Breaking down what Central can take out of a trip Indiana (and a tough loss)

One side note before we begin: Dear Big Ten Network, please feel free to cut away from the game that's a 10-point lead with 20 seconds left in order to get to the start of the next one. Thanks.

First, as a basketball fan, just tell me when the IU-Duke game is. I'm in. If they put it on PPV, I'm buying. Duke has the best resume as of today, but Indiana has the deepest and best offensive team n the country.

As Central found out Saturday night, the Hoosiers can play defense, too.

IU coach said his staff had the Hoosiers down for some 50 deflections during their rout of Central. It make sense, as the Hoosiers seemed to be everywhere on defense. We all knew how good Cody Zeller was, but Victor Oladipo had himself a bit of a coming out party, dominating the game at both ends.

CCSU coach Howie Dickenman said after the game his team had no answers for Indiana. As good as Zeller is, it wasn't the post game itself that had IU in control but the Hoosiers' ability to get the ball inside almost at will. Central couldn't stop the ball from being thrown inside and on the other end, threw too many balls into the hands of defenders.

In the Blue Devils' defense, there were defenders everywhere. Between the defense and the way the Hoosiers always seemed to have two guys on the other end of the floor after a steal, it seemed like there were 8 Hoosiers on the court at once.

Of course, the bulk of that defense was used on Kyle Vinales, who the Hoosiers focused on by rotating defenders to always have a fresh man on him and using more than one guy at a time at some points. Yes, part of the problem was that he was playing a different level of opposition, but he appeared to be rushing his shots. He took some too early, and even seemed quick on his open looks. Perhaps he was pressing on the grand stage, or maybe the defense made him get too quick. Whatever it was, I wouldn't expect to see it again. I'm not saying he'll score 40 at Syracuse, but I think he'll find a comfort level in big games going forward.

Speaking of people finding comfort levels and scoring 40 points, Matt Hunter became the third opponent ever to drop 40 on the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall. He did it with a dominant second half, scoring 26 and hitting some ridiculous shots. He went hard to the rim early, the made jumpers as the game went on. It was an impressive, in control attack that furthered Hunter's offensive emergence.

His game also put the NEC on notice. Put too many resources on stopping Vinales and Hunter can be  deadly. If the two continue to work on becoming a dynamic duo, Central will be fine going forward. Who knows, Central might get another chance at IU down the road.

Mat to Man

I know, I've been away, but let's do this for history's sake.

Adonis Burbage: Didn't make many of his threes, but managed a couple of assists and a steal.

Joe Efese: Other than hoping he'd have grabbed a couple more rebounds, it's hard to ask him to do more against Cody Zeller. He's really on the way to a breakout year I think.

Kyle Vinales: Was just trying too hard I think. I think he can handle the big stage, he just wanted this one too badly. But he didn't take too many shots, letting the hot hand have the ball, and had a bunch of assists.

Malcolm McMillan: Was a little quick to take jump shots in this one. If he can make a couple he becomes a huge asset to the offense. But if he's not hitting, he should shoot as a last resort. Shots on drives are fine, jump shots not as much.

Matt Hunter: Became the 3rd person to drop 40 on the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall. Even more impressive, he shot better than 50 percent from the floor. Even more impressive, he had only 4 turnovers while having the ball that much.
Now you're going to tell me, they lost by 40, who cares? I do, for this reason: His confidence has to be sky high after this one. If he can stay hot tonight, he might really take off.

Andrew Hurd: Dickenman talked about getting more kids involved, and this is a good example. Give him 5-8 minutes a game.

Erik Raleigh: Really nice to see him get on the court. Maybe by next year he'll be a contributor. He's a wonderful story.

Terrell Allen: He won't be in foul trouble playing that way against the NEC.

Brandon Peel: I'm really, really high on this kid. He's going to be a big contributor inside for this team going forward.

Breaking down Central men's basketball's gutty win over UNH, and why Kyle Vinales is so good

Or as we'll call it, the "Ok KV3, now you're just showing off" edition of the blog.

