Stuff to come

I'm working on a preview for spring football that starts 4/1.
Then, tonight, I plan on posting all that hoops stuff I've been talking about forever now.


I have some stuff on the four signees I'll get to ASAP as well.


I promise! I know I've been bad, lots going on here in the office.
To that commenter, I have some thoughts on Joe E. and some other guys, I'm going to do an extensive blog on here as soon as I get some time.

The point I was trying to make in the story was that the key to next year, other than Kenny, is the point guard spot.


Talked to several people today, and I don't think anything's going to come of what a couple of you were asking me about.

I'd be shocked, let's put it that way.

2 things

First off, getting some baseball stuff done that will run Wed.

Second, going to try and get an answer to the three people who asked me the same question today ASAP.


The NEC can be proud of its representative in the dance, as LIU made UNC work until the final minute.

I think Nantz said it correctly on the broadcast... That team is the clear, heavy favorite to be back there next year. I wouldn't count CCSU out, but it will be difficult to beat that team.


LIU has come from (I think) 23 down to cut it to 12. When the Blackbirds run with confidence, they can score with anyone. The question is, can they get enough stops.


I'm the last guy to blame refs, you all know that. And I have to preface this by stating the obvious: UNC is MUCH, MUCH better than LIU.

That all said, the Blackbirds are getting mauled inside and can't get a call. It's hard to make layups when you're getting whacked by two guys every time.


The Big East, despite what I said yesterday, is starting to scare me. Too many close calls. Notre Dame takes too many long shots, it might get picked off earlier than I had thought.

Bruce Pearl is going to get fired. I don't think he's going to Providence. I do think Ed Cooley is.

Kyrie Irving makes Duke VERY scary.

I don't like the new TV set up at all. I liked teh three or four games at a time, easy to follow, schedule. I like that all the games are on, but not the staggered starts.

LIU making a huge push, down five!

Back in a bit.


Sorry, it's been kind of a crazy day. If you're not watching, but on LIU-UNC on CBS. The Blackbirds are down 8 midway through the half and putting up a fight.

Also, BU only down 4 at the half vs. Kansas!!!!!!


Why can't anyone make free throws? It's an open 15-footer. Guys who can make that shot on a catch and shoot with 2 hands in their face can't make it when they're alone, and it drives me nuts.

It also gave me a heart attack and now I've lost Michigan State on top of it. Bad day for your beatwriter's bracket.

How's everyone doing? Shoot me a note if you want to talk tourney stuff. I'll probably post sporadically again tomorrow as the day goes on. Enjoy the best 2 days of the year!

Next week I'll give you my breakdown for Central heading into next year.


Michigan State making a big comeback.

Btw, is UCLA's Josh Smith the biggest center in the country?


Is UCLA wearing for shoes?


At least to me. Michigan State getting housed by UCLA and St. John's losing big as well. NOT good for my bracket!


The Big East did well with two more teams to go.

I was very dissapointed that Princeton lost, but I think some of the lower-seeded teams have acquitted themselves well in a year when a lot of people thought they wouldn't because of how many upsets their were in the conference tournaments. I do think that hurt our chances of getting a lot of upsets today, though we're going to have a 12 and 13 play for a spot in the Sweet 16 already.

I think Wisconsin might be better than people think. Certainly did better than I did.

Jimmer won't do anything as a pro because he has one skill. Kemba will be a much better pro.

Temple's zone is a HUGE problem for SD St.


Unless something crazy, we're going to have to wait until midnight for another shot at a buzzer beater.


So two of the games are blowouts and two others have a long way to go, so this is our first real boring stretch of the day. Looks like Belmont (my upset pick) is going to go down to the wire with Wisconsin, but we're not there yet.


UConn off to a great start, no tiredness issues for the Huskies.


I think if the Huskies can get through the fatigue tonight, they will cruise to the Final Four. But like Syracuse a few years ago, tonight is the tough one.


It's 6:47 and we've hit our first moment of the day with no games.

But don't fret, we're about 10 minutes away from the next set. Go get some food!


Richmond winning is my first good pick of the tourney. I'm 5-2 so far. You?


Richmond is called the Spiders, which is tremendous.

