I realize I pretty much abandoned this site (class, other writing ventures, and laziness) but I am so frustrated by the CMU Men’s Basketball team, and season that I just had to vent, and let it out here, as well as try and provide some perspective on what went wrong, and what lies ahead for this team.
First we start with the bad. CMU was horrendous on the road this season, finishing up at an embarrassing 3-13 after the loss to Buffalo in the opening round of the MAC Tournament. And it’s not even like CMU played teams close on the road, often times they were blown out, or held to embarrassingly low numbers on offense. They had 3 road losses by more than 20 points, and 4 road games where they failed to break 50 points. Not good.
But why was this? This was a team that at the beginning of the year was a pick by many people to win the MAC West, with 3 starting seniors back, and Trey Zeigler coming in.
First off, they had an immense lack of offense, on the year CMU averaged about 59 points a game, which puts them in the bottom 30 in the entire nation. Bad. Aside from Zeigler and Jalin Thomas, there was nobody else on the team who was capable of stepping up and contributing if either of those two had an off night. They were last in the MAC in scoring, Field Goal %, assists, and Free Throw %. Ouch.
The biggest reason for this was, as previously mentioned, there was no secondary scoring outside of Zeigler and Thomas. Aside from those two who each averaged over 16 points per game, nobody else on the team averaged more than 7 per game.
The secondary scoring was so inconsistent from game to game that you couldn’t rely on anyone to step up and contribute. One game Derek Jackson would shoot well, others it would be Andre Coimbra, or Will McClure, even John Morris and Antonio Weary had a couple games where they stepped up. But it wasn’t consistent enough for any of those guys to be reliable options if Zeigler and Thomas were off.
And because of that, Zeigler and Thomas were forced to take the majority of the shots for the team, even when they were having off nights, because there was nobody else who could take those shots.
The other factor why this team struggled so much, was that aside from the 3 seniors, this was and is an extremely young team. The 3 starting guards, Jackson, Morris, and Zeigler are all freshmen, who due to the team not having anyone else to turn to, were forced into duty, and to try and learn on the fly. Some nights (wins against BGSU and OHIO) it worked great, but on other nights (38 at EMU, 43 at KSU and Buffalo) it looked like there were 3 freshmen guards on the floor.
And aside from McClure, there was nobody down low with any real basketball experience at this level. Coimbra was a JUCO transfer, Collin Voss, Jevon Harden, were freshmen, and Nate VanArendonk sat out the remainder of the year after playing in the first 3 games.
And maybe, just maybe, Ernie Zeigler isn’t a very good coach. The team has gotten worse at the foul line each year, and despite back to back West Division titles in the prior two years, none of those years has his overall record been great. His offense is so maddening that it is hard to watch at times. He refuses to utilize what strengths his team has (speed). And instead chooses to run a pro style, set offense like you would see at UCLA. That’s great when you have a good big man down low offensively, but as we previously mentioned, CMU does not have one of those.
Despite their struggles this season, I do think that there is alot of hope, and a bright future for this team and the program. They have beautiful brand new arena, and a solid fan base that comes out and supports this team, nearly 3,000 a game despite the 10-21 overall record.
And many of the problems that CMU had this season, are ones that get corrected with time more than anything. As big a detriment as it was to have 3 freshmen guards on the floor this year, I think it will benefit CMU tremendously in the long run.
Morris, Jackson, and Zeigler now have a year of playing time, and pressure situations under their belts, and in mid-major college basketball, 90% of the time you are only as good as your guards are. If those guys are all here for the next 3 seasons, there could be some very good teams in Mt. Pleasant.
The same goes for Collin Voss, Jevon Harden, and Andre Coimbra. While next season will be Coimbra’s last, Harden, Voss, and VanArendonk will have 3 (maybe 4 for VanArendonk) more seasons to mature and get better. So despite losing Jalin Thomas, and Will McClure, the Chippewas will have their top 7 players pretty much set for next season, and that’s a good thing to have.
Jackson could be a very good player, he has a very nice looking jump shot, and could be a great compliment to Zeigler. They also need Morris to become more in control of the point guard position, and set up plays for Zeigler and Jackson.
The team started to play better, and more efficient once Morris started playing the point. Zeigler is not a point guard, he’s a scorer. The most effective games he had were the ones where CMU would set him on the block, and let him back down the smaller defenders schools put on him to try and keep up with his speed.
Honestly, I think the best thing for CMU was for this season to end. There were alot of expectations at the beginning of the year for this team, and I think it is fair to say that they fell well short of what everyone expected.
But they will come into next year, with 6 players who were freshmen, and 1 JUCO transfer, a year older, stronger and wiser. And with that top 7 in the rotation pretty much set, I think they have a legit shot at making some noise in the MAC next season.