After a rough start, where the Ball State Cardinals only managed to win a combined 13 games in coach James Whitford’s first two seasons, they have managed to average 20 over the last three. Last season, the Cardinals won 19, including a thriller against then top 10 Notre Dame. That win may be a precursor of the magic that this season may hold.
While the non-conference schedule has not been released, there are games set against Purdue, Virginia Tech, and Valpo (According to the Muncie Star Press. The schedule has not been released as of this story being published). A tough non-conference slate should help this team gel into a potential juggernaut in the MAC. The Cardinals are loaded with talent in all the right places to make a MAC championship run.
In the modern college game, transfers are becoming a fixture on the landscape. Last season, Toledo’s Tre’Shaun Fletcher won MAC Player of the Year, after spending his first 3 years in college at Colorado. This season, the most interesting Cardinal could be K.J. Walton, a Mizzou transfer that played high school ball with Tahjai Teague. The addition of Walton could be huge for multiple reasons. His ability with the ball could help free up Tayler Persons to score more. After averaging 15 per last season, I would not be surprised to see him flirt with the 20 point mark. Walton, with his connection to Teague, could also be a huge plus for his game. The team’s second leading scorer last season, Teague has tons of potential that could be fully released with the addition of Walton. I wouldn’t be surprised if Walton himself is in the 12-15 point range per, too.
Along with Teague, the front court also has Trey Moses, a 6’9 hustle center that is emerging as a serious scoring threat as he gains confidence. Kyle Mallers and Zach Gunn are both swing men that can knock down the three.
The sum is greater than the parts is really true with this team. The pieces of the puzzle fit together nicely for a coach that is making a name for himself and gaining confidence with each season. I would be shocked if this team did not reach the 20 win mark, even with the tough non-conference opponents, and think this team has a legitimate chance of receiving an NCAA bid, even without a MAC tournament championship.