil nation can be proud of the people who represent your school.
I've occasionally been critical of some teams and players for their performance, but I can honestly say I've yet to meet a bad guy or gal over there. I truly love my job.

Saturday night

What a busy but fun day on Saturday. Got paid to watch two entertaining basketball games to start.
The men looked good in terms of their competitiveness and their ability to hold onto the ball. I have a feeling Shemik is going to have a very good, very underappreciated career in New Britian. He flies under the radar a little, but when he plays well he can really be a "glue guy".

Horton and Marcus have both officially broken the chains and are now attacking the basket the way Central needs them to. They say that by the end of the year freshmen aren't freshmen anymore. And while technically Marcus never was, neither of them are "freshmen" in the timid sense anymore.

Not sure what to make of the second-half surges in recent games other than knowing how good CCSU's coaching staff is and how much young teams tend to feed of each other. Winning is contagious, so is a hot streak. When Ken gets going it gets Joe going, and when Joe gets going Tristan gets going, etc., etc.

Not sure about Thursday yet, I usually get a better feel as I do more prepping for the preview story that runs the morning of the game. Right now I think the Blue Devils are the underdogs, but I thought that going into the Wagner game.

And down the stretch we come

Well, it all comes down to schedules and matchups now.
After Thursday night's game with RMU, Central finishes the year with 3 of 4 on the road, where it has not fared exceptionally well this year. It does so, however, against beatable opponents.

If the Blue Devils want to get that fourth and final home playoff spot, winning games like at LIU and FDU is necessary. History says the Blue Devils beat the Bobcats, and we'll give CCSU a split against RMU and the Heart for purposes of this discussion.

That would make CCSU 12-6 in the league. No matter where that puts the Devils, that's a heck of a year for such a young team. It also means that the Bobcats, who have a BRUTAL schedule down the stretch, will have to win three of their five remaining "losable" games, especially if they fall to CCSU, who would then win the tiebreaker.

I like Robert Morris to win the regular season, as the Heart has a rough road swing to end the year. That would make SHU the 2-seed, with Wagner the three. If you're the Devils (or a fan of the team and want to go to the games) you're then hoping CCSU wins its game then either Sacred Heart or Wagner falls in the first round (as I've said all year, watch out for the Mount in March), so that CCSU doesn't have to go to RMU until the final. Not that a trip to Wagner or Fairfield would be fun, but it's a more winnable game in my humble opinion.

That would give coach a few days to prep the team for RMU, making the Blue Devils very dangerous.

Of course, none of this matters if Central can't take care of business on the road. It also changes drastically if Central plays on Thursday night the way it did against Wagner and finds a way to pull another upset against a top team that can rough you up.

This is why March is my favorite time of year. I could just as easily make a case for Central to finish sixth as I can for them to win the tournament. And there are HUGE games to follow around the league over the next few days. For a basketball junkie like me, this is as good as it gets. Let's make the turn for home and watch the stretch drive. It's going to be a heck of a horserace.

First of many

I'll share several thoughts with you on Sunday about the DH sweep and my night at the CCSU soccer banquet, just wanted to get some quick news up there that, as anyone that was in the building saw, Brian Wanamaker is back with the team.

Coach was happy to have him back and remains hopeful that the kid earns some PT. Good for the young man, too. If down the line he chooses to transfer that's one thing, but I'm glad he didn't just quit. And I give him a lot of credit for asking to come back, I imagine this must have been a hard stretch for him. For all the criticism that goes on of athletes, sometimes we forget that they're kids. Especially the freshmen.

Ok, scrap that....

Ok, some lineup changes again.... we're back to the Iron 5. Joe and Tamir are both back in for the opening tip, though I think we'll see lots of Marcus and a good amount of Aaron Hall today.
Good job Blue Devil Nation, by the way. It's snowing, but the crowd (though a little late in arriving) is filling in nicely.
Let's do this.

Some thoughts

First off, wow, don't even know where to begin about Thursday night. Great win. I'll even resist the urge to jokingly poke at the friends I've argued with here by making a reference to the new building, where CCSU is now 2-0.

If you can defend, you can win, it's that simple.

Also went to check out CCSU's club hockey team tonight... as a guy from a Hockey East school I have to say I was impressed. I'll have a feature on the team and its trip to Florida early next week.

The road ahead

First off, some blogger mail:
X-Man, yes, I see solid improvement in this team. It will be a tough adjustment next year with the loss of Tristan, but I think there remains a good chance that the new breed turns into a deep and versatile squad. Fans should expect some growing pains next year in the first year without 35 on the floor.

J.J.: I think I know the answer to your Bracket Buster question, but let me ask a few people, just in case I'm not right. I'll try and get back to you on here within a couple days.

As for Thursday night:
This could be fun. Looking forward to seeing the Bobcats in person later this year (our sister paper in New Haven is covering this one for us as I'll be stuck behind the desk), but I have a feeling this one could be good.
Both teams will get after it on each end. This one will be hard-fought and tough for 40 minutes, and it should be fast-paced. I feel Central will have something in store for DA, whether it's Tristan or maybe Horton on the defensive end. The key will be timing. Central must first avoid an early storm on the road, then it must counter the QU runs that have come at end of games.
Also, avoiding turnovers against a team that can make things a little chaotic will be key (as it will be again on Saturday).
They're basic keys I know, but sometimes this is a simple game.

