A second consecutive 15-15 season was enough for Ball State to show head coach Billy Taylor the door after six underwhelming seasons. Still, this team showed a lot of fight late in the season. On February 6th, the Cardinals were blown out at home against Ohio, 69-42. From there Ball State won 7 of the final 8 conference games to finish fifth in the conference and earn a first round bye in the 2013 MAC Tournament. The Cardinals wouldn't get out of the first round, losing to eighth seeded Buffalo, 76-61. Less than 24 hours after that loss, Taylor was out, having compiled an 84-97 record at Ball State. On April 6th James Whitford was announced as the 19th head coach in program history. Prior to Ball State, Whitford was the associate head coach to Sean Miller at Arizona. Whitford has also been an assistant at Xavier and Miami (OH).
Most notably Jauwan Scaife. The Muncie product graduated as the school's all time leader in three pointers, with 203, and ranks in the top 15 in career points (1,326), minutes played (3,368), games started (93) and free throw percentage (.783). Last season Scaife was second team All-MAC. But guess who's back? Jauwan Scaife! Scaife will serve as a graduate student manager under Whitford this season. Also absent from the Ball State back court will be All-MAC freshman Marcus Posley. After starting 8 of the final 9 games for the Cardinals, and leading BSU in assist to turnover ratio, Posley elected to transfer to Indian Hills, a junior college in Ottumwa, Iowa. Ball State also lost Zach Fields to graduation. Last season Fields averaged 15 minutes a game.
Ball State brings back a strong core of scorers and rebounders for coach Whitford's first season at the helm. Primarily, double-double machine Majok Majok (10.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg). The senior was a third team All-MAC selection last season and led the conference in rebounding. Contributing in the front court with Majok will be senior forward Matt Kamieniecki (4.6 ppg 5.9 rpg). Kamieniecki was limited in the first half of last season due to injury, but was a significant contributor the second half of the year. Kamieniecki averaged 25 minutes a game the second half and finished 11th in the conference in rebounding. Playing on the wing will be senior Chris Bond (8.9 ppg 6.1 rpg). Bond, who was featured at #17 on our top 25 players to watch list, will be charged with being the defensive leader for the 2013-14 Cardinals. Last season Bond established himself as one of the best defenders in the conference, tying for the league lead at two steals a game. In the back court Ball State returns senior Jesse Berry (12.8 ppg 2.5 apg). Berry (also featured here) enters this season fifth all time for career three pointers. With the absence of Posley, look for sophomore Chase Brogna to see significantly increased minutes.
Freshman to Watch
Watch out for Quinten Payne. Payne comes from St. Charles North High School in St. Charles, Illinois, and brings an impressive resume. Payne was ranked as the 10th-best player in the Illinois Class of 2013 and the No. 45 small forward in the country by ESPN Recruiting Nation. The 6'5" 190 pound guard scored over 1,300 points in three seasons; each year earning county, conference, and area accolades. Expect Payne to see minutes this season and add a scoring punch to the Cardinals offense off the bench, perhaps cracking the starting lineup.
This Cardinals program has come a long way from the awful state Ronny Thompson left it in following the 2006-07 season. Last year looked to be another in a long line of forgettable years, but give Billy Taylor and his staff credit. Midway through the season it would have been ludicrous to suggest the Cardinals could earn a first round bye in the MAC Tournament. There was no quit in this team though, and for the last 8 games of the year they were the best team in the MAC. Certainly the loss of Jauwan Scaife is a huge blow, but Jesse Berry seems more than capable of filling those shoes as a lead scorer. Expect the Cardinals to win most of their games by dominating the glass this year. Ball State should be one of the top rebounding teams in the conference. Whitford has found himself in an enviable position. With returning senior leadership and Majok playing to All-MAC form, there's plenty of reason for Cardinals fans to expect Ball State to make a run at the MAC West crown in 2013-2014