NEC Team Capsule: Central Connecticut Blue Devils

Head Coach: Howie Dickenman, 17th year (249-224)
Last Season: 13-16 (10-8 NEC), lost first round of the NEC tournament to Wagner, 87-77
NEC Preseason Coach’s Poll: 8th out of 12 teams
State of Program: Rebuilding
Key Players Lost: Ken Horton (19.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.1 spg, 1.4 bpg, 80.2% FT), Robby Ptacek (17.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.2 apg, 92.0% FT), David Simmons (3.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.9 spg)
Incoming Players: Matthew Hunter (G/F), Khalen Cumberlander (G), Brandon Peel (PF)
Previous Posts: Central Connecticut Recruiting Recap

Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Malcolm McMillan (4.0 apg, 2.9 rpg, 1.2 spg, 2.0 A/TO)
G: Kyle Vinales (17.9 ppg, 3.6 apg, 1.2 spg, 38.6% 3PT)
G: Matthew Hunter (JC transfer)
F: Terrell Allen (2.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
F: Joe Efese (3.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 0.9 bpg)

Key Reserves: Adonis Burbage (F), De’Angelo Speech (F), Khalen Cumberlander (G), Brandon Peel (PF), Shelton Mickell (G), Eric Raleigh (PF)

Major Storylines:

  1. Who Will Score? – Super sophomore Kyle Vinales returns, after averaging a remarkable 17.9 points per game, yet CCSU still loses 54.9% of their total scoring from last season. All-NEC selections Ken Horton and Robby Ptacek are gone, therefore several inexperienced guys will be asked to pick up the scoring slack. Junior college transfer Matthew Hunter has a lot of promise and Malcolm McMillan should look for his points more, but other guys will need to step in to fill the void. Where the rest of the Blue Devil offense comes from (other than Vinales) is the biggest question in New Britain.
  2. A New Identity – Howie Dickenman enters his 17th season as the CCSU’s head coach with a speedy and athletic roster. As a result, Dickenman plans to push the tempo and apply full court pressure, which in turn may create turnovers and give the Blue Devils easy baskets in transition. Dickenman is fully aware his team will struggle scoring in the half-court set, so his athletes should run more often than not.
  3. The New Guys – Of the potential playoff teams in the NEC, the Blue Devils will ask their newcomers to contribute the most. Hunter will get his numbers at the wing, while Khalen Cumberlander – who Dickenman calls the best athlete on the team – will likely be the first combo guard of the bench. In addition, 17-year old freshman Brandon Peel expects to do the dirty work necessary down low by grabbing rebounds and blocking shots. Throw in redshirt freshman Eric Raleigh and you have a roster heavily dependent on the production of its newest members. How they adjust to the DI schedule may determine where the Blue Devils end up at season’s end.

Lineup Analysis: After losing the former NEC Player of the Year in Ken Horton, Howie Dickenman finds his team in an unusual position – they are in a complete rebuilding mode. CCSU has made the NEC tournament the past 14 seasons, but one the youngest rosters in the league should challenge Dickenman to make it 15 straight. The veteran coach will hand the reigns over to two sophomores, Kyle Vinales and Malcolm McMillan. Vinales is the reigning NEC Rookie of the Year, and will look to continue the momentum of his record-setting freshman season that saw the rookie score nearly 18 points per game. Most of the defensive attention will be now focused on Vinales, therefore it may be difficult to expect a big step forward in season two. McMillan did a remarkable job protecting and facilitating the basketball last season, but he’ll be asked to score a little more to lessen the load on Vinales. The agile Khalen Cumberlander, whose strength is to attack the rim and create in transition, will play significant minutes backing up Vinales and McMillan. Matthew Hunter can score a variety of ways and will be leaned upon as the stat-compiling, explosive wing of the team. Perhaps the biggest x-factor is the lone senior on the roster, Joe Efese. After an inconsistent career, Efese is Dickenman’s starting “5” and has practiced very well this offseason. Freshmen Brandon Peel and Eric Raleigh are offensively raw, but could make life very difficult for opposing players in the paint with their shot-altering ability. Adonis Burbage and Terrell Allen are unknowns and will need to up their level, in order to add depth to a squad expected to run a majority of the time. All in all, it’s an inexperienced roster, though Dickenman may enjoy molding these players into the next foundation at CCSU.

Coach’s Quotes:

“We need a surprise in the frontcourt, and I tell [the players], ‘I don’t care who surprises. It’s nothing personal. We have four guys. Who ever wants to go out and beat out the other three players, then you’re going to start.’ We need a surprise, an overachiever.”
– Dickenman, on how the team will deal with the inexperience in their frontcourt

“I would call our team – if I had to give you one word – dangerous, because if we’re doing a good job defensively, we can be very dangerous where we’re getting tips, trying to get deflections, trying to get loose balls and usually those kind of combinations get you up the court quickly and for a good part of the time you’ll get easy baskets.”
– Dickenman, when asked to describe his team’s status going into the season

Ryan – There will be some growing pains with this roster, but on some nights they’ll be a big pain for a NEC upper echelon team. Their combination of speed, agility, and athleticism will certainly be fun to watch, if nothing else. If McMillan and Hunter can step up to help Vinales with the scoring load, CCSU will find themselves in the thick of competing for a NEC playoff spot. For now, I have them just missing out.

John – Is it wrong that I just don’t trust CCSU this season? Yeah, I probably picked then too low, but with so many question marks missing the playoffs seems like a distinct possibility.

Previous NEC Team Capsules:
October 24: St. Francis (PA) Red Flash
October 25: Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
October 26: Bryant Bulldogs
October 29: Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers