One of the big stories out of the MAC so far this season has been the play of Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene, as he has established himself as one of the top scorers in the nation with 30.8 points per game. With a 25-point performance against a solid Illinois team on Saturday in a losing effort, Keene is putting the team on his back and makes CMU a very dangerous team once it enters MAC play. But can the Chips win the ‘ship?
One thing to consider in Central Michigan’s hot start this season is that the level of competition for the most part has not been great. CMU’s wins this season have come against IU Kokomo, Tennessee Tech, Marygrove, Pepperdine, Green Bay (twice!), William & Mary, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff; not exactly a who’s-who of great college basketball. However, Keene has been great in the three losses against quality programs has he has accounted for 80 points, so he has risen to the occasion for the Chippewas.
Something that may play into the hands of the Chips is the topsy-turvy nature of the conference this season, as teams that we expected to be really good this year already have multiple losses and we haven’t even made it to mid-December yet (looking at you, Ohio and Akron). If the non-conference slate is teaching us one thing, it’s that no one has been able to completely stop Keene and a one-man show could really make some hay in this league.
For this team to be a serious contender to win it all in Cleveland however, CMU has to get more production out of the rest of the team, with Braylon Rayson being a key part in that. Rayson struggled on the offensive end in the three losses as he shot 13-44 from the field and 4-19 from three-point range. Rayson needs to be able to complement Keene as a shooter for the Chippewas to be at their most dangerous, and he’ll have to capitalize on the opportunities he will get to do so in MAC play. The team also has to find a way to do better on the boards with the losses to St. Bonaventure and Illinois being dictated by a significant rebound disparity (91-55 in those two games).
With Keene being the frontrunner for MAC Player of the Year at this juncture of the season, Central Michigan certainly has all the tools to make a run through the MAC and be a difficult team to beat in Cleveland. We will have to see if the team is able to get production from Rayson and the other players as well as respond to the adversity that it will inevitably face this season. Fans of the league should keep a close eye on this CMU team as it could very well represent the conference in THE DANCE, and how sweet would it be to witness Keene and company on that kind of stage?