As the season approaches, Mid-Major Madness will be taking a closer look at its preseason Power 15 teams.
15. Central Michigan Chippewas
Central Michigan is the odds-on favorite this year to come away with the MAC championship, following up their amazing turnaround last season. Led by third year coach Keno Davis, Central Michigan captured their first conference championship since the 2002-2003 season, along with a nine-game swing in their conference record. Davis' squad comes in with high expectations, but this should be a task that can be handled because the Chippewas are a solidly veteran team.
Central Michigan returns all five starters including the best returning player in the MAC, Chris Fowler. Fowler finished second in MAC conference player of the year voting last season and will be the front runner after the dismissal of last year's winner, Buffalo's Justin Moss. Fowler will be be joined in the starting rotation by fellow captain Rayshawn Simmons, senior John Simons, junior Braylon Rayson, and sophmore Luke Meyer. Central Michigan is also bringing back most of their bench production except for Austin Keel who averaged just 4.4 points per game.
There will unfortunately be few opportunities to judge the strength of the Chippewas during the nonconference slate as they again stack up against a long line of cupcakes. There will still be a big chance to show what they are made of against BYU on Dec. 18. The Cougars are a loaded team and finished at No. 3 in the preseason Mid-Major Madness Power 15.
Central Michigan will also face an up-and-coming (as odd as that is to say) Weber State team out of the Big Sky. The Wildcats return four of their top five players and despite an inauspicious year last season, they looked poised to make some noise out West this season.
Within the league, the biggest hurdle will be the Buffalo Bulls. The Bulls have had a tumultuous off season with head coach Bobby Hurley leaving the program to take the same position at Arizona State. That was then followed by the departure of Moss. The Chippewas beat the Bulls in two out of three meetings last year, but lost the most important: the MAC tournament championship game. The Bulls will arguably be the second best team in the MAC.
Central Michigan made the Mid-Major Madness Power 15 because they are a veteran-driven team, and feature the top player in the conference. The Chippewas were almost unbeatable at home last year with the only home defeat coming against conference foe Bowling Green. This is a very good team that will win the games they are supposed to win and might even surprise another member of the MMM Power 15.
I believe that the Central Michigan Chippewas will have one of the best seasons in school history. The Chippewas are returning all five starters from the MAC regular season champions and will be tough to beat. I think that they will lose maybe two or three games this year on their way to another MAC regular season title and win the tournament championship. Keno Davis' team does have a lot of expectations, but I think with all this experience, the Chippewas will live up to their billing. Look out for them in the NCAA tournament.