What's your favorite nickname in the tourney?


Now it's Richmond and Vandy threatening to go down to the wire.

Last year's first day was still the best ever, but this one is off to an amazing start.


I'm still here. We now have Northern Colorado hanging around with SDSU (great news for UConn) and Richmond, a popular upset pick, has taken the lead.

Btw, 4 games have been decided in the last 7 seconds today.


Kentucky hits a buzzer beater to beat Princeton, which helps my bracket but still makes me sad.

Now we watch Norther Colorado try to hang with SDSU.


Princeton with the ball down 2 with less than a minute left on CBS.


A friend of mine says because Ville lost it shows the Big East was overrated. I think he's nuts. You?


Since I'm not covering anyone in the dance I can say c'mon Princeton!


Fernandez with the ugliest buzzer beater in recent tournament history, but I won't complain since he just saved my bracket. Great win for Temple.


Eew, I hate using Vitale lines.

That was absolutely a clean block from our boy Kenneth. Morehead wins that game. Crazy start.

Now on to Penn St Temple, which is close with a couple minutes left, which is big for me because I have Temple winning the next game too over SDSU.


My first big scream at the TV of the day. Morehead hits a 3 with four seconds left.

Why do I root for my bracket to lose?


Morehead has the ball down 2 with about 30 seconds left. I think you play for the last shot with about 8, giving Kenneth the chance to get an offensive rebound.


Morehead State didn't fall apart when Louisville took the lead here. Great coaching job and toughness by the kids. Ville is up four with nine minutes left. If Morehead can figure out how to stop turning the ball over here, it would be in good shape.


You know how Howie Dickenman always stresses boxing out, and that if you do it correctly it doesn't matter how big the other guy is?

ODU just found out why. Great job by Howard to go get the ball and lay it in, and the tournament has its first great moment. Butler at the buzzer.


Great finish coming in DC with the Butler ODU game and Morehead hit a big three to get to the half tied with Ville. That's a HUGE momentum swing. If it can get to the under 12 timeout, watch out.


I'd heard about this kid Ken Faried from Morehead State, but watching him rebound is fun. He's listed at 6-8 but gets the ball against anyone. Crazy. If he could score at all he'd be scary good.


It's VEEEEEEEEEEEEERY early, but L'Ville can't buy a basket and Morehead State is up 7-0 on TBS.


Tied it up at the half. Clearly the Mountaineers heard me say they can't score!

Btw, that Princeton game is 2:30 or so.


I'm glad to see ODU off to a good start. I love that league and I think it's going to do better than people think.

Surprised WVU is losing.... thought I wouldn't draw any conclusions on what it means for the Big East. WVU can't score and it's still hanging around.

I found TruTV, my first win of the day!


Welcome to my favorite day of the year. The first day of the dance should be a national holiday!

I'll check in throughout the day with some thoughts as we go through 32 games in 12 hours.

First thought: I love the fact that all the games are on tv, but I hate how much they've been staggered. The idea was so you could see the end of every game, but they put too much time between them.

If WVU gets an early lead here, we don't have anything to go to until 12:40.

I'm excited to watch Princeton-KY in a bit, and I'm really curious in this first game to see how Clemson reacts to playing Tuesday? Do the First Four teams have an advantage from being sharp, or will playing and traveling exhaust them?


A few nuggets to chew on as we get ready for the best 2 days of the year, during which, by the way, I'm going to try and blog.

First, closest to home: LIU shouldn't really complain about being a 15. The Blackbirds didn't have to go to Dayton, and they get to play a HUGE tv game with UNC. Should they probably have been a 14 or 13. Yes. But let's not act like they should have been a six. Go enjoy the ride boys.

I think UConn should have been a 4, but I don't think a 3 was unfair. I think the talk of a 2-seed was crazy. People seemed to only want to look at the last week and not the whole season.

A few upset picks for you:

Oakland of Michigan over Texas, Belmont over Wisconsin, and Michigan all the way to the Final 8. I love Izzo and I think the Spartans are starting to come around.

I love Temple over San Diego State in the second round. I don't think the Aztecs shoot over the Owl zone.

