COLUMN: CMU hoops exactly who we thought they were



Coming into the season the men's basketball team had just four returning letterwinners and a roster full of unknowns.

Little was expected as the team was picked to finish last in the Mid-American Conference and had no preseason All-MAC honorees.

With little expectations, it was hard not to get excited when the Chippewas started the season with a 7-6 record, the first winning record going to conference play in several years.

Even the MAC season got off to a strong 2-1 start with wins over Bowling Green and Ball State and hard-fought loss on the road in Toledo in overtime.

We all thought this team was vastly underrated. Or, maybe not.

Tuesday will mark a full month of CMU losses -- eight-straight to be exact.

And we should've seen this coming.

With the fast-paced offense and team full of freshmen, we should've been able to forsee this rough stretch, especially when we knew this team was going to live and die by the three.

During the eight-game stretch, the Chippewas are shooting 28 percent from beyond the arc and are sitting second-to-last in the MAC in three-point shooting percentage in conference play.

We also knew that the defense would struggle this season. CMU has allowed opponents to shoot 50 percent from the field in the last month and have been out-scored by 112 points (621-509). That number includes Northern Illinois, which broke the record for least amount of points scored in a half during non-conference play when it scored five points in the first half against Dayton.

Not to be outdone, the Huskies then scored only four in the first half against Eastern Michigan.

During the Chippewas drought in Saturday's loss to Toledo, they were stuck at eight points in the second half for a while, and I thought to myself, 'at least it's not NIU.'

Then I remembered that CMU lost to the Huskies in McGuirk Arena. Not only did the Chippewas lose to the lowly Huskies, who combined to shoot three-of-50 (six percent) in those record-setting games, but they allowed them to shoot 49 percent to start the losing streak.

That itself should've been a sign of things to come.

We knew CMU would struggle on boards without a true center starting and senior forward Zach Saylor's minutes slashed. Since Saylor returned from a knee injury that required surgery, the team's rebounding margin is -50 (286-236).

But head coach Keno Davis is still sure his team will be playing its best basketball come March, not that it would be difficult to surpass the numbers his team put up from mid-January to mid-February.

But Davis might a have point.

His team has faced the top of the MAC in its last four games and has shown signs of improvement.

The Chippewas battled Akron to the wire but ran out of timeouts.

They played tough against Kent State and Ohio in the first half, but the Golden Flashes and Bobcats ran away with the games. Same with the Rockets Saturday night.

Not much was expected from a team that  won 11 games last season. Davis and his teams have at least five games left to surpass that number, making this season for all intents and purposes a positive.

They came into conference play with a winning record, something that cannot be overlooked. Senior guard Kyle Randall has been a machine, scoring 20-plus a night on a near regular basis, while freshman guard Chris Fowler has broken the freshman assist record.

These are all things that show signs of a bright future to come, which is something that we should expect.


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