The Central Michigan Chippewas have dropped a few basketball games this season. 4 to be exact. Three of those losses were of the upset variety, while Central Michigan played the 3rd ranked team in the country, Louisville, tight until the end. The Chippewas signature win is solid, but not spectacular, dropping a ranked Miami team on their home floor. Miami has had mixed results since that game, and are currently receiving votes in the latest AP poll. However, where the Chippewas really shine is the eye test. They return three starters from a team that made the sweet 16 last year, and have looked brilliant at times this season.
The RPI, which the NCAA tournament committee will surely look at come selection time, has the Chippewas ranked 18th. The formula favors the Chippewas because none of their losses are terrible, and they have a couple of good wins, including knocking off an undefeated Bobcats team that still only has that blemish on their record. In that Ohio game, Central Michigan looked completely unbeatable. The reason is simple. The Chippewas are shooters. Their entire team can shoot. The problem is that shooting teams are going to go cold. That is how a scrappy and underrated Miami team was able to pull off the upset. That was how Tulane got the Chippewas before the other Miami game. In the South Dakota State game, it was a bit of both, with Central Michigan missing, and the Jackrabbits hitting 9 threes.
If a voter is just looking at the Chippewas record (and most are), then I understand keeping them out of the rankings. That shows a lack of understanding of the Chippewas, and also the nature of basketball, however. They are shooters. They aren’t the best defensively, and lack a dominating front court, so there will be some consistency. However, Central Michigan is a great team, and certainly one of the top 25 teams on most nights. In fact, judging by the way the went to South Beach, the way they went toe to toe with Louisville, the way they hammered the Bobcats in Athens, they are probably a top 15 team most nights. Sure, on the bad nights they might be in the 40 range, but the good should outweigh the bad. Three teams in the current rankings have 5 losses. Four teams have 4 losses. On any given night I would take my chances with the Chippewas against any of those 7 teams.
Sure we are in the midst of a huge freeze in the Midwest right now, but March is right around the corner. It would be madness for this team not to be in the tournament. The NCAA Tournaments are great, because anyone can win on any given night. No one tunes in to watch a 2 seed smash a 15, they want to see the 1 seed lose, preferably on a deep three. I don’t want to live in a world where this CMU team is not in the tournament. Sure, they lack a great inside presence, and their defense is not the most stout, but they are a great team, one capable of knocking off anyone. I don’t think it’s hyperbole when I say that a hot shooting Chippewas can literally knock off any team in the country. They can. However, They are going to slip up again before the NCAA tournament. There is a decent chance they could slip up in the MAC tournament. I hope the NCAA Tournament Committee shows a better understanding of this team, or at least favors the RPI rankings a bunch this season, if that happens. The NCAA Tournament was made for this squad.