COLUMN: Men's basketball may have lost its superstars, but team play makes the Chippewas more dangerous this season
While it’s still early in the season, the Central Michigan men’s basketball team already looks better than last year’s squad.
Despite losing its top two scorers in point guard Marcus Keene and shooting guard Braylon Rayson, CMU has played more team oriented basketball through its first two games.
Keene took 21.8 shots per game last season, while Rayson let the ball fly 17.2 times per game. The next closest player was David DiLeo, taking 6.9 shots per game.
Fast forward to this season, CMU is very different, but in a good way. Even head coach Keno Davis believes the Chippewas are much improved.
“We’re better defensively than we were at any point last year because of the personal and intensity,” Davis said. “We are a good rebounding team to a great rebounding team. Those two things we never were last year.”
CMU most recently showed off its team play in a 72-65 loss to the University of Michigan Monday at the Crisler Center.
In the close loss to Michigan, junior point guard Shawn Roundtree took a team-high 11 shots, of which he made seven to tally up 21 points. Senior forward Luke Meyer registered 10 shots.
Besides Roundtree and Meyer, nobody took double digit shots against Michigan, meaning the ball was being shared throughout the entire game.
The Chippewas lead by eight points midway through the first half and took a Wolverine's squad that made the Sweet 16 last season down to the wire.
Another example is CMU’s 108-48 win over Siena Heights in the regular season opener. Senior forward Cecil Williams (14), sophomore guard Kevin McKay (13), and DiLeo (12) all shot the ball in double digits.
One year ago, CMU won 117-53 against IU-Kokomo in the season opener. In the victory, Keene and Rayson were the only players to shoot over 10 times, as Keene went 11-of-18 from the field for 32 points and Rayson shot 4-of-14 for 17 points.
The Chippewas had no true rebounder last year, as Williams pulled down 6.0 rebounds per game and DiLeo was one behind him. This season, CMU has a number of players who can rebound consistently, including Williams, McKay, DiLeo, and Meyer.
After losing Keene and Rayson, many wondered where the scoring would come from.
The answer is from all over the court.
If one player is having a bad shooting night, others are comfortable enough to step up. Roundtree, Williams, McKay, Meyer, DiLeo, and junior guard Gavin Peppers have all scored in double figures so far.
Last year, the Chippewas finished 16-16 on the season and 6-12 in Mid-American Conference play.
MAC play starts on Jan. 2 for CMU, which is when the team will show its true colors. The Chippewas will battle with Ohio at McGuirk Arena.
“In some areas, we are much improved from last year,” Davis said. “In others, we will find out shortly.”