My final four, however, is Ohio State, UConn, Pitt and Notre Dame, with OSU beating Pitt in the final.

Shoot me emails while you're pretending to work watching games tomorrow, I'll try and respond during the games.


And man did I miss you guys.
Long story short, flooding issues made blogging impossible for about a week, then I had to catch up on everything at work before I could get back to blogging.

Next chance I get (which will be sometime Wednesday) I'll throw some NEC thoughts and some NCAA thoughts together.

But first, keep in mind baseball is home all week. 17-inning win Tuesday. Wild stuff.


For reasons mostly caused by mother nature, blogging might be sparse for a couple of days here. Don't think I've gone away for the season. We still have to put a lid on the hoops season, then talk baseball.


Don't forget, well under all the women's updates is a mailbag on the men. So go down a bit and you'll find it.


Here's how quick we change our focus here at Blog Central:

Baseball is home Wed. afternoon against Hartford.

And don't worry, still more hoops notes to come.


Central's upset bid falls short, 68-62.

Monmouth won by 3, so Sunday's final is Monmouth at SFPA, 3 p.m. on ESPNU.

The men's final, RMU at LIU, is Wed. night on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.


CC down 4, 1:26 to go.

Monmouth is up 1 with 16 ticks left.


2 Udenze free throws have Central down four again with 2:06 left.


Central down five with just under four minutes left. Justina Udenze misses two free throws, and SFPA goes down and scores. What could have been a 3-point game was now 7. Udenze has been good, going for another double-double, but Central seems out of gas on offense.

Will let you know if anything changes.


So remember when I gave Central very little chance to win this game? The women are down 1 at the half at SFPA. They have certainly picked the right time to get hot.
Leanne Crockett has 14 points and 5 boards at the half for Central, which must find a way to slow SFPA star Samantha Leach.

Central is 7-for-11 from three in the first half.

Robert Morris leads the other game by 7 at the half. The Colonials were up big early, but Monmouth made a late push to make it a game at home. But RMU hit a layup at the halftime horn to take the seven-point edge and all the momentum into the break.

Mail time!

First off, remember the women play tonight at SFPA. Honestly I'll be quite surprised if they can pull the upset, but we'll see.

Now, onto some mail.

Was asked if I thought the Blue Devil men had a shot to make one of those "lesser tournaments."
In short, I don't think so. One, they've lost 5 of their last 7, regardless of how well they played Sunday.

Second, Quinny and RMU would both go ahead of them for a host of reasons. Third, so would a lot of teams from bigger leagues. But I'll keep you posted if I hear anything that indicates anything different.

Finally for now, I was asked to relay that story Howie Dickenman told, which I thought I'd done before, since he's told it many times.

Central had just been drubbed at home, and Howie was livid. He didn't think his team was playing with enough heart and intensity. He wanted to sign a recruit who would play with heart. He demanded a name. One of his assistants told him Shemik Thompson fit that bill. He called Thompson, told him his assistants loved him and assured Dickenman that he'd play hard. He offered Thompson a scholarship right there on the phone. Shemik asked for a minute, then came back to the phone and said yes right then.

Sometimes impulse pays off.


This was my seventh NEC Tournament covering CCSU. This was the third time Central has been beaten in the final stages of a game. But of all the losses, postseason or regular season, I've ever seen the Blue Devils take, this was the worst.

Marques Alston's shot in 2005 was brutal from Central's perspective, but let's face it, CCSU gave that game away. It never should have come down to a last shot, so in that sense Central didn't deserve the win.

That phrase is why, to me, this was the toughest loss for Central in the years I've been covering them. After all, Central didn't do anything to lose this one.

That isn't in any way meant to say LIU didn't deserve it. The Blackbirds might be the most complete team I can remember in this league, at least in a long time. They can do everything and play you any way you want.

But Central did everything it was supposed to do. It controlled the pace, stayed even on the boards, and played well defensively. The Devils were patient on offense (too patient at times, but never rushed). Every statistical measure Howie Dickenman laid out before the game was hit by his team. And since I have occasionally been critical of his substitution patterns this year, I have to say he did a masterful job of managing the depth he had Sunday, keeping people fresh and working around foul trouble. It was because of that subbing system that Central avoided the second-half troubles it had against LIU earlier in the year because the Devils had more energy and more players to work with.