I say that in jest of course, as Vinales, despite his flashy approach to the game, is not a show off. Sure he'll celebrate after a big shot, but he's honestly just as happy if someone else makes a big shot.

And there were some of those for sure.

My coworkers and I go out to eat once every couple of weeks to do some bonding and talk shop. Tonight we were discussing our All-Herald teams,which will be in the paper in a  few weeks. During dinner, a discussion about onions developed.

Up in Durham, they were on display.

Central had no business winning this game at New Hampshire. Routed early and still down big in the second half on the road, the Blue Devils clawed their way back into it, then displayed the kind of clutch play they showed early during the winning streak and didn't bring to Hartford. It's the kind of gutty road win that can spark a team, especially because of the number of players who stepped up. We know Kyle Vinales is an amazing scorer. The kid leads the country in scoring. Not the NEC, the country. But he's even better when he has help.

The Blue Devils lost their first two games in part because Vinales felt he had to do it all. He talked to me about pressing after the St. Peter's loss and how he knew he had to trust his teammates. They gave him plenty of reasons to trust him.

No, CCSU didn't win this one solely because of Vinales, though he was huge when he had to be. It won because of Vinales, Malcolm McMillan, Joe Efese, Matt Hunter, defense, and an order of onions.

Let's break it all down by playing man-to-man

Adonis Burbage
He did a bunch of Adonis Burbage things. He played the whole game. He made some threes. He grabbed some rebounds. He had a steal. I like that he knows his role and executes it.

Joe Efese
Speaking of knowing your role and executing: 7-for-10 from the floor and three offensive rebounds works most nights. You'd like to see him get more boards and fewer fouls, but he did a lot of good things, including making big free throws late.

Kyle Vinales
Let's see, in 40 minutes, had made half the shots he took, 60 percent of the threes he took, all but one of the free throws he took, had seven assists and stole the ball three times. I haven't confirmed if he drove the bus home after the game, but I think he's going to fly the plane to Indiana.
What made this effort impressive, however, was that he scored his 27 points without having to take 25 shots. Gone are those early season days when he has to force the ball up. Sure, you want him taking every big shot he can, like the one he hit to start Central's second-half surge or the under the radar big shot he made at 60-59 to give Central the lead back after UNH had reclaimed it. Instead of letting the Wildcats get any kind of momentum back, Vinales made a shot, hit Burbage with a pass for a three, then later scored four in a row to ensure a dramatic finish.
But he didn't need to take every big shot. He has figured out how to pick his spots, and done so in a shockingly short amount of time. He can now take over without trying to take over, if that makes any sense. In other words, he just finds spots to explode rather than trying to be a one-man show.
If his legs hold up, he's going to put up video game numbers and Central is going to win a good amount of games.

Malcolm McMillan 
Gee, he only played 38 minutes tonight. Slacker. In all seriousness, what else can you ask this kid to do. He has now added the ability to score in key situations to his arsenal. His turnovers and assists were flipped from what they normally are, but he made up for it by scoring more.

Matt Hunter
He has done it. Matt Hunter has taken away anything I could complain about. The kid makes his free throws, limited his turnovers Wednesday to three in 35 minutes, scored 18 points and had eight rebounds. Impressive display.

Andrew Hurd
If he could ever give Central 5 minutes or so a night and help guard against foul trouble and/or buy the guards a rest, that would be HUGE for this team.

Terrell Allen
It's hard to get minutes for "TO" when Hunter plays this well and Efese is on his game. Still, he makes the most of what he gets, and is ready to step in when asked.

Brandon Peel
See Terrell Allen.

Lots of thoughts on the NEC reportedly being set to lose Quinnipiac and Monmouth

Yes, I know, it's been a while. There's a collection of things from CCSU I have saved up I wanted to touch on, and was actually going to do it all Friday but got quite sick and couldn't.

Anyway, enough about me, let's talk NEC for a minute. This is going to shake out over time and we can't do too much speculating right now, especially with the news so fresh. Lots of people I respect in the media and outside are just finding out about this. Since I know Mr. Paxton, however, let's consider this report as fact, particularly for the point of this blog.