Hoping to see the Blue Devil fans get out there as I've been reading they might. The Hockey Rink in Hamden should be close to full for a good rivalry game like this, time for the fans top step up.

They're back

While I'll caution the loyal Blue Devil fans not to go too far in the other direction and start predicting a dynasty, I think it's safe to say that Saturday night's win should get rid of some of the "sky is falling" mentality that has been prevelant in recent days.

Ken Horton is growing up before our eyes, and he's going to get stronger. Shemik Thompson still struggles at times, but he has the mettle you need from a point guard. He'll figure it out.

But the player I'm most impressed with of late is Marcus Palmer. 11 rebounds on Saturday (CCSU outrebounded the most physical team in the league 49-29) and a a newfound willingness to get in the paint and go up with the ball. Gone are the days of Palmer fading away from 10-15 feet. You all know my belief that height is overrated, but you do need grit. And Central, with Tamir and now Marcus (to go along with two terrific rebounding guards in Shemik and Joe), has that.

This win shouldn't make people think the NEC is now Central's to win (let's just say Wagner didn't exactly match the Blue Devils' intensity in the second half), but it is a very good sign. Central broke Wagner's will, and showed, as Howie Dickenman's teams usually end up doing by March, that you have to outplay them because you won't be tougher and you won't out work them.

By the way, I say Marcus is the most impressive of late because I can't think of a bigger word to define Tristan. Coach was making reference last night to the fact that Tristan won't be affected by his latest record, and Tristan tried his best to deflect all credit to his teammates. It was something to see. He's a special player and a great kid to get to cover. CCSU fans should be proud to have him representing their team.

As for the win, Central needs to back it up now. The Blue Devils cancelled out a bad loss with a great win, they remain right about where they should be in the standings. A road win Thursday and a big win at home Saturday would set the tone for the stretch run in a league no one can figure out at this point.

I still wouldn't put the Blue Devils much higher than sixth, but they have a chance to prove me wrong with two big wins in the days ahead. Let's say that after last night, I'm very close to getting back on the bandwagon for this year while still driving the bandwagon for the future.

Roster changes

I'll post more about the amazing win by the men tomorrow, but I just wanted to get a touch of breaking news out there.
Brian Wanamaker didn't dress for the game Saturday after meeting with head coach Howie Dickenman and informing him that he was considering leaving the team.
"I said to him I'm not going to accept that right now," Dickenman said. "I want you to think about it over the weekend, sleep on it, and we have practice on Monday and you're welcome to come."
Dickenman is hopeful Wanamaker returns to the team.
On the women's side, Cati Keating and Danica Covington are no longer with the team, though they remain enrolled at the university. LaTisha Hatcher missed the game due to an injury, and her return date is unknown.

quick update

Tamir is back after all. Hall and Palmer are both playing well though, so not sure how much we'll see of him.

A quick apology

Big Blue,
Not sure which blog specifically you were refering to, but I certainly wasn't attempting to "lecture" anyone. If it came across that way, I apologize.

I was merely trying to give you my opinion, which is what I'm supposed to do here, along with getting more insight, which I'm working on all the time. I strive to get you guys answers to all your questions, it just takes time sometimes. Hopefully it comes through which is which. Remember, I'm new to this whole interactive thing.

In the meantime, I try and give you my takes on the issues of the moment. Doesn't mean I'm right or wrong on some things, I'm just giving you my thoughts.

My point about the "5" is this: Especially at NEC-type levels, guards and speed are taking over. Basketball as a whole is changing. Before I'm done in this business, the "5" will take more jumpers than they will dunk. That's why I combined height with presence, because they are often the same thing (though Horton has both and I believe will be that presence in a year or 2).

Those are my observations from following the game in various capacities and at different levels. Certainly wasn't intended to be a lecture.


The bad thing about having a week off between games is because it gives fans the chance to get off on tangents.

I don't even know where to begin with some of the stuff I've read in the last couple of days, but let me try and take a few points.

1) Every coach tries to win every game. If you knew the hours that went into scouting reports and practice and the like, no one would ever insult a coach or player by saying otherwise. Sometimes you might not agree with the plan, and sometimes it isn't executed, but there's no coach who says, eh, "who cares if we win tonight." None. Doesn't happen.

2) Don't believe everything you read on recruiting web sites. I won't pick on any particular one, but let's just say there are some out there that aren't necessarily perfect in their accuracy. I encountered a couple this year alone that ran stuff I know to be nonsense. Many of them are very good, and I use a lot of them for research purposes. But just don't take everything you read there as fact.
I'll never forget chasing a story about one kid who was coming to CCSU a few years back and it turned out that they were never even in on him. That was my first experience with those sites, and I've learned that there are many others like it.

3) There's no need to have the height fight again, but anyone saying CCSU isn't trying should save your posts. They'll either be the source of a good laugh or something you can admit you were wrong about if these freshmen grow up the way most of us who have seen them play think they will.

And for the record, that works both ways, it's not a "homer" statement. If you'll recall, I was telling people who were ready to give Central the next 3 NEC titles to settle down as well. A few wins isn't everything, and a couple of losses doesn't mean the future is bleak, and is CERTAINLY doesn't mean people have stopped trying.