NEW BRITAIN - The 2019-20 season was expected to be a transitional one for the CCSU menâ€™s basketball team, which entered the season as one of the youngest collective units in the country with seven freshmen on its roster, and so far, there have been plenty of growing pains and learning experiences.
Through the first month of the season, the Blue Devils have lost all eight of their games, falling in almost any way imaginable. A game-winning layup by UMass Lowell in the closing seconds last weekend broke a stretch of seven straight contests that CCSU lost by double digits. The Blue Devils have lost by as much as 41 (to Arizona State) and as little as two (UMass Lowellâ€™s last-second basket won the game 73-71). Conference play is still a month away, but the inexperienced group has a lot to improve in the interim.
A dive into the numbers show just how much work lies ahead for the Blue Devils.
KenPomâ€™s adjusted efficiency margin, which calculates the difference between a teamâ€™s offensive and defensive efficiency to come up with an overall team rating, has CCSU at -24.57, the fifth-worst mark out of the 353 Division-I teams in the country. With this model, if the Blue Devils were to face an average Division-I opponent at a neutral site, they would lose by nearly 25 points. The KenPom ratings match CCSUâ€™s record, as one of only six teams left in the nation still search for its first win of the season.
When stacked up against the conference opponents they soon will face instead of the entire nation, things donâ€™t look much better for the Blue Devils. Their 55.4 points per game is last in the NEC, as is their collective field goal percentage (35.9 percent) and free throw percentage (60.3 percent). With an offense struggling to put points on the board from the field, CCSU has sacrificed valuable points at the free throw line, which hasnâ€™t helped its cause to find more efficiency on the offensive end.
Of course, in a season that is more focused on grooming their young core, there has been some positives for head coach Donyell Marshallâ€™s group. Freshman guard Greg Outlaw is averaging 10.1 points per game and took home NEC Rookie of the Week honors on Monday. His defense has also been a plus. His 1.5 steals per game rank seventh in the NEC. Fellow freshman Xavier Wilson is among the conference leaders with 1.1 blocks per game and another freshman in Myles Baker has shown an ability to stretch the floor with his 3-point ability, connecting on 1.9 3s per contest, which is good for a top-10 mark in the conference.
The young core was also showing improvement in the turnover category, having logged a season-low total in three straight games before the Blue Devilsâ€™ most recent loss at UMass Lowell, when they committed 12 turnovers. That could serve as an anomaly in an otherwise encouraging trend, but with a group as raw as CCSU currently is, it could also be the start of a trend back in the less desirable direction.
This season was never about wins and losses for the Blue Devils. Outlaw and another freshman Jamir Reed currently leads the team in minutes played, which sums up just how committed Marshall is to helping his surplus of underclassmen learn and improve on the fly. It doesnâ€™t look pretty in the box scores, but the overall goal matters much more than the painful losses that are currently piling up.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org