So with the defense working well on all fronts and Central offense doing enough to get by, the numbers were all reached. That's why this loss ranks the highest in my opinion. The Devils played as well as they possibly could and still came up short. Unlike Alston's shot, Central deserved better.

But, so did LIU. The Blackbirds made enough free throws, got to some loose balls late, and played sound defense themselves. And Jason Brickman made big threes, and a host of other players stepped up for the Blackbirds, who just have so many answers it's scary.

In the end, it was a shame someone had to lose one of the better games I've ever covered. No one deserved to lose it, but LIU deserved to win it. Jim Ferry has done a great job getting that team to buy into the team concept and also works his rotation beautifully. Congrats to him and his team. I'm incredibly impressed by it.

There was a lot to be impressed by from Central as well. Before we break that down, a couple of quick shout outs. We'll have LOTS more in the next few days, but I wanted to get these in before I forget. Thanks to Tom Pincince, Tommy Meade and the rest of the staff for the logistical and research help throughout the season. Same goes to Bruce Biel and Marc Robbins, who are always fun travel partners and manage to guide a writer through radio interviews. I think today might have been my best yet, and that had a lot more to do with Marc than me.
Thanks also to the players and coaches who were so often generous with their time and insight so I could try and relay it all to you throughout the year.

It's odd to say the team's most impressive performance of the year came in a conference loss, but I think in a lot of ways this was. Who was particularly impressive? I thought you'd never ask.

For the final time this year, let's go man-to-man.

Joe Efese: If he could only stop breaking his own momentum with all the fouls, he could really develop into something. I think that will come. Central could have used him more today.

Ken Horton: Speaking of working on staying out of foul trouble, we go to the Player of the Year, who couldn't do much in the postseason because he spent too much of it on the bench. He cleans that up and gets a bit more physical and he has the chance to have one of the great years in NEC history next season.

Shemik Thompson: Imposed his will on the game, slowing the tempo and directing Central's offense against the LIU zone. Read my sidebar today to see what the other players think of him, and check out his career totals. On top of it all, realize what a great kid this is off the floor. He's heading off to be either in international business or some kind of law. And to think, he got his scholarship because Howie Dickenman was in a bad mood. That was a happy accident. I truly hope Thompson doesn't have his legacy become being the third four-year player under Dickenman to miss the tournament all four years. His numbers and his character deserve better.

De'Angelo Speech: Very strong defensive effort, another key part of the reason Central avoided a track meet. But he got into foul trouble. Interesting to see what his exact role becomes next year.

Robby Ptacek: Made 4 of his last 5 shots, including three huge threes, showing his toughness after a 2-for-12 start. He's going to have to be more consistent next year as his role increases.

Vince Rosario: Created some mayhem, got a steal and a rebound during his time. If he's going to see the floor next year, he must get more involved in other aspects besides shooting.

Devan Bailey: Helped out defensively and made a jumper in the second half. His development next year is probably the single most important step in Central's path to an NEC title.

Chris Baskerville: Battled against the big boys, and could take that into next year.

Terrell Allen: Wow, is this a one-time thing? Is it something that will only frustrate the Devils' fans next year because they know it's in there, much like Joe Efese's sophomore season? We'll find out. But for today, Blue Devil Nation should rejoice in the remarkable effort they got from a freshman who stepped up and played the game of his life when it was needed most.


Preview is up. Not sure when I'll be able to check in, but will at some point. And at night we'll have the full rundown, man-to-man and more.

My brief thoughts: Stop the guards. Ken Horton and (I think anyway) Chris Baskerville are going to play well up front. We'll see if Joe Efese can play well again, too. So the front court I don't think will be an issue, I think they'll fix some of the rebounding issues.

This game comes down to 2 things.
1) Can CCSU stop LIU's guards? If so, Central might get it done. If not, its only chance will be to score with the Birds, which won't be easy. For Central to win, either Devan Bailey has a strong defensive game, Robby Ptacek or Shemik Thompson shoots well, or Horton does something silly and goes for like 35 and 15.
2) Can the Devils stay strong mentally? LIU will make runs. CCSU has to prevent one early (10-2 LIU at the first break is a very bad sign) and withstand the couple that will inevitably come even if Central is playing great.

