CCSU Making Progress with Their Shot Making

Tyler Kohl is one of five Blue Devils who rank amongst the NEC’s top-15 field goal percentage leaders.

If Ken Pomeroy’s College Basketball Ratings is your standard, then Central Connecticut State (CCSU) has easily been the best team out of the gate for the NEC. Originally ranked 304th nationally on November 6, Donyell Marshall’s team has climbed up the ladder by more than 60 spots after just 6 Division I contests.

Same goes for the new NCAA NET rankings, where the Blue Devils are ranked 151st to lead the NEC.

The ascension has been well deserved, as even their losses have been tight. They dropped a seven-point decision at Georgetown despite missing their starting power forward Jamir Coleman. They should have beaten a very good Loyola Marymount team on the road – The Blue Devils Den illustrates the heartache very well – before falling by 2 points to a team that’s ranked 13th overall in the NET rankings. There’s no denying it’s been a excellent start for Marshall and company.

Offensively, the team has done a lot of things well, starting off by being the only NEC program to score at least 1.00 point per possession in every game this season. They’re shooting the 3-ball exceptionally well (45.6%, sixth nationally), cleaning up inside the arc (54.0%) and getting to the free throw line and converting those attempts (76.0%, 34th nationally).

The Blue Devils are even making 47.9% of their 2-point jumpers according to Hoop Math, which is generally unheard of from an efficiency standpoint. Taking 2-point jumpers, especially mid-range to long jumpers, isn’t considered wise much of the time, but CCSU is somehow making it work.

To put those numbers in perspective – the rest of the league is currently shooting 30.5% on their 2-point jumpers! Last season, Mustafa Jones led the Blue Devils with a 41.8% success rate on his 2s away from the rim, while CCSU shot 34.7% as a whole.

If you examine CCSU’s effective field goal percentage (EFG%), which combines 2-point and 3-point shooting percentage with 50% more weight going toward the latter, the 2018-19 sample, as small as it’s been, has been historic for the program that calls New Britain home. They currently possess an EFG% of 59.0%.

In the KenPom era (dating back to 2002), only 13 NEC teams have finished their season with a EFG% north of 53%.

Here are the top five over the past 16 seasons:

Team, Season

EFG%

Record

Sacred Heart, 2008-09

55.2%

17-14, 12-6 NEC

LIU Brooklyn, 2013-14

54.4%

20-14, 12-6 NEC

Bryant, 2012-13

54.4%

19-12, 12-6 NEC

Mount St. Mary’s, 2017-18

54.1%

18-14, 12-6 NEC

Robert Morris, 2006-07

53.9%

17-11, 9-9 NEC

 

It’s no surprise that these squads all finished with winning records, with four of them landing in the top three of the league’s regular season and one of them (LIU Brooklyn) winning the championship.

So can CCSU keep up these torrid shooting numbers? It’s unlikely, especially as opponents start to adjust their defensive schemes with more tape on the newcomers (Krishnan, Coleman) available, but Marshall still has to be pleased in the early going. They are running on all cylinders at the moment and appear to have a rotation of players that complement each other very well. It also helps that by all accounts this team is a tight knit group that trusts each other.

There’s the steady, cerebral floor general in Tyson Batiste. The do-everything star who can score, rebound, pass it and play the post in Tyler Kohl. The shotmaker in Ian Krishnan, who doesn’t need help creating his own opportunities from the perimeter, and thereby takes pressure off of Kohl to create.  The versatile power forward in Jamir Coleman with the unique blend of protecting the defensive glass (17.8% defensive rebounding rate) and sinking perimeter shots (12 of 21 on 2-point and 3-point jumpers). And, finally the veteran presence down low in Deion Bute, who’s efficient and brutal to contain on the offensive glass (15.1% offensive rebounding rate). And I didn’t even mention one of the best 6-men in the league in junior Joe Hugley, who by the way is averaging 24.4 points per 40 minutes on the young season.

Headlined by Hugley and flanked by the uber athletic freshman Karrington Wallace and the emerging Kashaun Hicks, the Blue Devils actually have something they’ve lacked in quite some time: depth. In fact since the turn of the century, no Blue Devils squad has played nine of their players at least 30% of the team’s total minutes. Howie Dickenman even once joked with me about his team’s lack of depth by stating that his tombstone would someday read “Never Enough Players.”

Unlike those Dickenman rosters, the 2018-19 Blue Devils have the opportunity to go nine deep, with Wallace (30%) and backup point guard Thai Segwai (34.6%) shaping up as the 8th and 9th guys. It’s a great problem to have, especially given the complementary skill sets all nine present. Think of all the combinations Marshall can roll out on the floor without having to sacrifice shooting, passing, inside play, and even at times, defense:

  • Batiste, Krishnan, Kohl, Coleman, Bute (Marshall’s favorite rotation)
  • Batiste, Krishnan, Kohl, Hicks, Hugley (5 perimeter shooters on the floor!)
  • Segwai, Kohl, Wallace, Hugely, Coleman (Excellent size)

I mean the rotation possibilities are endless! In all seriousness though, Marshall has something here and while I don’t believe they’ll continue humming along at these historic shooting percentages, it’s very plausible that CCSU will end up as one of the league’s top offenses and one of the deeper rosters rivaling that of Saint Francis University. If this is the case, watch out.

The season is young, but Marshall has this program moving in the right direction in his third season, a campaign that’s frequently cited as pivotal for any coaching regime. He’s admirably remade this roster in a short period of time. Blue Devil fans should be excited for what may come when conference play commences in about one month.

 

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