Men's basketball determined to overcome low expectations

Last season, the Central Michigan men's basketball team was considered a favorite to win the Mid-American Conference Championship. 

This season, the Chippewas were selected to finish last in the MAC West Division in the MAC Coaches Poll.

When CMU takes the floor for its first exhibition game Nov. 5, there will be eight players on the roster who didn't play last season.

The Chippewas lost numerous starters to graduation, including the program's all-time assist leader Chris Fowler and top 3-point shooter John Simons.

"Every time you bring a recruiting class in, there's some unknown," head coach Keno Davis said. "The thing I like about this group is that we see something from the new guys every day. The depth of this year's team has the chance to be a strength."

Even though there will be a lack of familiar faces taking the court for CMU, Davis said he doesn't see a lack of talent on his roster. 

"It's an exciting team to be able to coach," he said. "Our chance to improve early in the season and throughout the year gives us a chance to be competitive this year."

The fifth-year head coach wouldn't place expectations of wins on his team, but emphasized the importance of improving throughout the year.

"With so much youth, there are going to be nights that are going to be tough for us," Davis said. "Things aren't going to go right. We're going to make mistakes, but if we continue to improve and stay healthy, there's nobody in the conference we can't beat."

CMU will be led by the guard combination of senior Braylon Rayson and junior transfer Marcus Keene.

Keene transferred to the team last season from Youngstown State, but was forced to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules. 

Rayson was the Chippewas' second leading scorer at 16.3 points per game and contributed 3.7 rebounds.

"If we would have had them a few years ago, they would have put up as many points as we needed," Davis said.

CMU also returns junior forward Luke Meyer, who started every game last season, as well as junior forwards Josh Kozinski and DaRohn Scott, who played in every game.

Forward Blake Hibbits will also return to the team after sitting out last season with a torn ACL. The Hudsonville senior is a career 35 percent 3-point shooter. 

With so many new faces taking the court for CMU this season, Davis said there will be plenty of opportunities for different players to step up and earn significant playing time and starting roles.