IF there were to be good news for the Devils Sunday, I'll talk to Brad about maybe doing a chat Tuesday, since the women would play that night and it would be the day before the game. Or maybe Wed. depending on where the final might be. Or maybe I'll just tell you all to send me questions and we'll post them here. We'll figure something out.


On the men's side, and obviously I'm getting WAY ahead of the game here, but root for North Florida tonight. The more upsets there are this week in title games, the better CCSU's chances are of staying out of a play-in game.

You know, if the Devils win at LIU and at QU or RMU.


Fantastic job by the women today, who started strong, fought off a couple of runs and picked up a big win at Sacred Heart. The Devils are now off to SFPA Tuesday night.

That will not be easy, and it shows how big that Senior night loss was.
Still, if Justina Udenze keeps playing like this, CCSU could be a tough out.


First off, check out the SPO episode I posted to the side here (going to work on making it a better size) which features an interview with Ken Horton. We're going to do more with him next week.

Also, thanks to Victor E. for helping us out. That was the most fun we've had doing an opening, at least for me. He was great.

On to more serious matters. I picked up on something transcribing quotes for the preview to come. Central WANTS this game at LIU. Shemik Thompson's talk after the game was more than the usual cliches. Make no mistake, he was not being disrespectful, and he certainly wasn't guaranteeing victory. But he and his teammates clearly were pleased, at least in a way, that the bracket didn't open up for them. They want to beat the best. Winning at LIU and at Quinnipiac (or RMU for that matter) would certainly qualify as doing so.

More to come tommorow, including thoughts on the women's game, which starts at 3 p.m. and can be seen online on the NEC's web site. I assume CCSU's site will have a link as well.


Sorry, but we've had a malfunction. No video, but I'll try and get all the quotes out there before Sunday.


One note before we start. I have the presser video, going to have to get it up Friday, had some camera trouble.

Now, about tonight:
Survive and advance. That's the old saying, and never was it more applicable than it was Thursday night in New Britain.

Central did not play well on offense. Scoring points felt like pulling teeth for long stretches. But where there's a will there's a way. Central did a good job driving the lane, and its defense was masterful at times. For the first time in weeks, the Blue Devils played the kind of defense they did when they were winning every night.

Great defense can mask bad offense. And while Central's offense wasn't as bad as it has been, it must be better heading into Sunday's game at LIU. But we'll get to that one. Before we do, let's look back at Central's first win win in the NEC Tournament since 2007.

Let's go man-to-man.

Shemik Thompson: Nice to see him have a good game in what is his true final game in NB. He did a little of everything, was aggressive and clutch late. Really nice performance, exhibited the leadership you'd like to see from the captain.

De'Angelo Speech: 12 rebounds and stellar defense. The freshman stepped up at the right time. Most importantly, he brought an energy Central had lacked of late. When he is going 100 mph, it makes the rest of the Blue Devils speed up to match him. He turned it over 4 times, but when you're playing that hard, those things can be forgiven. Really the unsung hero of the night.

Joe Efese: He's thiiiiis close to having it figured out, I swear. Really aggressive tonight, dominated the game early. If he can figure out how to do that without fouling as much, watch out world. Until then, he has to learn to play with fouls and to harness that energy for the whole game, not just stretches.

Robby Ptacek: Started 0-for-7, then made 4 of his last 7. Made big shots late in a close game, and you can't ask for much more than that. Howie Dickenman said he called Ptacek out a bit at halftime. Apparently the speech worked.

Ken Horton: He must be relieved that Central proved it can win without him scoring 20-30 points. MUST stay out of foul trouble, however, Sunday. He still gets a little to three happy at times, but can take over a game better than any player in the NEC.

Devan Bailey: Just didn't have much to offer tonight for whatever the reason.

Chris Baskerville: I think the long pass from him to Horton should be Central's new offense, since it always seems to work. Didn't do as much tonight as I thought he would, but that was a great pass, and he had a great block. Ok but not great. Will need to be great Sunday against LIU's bigs.

