Merely six days ago, a soft-spoken Kyle Vinales sat at a table inside the Barclays Center for the Northeast Conference (NEC) Social Media Day. In front of three other people – his head coach Howie Dickenman, myself, and New Britain Herald reporter Matt Straub – Vinales made it perfectly clear what his goals were heading into his senior season.
“If we don’t win the championship it will be a major disappointment,” Vinales said. He later added that “a ring would mean much more to me than any individual award.”
Realizing that championship goal just became more difficult for Vinales and his teammates.
Vinales, who stands as the NEC’s active leading scorer with 1,514 points, was arrested and charged with third degree assault and disorderly conduct over an altercation with his girlfriend last Friday. The story was first reported by Straub.
Dickenman cancelled practice over the weekend, and while Vinales’ status is currently unknown, it may be overly optimistic to think the senior will be back with the team in the near future, if at all. His court date isn’t until Dec. 5. By then CCSU will be seven games into its season.
The Blue Devils were picked second in the NEC Coach’s Preseason Poll, despite coming off of an uninspiring seventh place finish in the conference last season. The return of three seniors – Vinales, Malcolm McMillan and Faronte Drakeford– along with uncertainty among their competitors likely led to CCSU’s favorable ranking. Three of the NEC coaches felt the Blue Devils were the league favorite heading into the 2014-15 campaign.
Should Vinales miss a significant amount of time, or worse, get kicked off the team, the Blue Devils must figure out a way to replace all of the possessions he would have absorbed. Last season, Vinales took 30.3% of the team’s shots when he was on the floor. That percentage, along with an inflated possession rate of 28.3%, ranked in the top 100 among all players in Division I basketball. Despite his heavy involvement in the offense, the Blue Devils have finished ninth in the NEC in offensive efficiency for each of the past two seasons. With Vinales as the program’s centerpiece, the team has averaged just 0.99 points per possession during that time span.
Sophomore guards Khalen Cumberlander and Matt Mobley would receive more playing time if Vinales misses games. Cumberlander had a productive freshman season coming off a torn ACL in November of 2012. As a rookie, he posted a respectable offensive rating of 102.4 by making 51.4% of his twos and 33.3% of his threes. His athleticism and ability to attack the rim (54% of his shots came at the rim according to Hoop-Math) make him one of the more promising underclassman guards in the conference.
It’s premature, though, to forecast CCSU’s offense until Vinales status with the team is officially resolved. For the time being, a program that’s been marred by under achievement and off-the-court conflicts recently must endure yet another rocky preseason.
Update at 9:00 PM, October 28: Vinales’ girlfriend has changed her story, claiming that Vinales didn’t hit her.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride