Looking back on Keno Davis' second season as head coach in Mt Pleasant, it's clear that the Chippewas are still in rebuilding mode. After a strong showing in the non-conference schedule (albeit against weak competition), the Chips struggled against MAC opponents. The very young Chippewa squad showed improvement toward the end of the season, but overall the performance this season can be considered a disappointment.
10-21 (3-15 MAC)
MAC play was rough for the Chippewas, but they did manage the most modest of winning streaks. Back-to-back wins against Ball State and Northern Illinois were the high point for the young team this season. It was the dog days of February and the team was struggling mightily when the Cardinals came to town.
Both teams were sporting 1-11 records. It was a game that didn't mean anything to the conference, but pride was on the line. The loser would have the distinction of being the lone team at the bottom of the conference. It took 55 minutes of basketball, but Keno Davis' side pulled off the victory. Four days later a much improved NIU team came to Mt Pleasant, and the Chips were able to pull of a three point victory.
CMU didn't win a game for the rest of the season.
Basically the whole conference season.
It was a grind of a MAC season for the Chips. Losing streaks of eight, three and five made for a dismal 3-15 conference record, plus a first round loss in the MAC Tournament. The young Chippewas struggled to find consistency for a full 40 minutes against the bigger and more talented competition. Rebounding and field goal percentage were the telling stats in any given game. Rebounding in particular was a struggle against many of the top players in the conference. Javon McCrea pulled down 20 boards in Buffalo's game against the Chippewas. And Demetrius Treadwell had a 14 rebound game, with six offensive boards when Akron came to Mt Pleasant.
Teams regularly shot over 50 percent from the field against the Chips. The Chippewas shot a worse field goal percentage than their opponent in 16 out of 18 MAC games this season, with the only games in which they shot better than their opponent were both games against Ball State. Size and talent is one thing, but if the Chips are going to right the ship soon, they need to put the ball through the hoop more often.
Key Players Returning:
Watching the Chippewas play this season, sometimes it felt like these were the only two guys they had on the floor. Fowler, a sophomore, is the clear leader of this young team. The point guard from Southfield, MI finished third in the MAC in PPG and steals per game, and second in the MAC in APG and assist-turnover ratio. Fowler started all 31 games this season and has shown he will continue to be a key piece of this team going forward.
Rayson started the season coming off the bench, but soon found his way into the starting five on a regular basis. The freshman guard stands only 5'9'', but plays much bigger. Rayson averaged fewer minutes than many of his teammates, but still managed to average over 10 PPG, which is even more impressive considering he didn't get regular playing time until the season was half over.
What's most impressive about Rayson is his ability to take over a game. He's a player who's not afraid to shoot the ball, which can lead to him missing quite a few shots. When he's hitting shots though, he can score quickly. He showed this ability when he took over the game single-handedly against Ball State, by scoring 13 points in triple overtime.
Not much to say as far as departures for next year. Saylor and Buckley were the only two seniors on the squad this season. Neither player started a game the whole year. Saylor averaged just over five minutes per game, while Buckley saw the floor for just over seven minutes per game. Neither player was an offensive threat with Buckley averaging 2 PPG and Saylor averaging less than 1 PPG.
Freshman Nick Carlos announced that he is transferring to Division II Lindenwood University in his home state of Missouri. The freshman averaged 4.5 minutes per game and 1.4 PPG.
Despite the struggles on the court there is reason to be optimistic going forward. Several players showed improvement as the season went on, and the Chips were having close games with the likes of Toledo and Buffalo in the 2nd half of the MAC season. This was a team that started 4 sophomores and a freshman every game. It is reasonable to expect such a young team to struggle. The telling point will be next season when this young team isn't so young anymore.
This is a program that was decimated by the firing of Ernie Zeigler. Most of the players transferred or quit altogether. Going into Davis' third season at the helm, it is time for these young kids to start playing more competitive basketball.
The Chips will be returning all of their starting five, and all of their key reserves. With two full seasons under their belt, look for players such as John Simons and Blake Hibbits to pick up their games in their junior year. Fowler and Rayson are only going to be getting better, and will likely be a dominant pair of guards over the next two seasons. Austin Stewart, Austin Keel, and Rayshawn Simmons will also be expected to have bigger years next season.
Size is still a concern for the Chippewas, but keep an eye out for Milos Cabarkapa next season. The 7-foot freshman from Serbia didn't see the floor this season, but if he develops his game and spends some time in the weight room, he has potential to be a dominant inside presence for the Chippewas.
Another year of coach Davis' recruiting and another year to learn his system will do wonders for the program and look for the Chippewas to be competitive in the MAC in the near future.