Terrell Allen: Another pleasant surprise. Six boards, and he made a jumper. Not bad for 16 minutes. I think he's going to be a player.


Sorry I haven't checked in much, it's been a wild night.

Robby Ptacek just went over 1,000 points. The last time Central had 3 guys hit 1,000 in the same year... well you know what happened.

This game is getting quite chippy. There's a playoff atmosphere for sure, but it feels like some genuine dislike is developing between the players.


Go ahead and try and get that song out of your head now.
Thought I'd do my final look at the game before I head over to Detrick by doing a quick mail hit.
Dan Dinunzio wanted to know what Central's chances were in the tourney upcoming.
He says:
" It's goingto be a tough road after the way Central finished the season. ...
I mean it is truly remarkable how much [Ken Horton's] game has been elevated
to another level. I wish his teammates could follow. I thought
after the UMass game that CCSU was a lock to finish 1st or 2nd. Now they
are in 4th and have an uphill battle. I must say I think Howie will get
the team focused to play. There's no doubt this team has the talent to go
dancing, and I really want to see Shemik and Ptacek get back to form.
Still, the way the frontcourt plays in the post and rebounds might be the
difference. I want another rematch with Quinnipiac. It's going to be a
fun 10 days that's a guarantee."

Hard to disagree with anything he says. I think Central's "other guys" are going to
step up tonight. They looked much improved the other night, and I think tonight
you'll see more of the team game you've come to expect from Central.
To me, the key to the run is the bigs. If Central can get enough out of Joe Efse and Chris Baskerville, it will take heat off of the wings and let them get going. Which is what I believe will happen tonight. Let's take Sunday after we know what happens tonight.
But I think Baskerville has a double-double, Ptacek gets hot, Ken Horton is Ken Horton, and CCSU wins by 8.


So I'm going to save the CCSU stuff until my story is posted to our web site, since I don't want to steal my own thunder, but for now I'll give you some thoughts on the other games in the league.

Something has to give Thursday night. This is the tightest the league has been in a long time (at least, everyone below LIU), as evidenced by the fact that all four playoff matchups were split in the regular season, but the top three seeds in the NEC Tournament are 15-0 in the quarters in the last five years.

Either the tournament stays true to form or we get our first big upset in a long time. Let's see if we can't figure it out.

LIU vs. SFPA: LIU is 18-1 in its last 19. The lone loss? At SFPA. I don't think the Red Flash can turn the trick on the road, but you have to put this one in the "upset watch" category because of the number of shots LIU takes (teams that shoot a lot can miss a lot on a given night) and because SFPA won't be scared having a win already over the Blackbirds.

Quinnipiac vs. The Mount: The Bobcats dropped a game in Maryland earlier this year. This post originally was going to say that I couldn't think of a single reason it would happen again in Hamden, then I thought of one.

The Cats have a tendency to lose focus. When they give a darn, they might just be the best team in this league. But too often, they don't seem to. Granted that hasn't been a problem in a couple of weeks and this IS a playoff game, but with this team, you always have to keep that 1 percent chance open that it doesn't show up. I don't think it's Tom Moore's fault as much as just being a bunch of college kids, but he has to get them going now.

They have been playing much better defense of late, according to Moore, so let's see if the Bobcats can keep it up.

RMU vs. Wagner: The Colonials just rocked Wagner without Karon Abraham. I think the Hurleys are going to make a lot of noise in this league, but not Thursday night. Of course, with that being my strongest opinion on a game, watch Wagner roll now.

CCSU vs. SFNY: I can't imagine Central's experienced players letting this chance to win a home game get away. Of course, I couldn't imagine Central losing at Bryant. Or SFNY. Still, I have to think that Central, which is a different team at home, squeaks this one out at worst.

Final verdict: Since there's 3 games with upset potential in my opinion, I'm going to say one of the home teams loses. I don't think it's Central.


The women didn't get any of the NEC's honors this morning. Surprising. Several coaches mentioned Justina Udenze should have at least made the second team, which is odd because the coaches do the voting.

Just saying.


Gonna finish the preview, then I've got some mail to answer and some thoughts to share on the NEC Tournament. Stay tuned here, especially later in the day into the night.