UPDATE AS I WAS TYPING THIS: The league sent me this statement from commissioner Noreen Morris:

"The issue of conference realignment continues to garner much speculation and rumor from both traditional media and social media sources. The Northeast Conference is not immune from such speculation. However, at this point in time I have received no information from our members schools or the MAAC to corroborate the latest rumors."

A few random thoughts in no particular order.

1) No I don't think CCSU is going to another league anytime soon.

2) Since the MAAC is losing one member (Loyola) in a couple of years and gaining two (QU and MU), the league will have 11 for basketball. That would suggest the potential for another admission down the line. This isn't over.

3) Since the NEC doesn't have to worry about a football championship game, it could just stay at 10. Since they'd have to add 2 and I can't think of any obvious replacements, it might just do that. It's just funny, I always thought the Pennsylvania schools would be the ones to leave, or maybe the Mount.

4) Obviously not surprised Quinnipiac made a move, it hasn't been a secret they've been trying. I am surprised about Monmouth. Not that the program couldn't, they have a great new hoops arena and are good at several other sports, but to the MAAC was a surprise because I'm not sure where the Hawks play football now. Perhaps they even stay in the NEC for football, though that probably wouldn't be anyone's first choice at this point.

5) If this is true, there's no way to spin it as a positive for the NEC. For basketball you lose two programs with nice buildings and an up-and-coming program on the court in Quinnipiac. For football it's a bigger hit with Monmouth leaving and Albany already gone, you lose some big names, though Monmouth hasn't won the league since 2006. That's part of why Duquesne was a nice get for the league. The NEC has done a lot of changing in recent years in football, so more wouldn't be a surprise.

6) I remain fascinated to see what happens with the CAA, which continues to not make a lot of sense geographically, which is a bigger deal at lower levels than it is for the big boys who don't care about travel budgets and things. 

7) I mention that to mention this. Eventually, I still believe there's going to be a big shakeup among the smaller (and non-big football) schools in the Northeast. I don't see the Big East lasting long term as a mishmash.

Those Big East teams and perhaps the northern CAA teams are going to need leagues. Other than my ongoing efforts to remarry those teams and the AE, I'm not sure how that's all going to play out. My best guess is there will eventually be a couple of new leagues, or leagues which currently exist but will look nothing like they do now. 

8) This is the least important, but since it involves something I was blogging about forever before it started and something I think is a great thing for the state, it's worth mentioning. I wonder if the CT 6 can keep going. I think playing at campus sites is a fine way to go with it, but the schedule will obviously have to be tweaked. CCSU and SHU can't play in it, and now QU and Fairfield can't play. 

For scheduling sake I think you could put Hartford on the "NEC" side" and have CCSU, SHU and Hartford rotate against Yale, Fairfield and Quinnipiac. 

Or, as Hartford coach John Gallagher mentioned after CCSU lost to Hartford last month, a Big 5 type of schedule could be created. There's no reason all the teams can't play in basketball. There's certainly enough dates. 

9) From a basketball standpoint, the schedule would be a lot more fair with 10 teams for the NEC. You play everyone twice for 18 games. No one can say, well they played this team twice. It just works better. The problem is you a lose a good program in Quinnipiac and a historic member in Monmouth, which by the way, hosted the first NEC football game. 

The southern NEC schools can still schedule Monmouth and the CT schools can get games with Quinnipiac, but it won't feel the same. 

10) This whole thing, at all levels, is just sad. I get the point, to make more money. I don't begrudge anyone for doing that. Quinnipiac has made big, big investments in its programs and deserves to go up. Tom Moore, who I've grown to have a ton of respect for during long conversations over the last few years, has done a great job building his team on the court (ask UConn). Monmouth is doing what is best for it and moving up. The Hawks also built a nice new building. 

In the Big East, teams got out to make sure they didn't get left out (again, ask UConn). Other big leagues went to 12 so it could have a championship football game and some teams moved from league to league for better TV deals. It all makes sense. 

That doesn't mean it isn't sad. I grew up when leagues were based on historic and geographic rivalries. Now they're based on money and or survival.