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2014-2015 Preseason MAC Men's Basketball: Central Michigan Chippewas

Optimism is running high in Mt. Pleasant for CMU Men's Basketball, but how do they really shape up heading into the new season?

Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

Year two of the Keno Davis era proved to be another difficult season for the Chippewas. Despite that, there is reason to be optimistic for Central Michigan basketball. Davis, the 2008 National Coach of the Year, will finally have some experienced veterans on his roster as well as several talented young players. Because of this, many Chippewa fans believe this will be the year that Central Michigan gets back in contention for a MAC Championship.

Last Year

2013 was not the season the Chippewas had hoped for. For the second time in as many seasons the Chips lost over twenty games and finished fifth in the MAC West. To be fair to Davis and Company, nobody had particularly high expectations going into the season. The firing of Ernie Zeigler brought about the decimation of the CMU basketball program. All but three players either graduated, quit, or transferred. Davis was given the unenviable task of rebuilding the program almost from scratch, so when taken into consideration, a 21 loss season feels almost like an accomplishment.

That being said, Davis is going into his third season and will, for the first time, have some upperclassmen leadershipand plenty of his young talented recruits to help carry the load.

Who's Gone

Going into the new season the Chips will only be down two players from last season, neither of whom made significant contributions on the court last season. Center Zach Saylor averaged five minutes, a rebound and a point per game, while forward DeAndrey Buckley averaged seven minutes, one and a half rebounds and two points per game.

This Year

Returning Players

CMU will be returning nearly every player on their roster from last season. The Chips are bringing back their top eight scorers from a year ago as well as their top seven players on the boards.

Notable returning players include third team All-MAC, NABC All-District second team selection, and assist machine Chris Fowler. Joining Fowler will be the high power duo of John Simons and Blake Hibbitts, two big players who can shoot the ball from long range. Rounding out the core of the returning cast are Braylon Rayson, Austin Stewart, and Austin Keel.

What makes the CMU program a scary one is that, with the exception of Keel, every players on this Chippewasquad is a junior or younger. If this core of players can put it all together this year, expect some very good basketball to be played in McGuirk Arena.

New Players

Size has been an issue for Central Michigan the past couple seasons so you can bet that getting bigger was a priority for Keno Davis on the recruiting trail this off-season. If gaining size was the goal, then mission accomplished.

Luke Meyer comes into this freshman season at 6-foot-11' and 221 pounds. Meyer was named first team All-State in Michigan his junior and senior year of high school. Expect Meyer to become a presence inside once he gains some experience and some weight.

DaRohn Scott committed to CMU in April and will be looking to make an impact as a freshman. The power forward from Grand Rapids is listed at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds. A two-star recruit according to ESPN, Scott was a McDonald's All-American nominee and is considered the centerpiece of this Keno Davis recruiting class.

Also joining the Chips in 2014 are a pair of Serbians. Filip Medjo is a true freshman and was recruited out of Impact Academy in Florida where he averaged 24 points in 24 minutes per game. His countryman Milos Cabarkapa joined the Chips last season, but was redshirted so he never saw the floor. As a redshirt freshman however, expect the seven-footer to make an impact on the court this season.

This very talented freshman class will be certain to step up and compete for playing time this season. The talent pool is deeper than it has been in a while for the Chippewas. This new-found depth will not only make players work harder for playing time, but going up against better competition in practice will make the Chippewas more prepared to face the level of talent they will encounter during the MAC season.

Games To Watch

December 17th at Northwestern will be a very good benchmark to see just how much the Chips have improved. CMU has plays a very easy non-conference schedule, but going on the road to a B1G opponent will be the first real test of the season for Chippewas. While few if anyone expects them to win, if Central can put up a good fight, then it's likely they will be able to compete in the MAC this time around.

February 6th and March 7th are the days that all fans in Mt. Pleasant and Kalamazoo have circled on their calendars though. No matter how good or bad either team is, Central vs. Western is always a battle no matter the sport. It's always chippy, and it's always exciting when these two teams meet. Tune in.

Outlook

There certainly is cause for optimism among Chippewa fans. It appears as though Keno Davis finally has some good pieces to work with. Only time will tell however whether the 2014-15 Chippewas will be the team that finally puts the pieces together and competes for a MAC Championship. CMU basketball fans have been fooled in the past. The coming and then unceremonious going of hometown hero Trey Zeigler still leaves a bitter taste of pessimism in the mouths of Chippewa fans. But for now, all those in Mt. Pleasant will sit back and wait with anticipation for the start of another basketball season. This time however the mantra of "this could be our year" carries just a bit more weight.