Petzold: Nonconference grades for women's basketball
Fresh off a 90-80 upset victory over No. 24-ranked Miami (FL), the Central Michigan women's basketball team opens Mid-American Conference play on Jan. 5 against Akron with a 9-3 overall record.
CMU’s only losses came to South Dakota State (80-71), No. 3-ranked Louisville (72-68) and Tulane (68-57). Of those games, two of the three losses came at the end of nonconference action.
Senior guard Presley Hudson paces coach Sue Guevara's team with 21.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game.
With that being said, here's a look at beat writer Evan Petzold’s early season grades.
The overall offensive rankings have CMU at No. 39 in the nation, while fellow MAC team Ohio comes in at No. 10 with 85.1 points per contest. While assists to turnover ratio don't seem to have anything to do with scoring, the truth is it does. CMU's 1.15 assists to turnover ratio, ranked No. 40 in the country, helps set up opportunities for open shots.
Hudson is ranked No. 9 in the nation for her 21.1 points per game average. She helps the Chippewas to a 40.4 3-point percentage, rating CMU at No. 9 overall.
CMU has three players scoring in double digits – Hudson (21.1 points), senior forward Reyna Frost (16.9 points), sophomore guard Micaela Kelly (14.8 points). Sophomore guard Maddy Watters has come into her own since obtaining a starting spot, pouring in 40.7 percent of her 3-point shots and throwing around a handful of assists.
The main concern for CMU is the bench play. Since the start of the season, sophomore forward Kyra Bussell quickly became a threat as the first player off the bench for Guevara. She currently averages 6.9 points and 4.7 rebounds in 19 minutes per game. But besides Bussell, CMU does not get much from its bench.
Junior forward Gabrielle Bird and freshman guard Anika Weekes have played in 11 of CMU's 12 games this season as the seventh and eight players off the bench, but the two only average 1.4 points per game each. Then, the contests played number drops to five with freshman forward Sam Robinson's five.
The Chippewas have the No. 1 strength of schedule in the MAC, are successful from downtown and in terms of taking care of the ball, but the weak offensive play from CMU's deep bench is the only true concern.
Even in CMU's nail-biting loss to Louisville, the Chippewas out-rebounded their opponent – primarily thanks to the efforts of Frost. Nonetheless, anytime a player can average double-digit rebounds per game while also scoring at a high rate, it's a good sign.
That's exactly what Frost does for the Chippewas.
Hand-in-hand with her 16.9 points per game mark, Frost also pulls down 11.2 boards per contact – giving her a double-double average for the 2018-19 season. She is tied for second with nine double doubles, behind four players in first place with 10.
It also works to CMU's advantages that when rebounds are needed, others can step up. For example, in the 90-80 upset win over No. 24 Miami on Dec. 30, CMU's two smallest guards grabbed 12 total rebounds.
Off the bench, Bussell grabbed eight rebounds and 19 points in 29 minutes against Tulane, one of CMU's three losses. She's been excellent in the rebounding category and needs to keep it up.
The only concern in the rebounding category lies with freshman center Jahari Smith, who has remained the starter but continues to lose minutes to Bussell.
Of the 349 teams in NCAA Division I, CMU is ranked No. 186 in overall defensive, allowing 64.8 points per game. Guevara's defense seems to be the most questionable aspect of the team, specifically the post defense.
The Chippewas have logged 319 defensive rebounds, 32 blocks, 95 steals and 164 forced turnovers.
Of the 32 blocks, 14 are because of Frost. Hudson, Frost and Kelly combine for 60 of the team's 95 steals. Meanwhile, Frost has 98 of CMU's 319 defensive rebounds.
Sometimes, CMU is night and day on the defensive side of the ball – struggling to defend opponents over 6-foot-2 near the basket is the only true downfall. When Frost is not on the floor, there is a clear lack in defensive presence, but the offense has been enough to get CMU by throughout the nonconference.
The Chippewas could just as easily be a perfect 12-0 heading into MAC play, but three close losses cast a blemish on Guevara's team. CMU's bench probably isn't as deep as Guevara would like it, but that aspect of the team takes time.
Right now, CMU has proven enough to remain as the favorite to win the MAC regular season to set themselves up as the top seed in the conference tournament.
Overall Grade: A-