November 13, 2009

CMU vs. Princeton Tigers Preview

Basketball season officially starts for the Central Michigan Chippewas as they host the Princeton Tigers tomorrow at noon. Last year, CMU used a 28 point performance from Chris Kellermann to preserve a 55-53 victory over the Tigers on the road. This season, both reams return familiar rosters and another close game is expected.




Looking at Princeton

The first thing that jumps out about Princeton is of course, the "Princeton Offense" that has become the staple of the program ever since legendary coach Pete Carril first implemented it during his days on the bench. The offense is predicated on precise passing and screening and is designed to make opponents defend for the entire shot clock. Spacing is also very important in the offense, and the goal is to stay spread out and force defenders to cover multiple areas on the floor. Using this well known but not easily implemented offense, Princeton keeps the score low and attempts to control the pace. Head coach Sydney Johnson is a former Princeton player, and he is quickly assembling the pieces to improve upon last seasons 13-14 record.

All five starters return for the Tigers and they are led by 5-foot-11 sophomore guard Douglas Davis, who led Princeton in scoring last year as a true freshman with an average of 12.3 points per game. Serving as an offensive compliment to Davis is 6-foot-3 junior sharpshooter Dan Mavraides, who averaged 10.3 points per game and shot 42.6% from three point territory. Also making a major contribution to the Tigers, although not necessarily with his offense, is 6-foot-3 senior Marcus Schroeder. Schroeder only averaged 4.9 points per game, but showed tenacity in other facets of the game and is a stable presence as a senior leader. 6-foot-5 senior Nick Lake and 6-foot-6 sophomore John Comfort bring some size and shooting ability to the backcourt, but are still developing as role players. 6-foot-2 freshman Jimmy Sherburne is another name to keep an eye on, he has reportedly been impressive in practice and was also a tremendous football player, hailing from the same high school, Whitefish Bay (WI) as current Chippewas middle linebacker Nick Bellore.

While the Princeton frontcourt has some solid leftover pieces, much of the excitement has to do with the newcomers coming in. 6-foot-9 senior Pawel Buczak has the experience factor and averaged 7.7 points per game last season, but failed to establish himself on the glass and averaged only 4.4 rebounds per game. 6-foot-7 sophomore Patrick Saunders had an impressive debut season, averaging 5.2 points and 3.8 points per game, and is expected to build on those numbers as a sophomore. 6-foot-8 junior Kareem Maddux and 6-foot-9 senior Zach Finley are also capable of playing some relief minutes, but five incoming freshman standing 6-foot-7 or taller may squeeze them out of some minutes.

6-foot-7 and 225 pound freshman Ian Hummer is expected to make an immediate impact and was ranked as a three star prospect by Rivals.com. Both Hummer's father and uncle played for the Tigers and enjoyed successful careers, and the same is expected for Ian. Also expected to make an impact is 6-foot-7 and 210 pound freshman Mack Darrow. Darrow averaged over 18 points and 7 rebounds as a senior and is the prototypical Princeton big man with his ability to shoot the ball. While both Darrow and Hummer have the ability to stretch the court with their perimeter shot, 6-foot-9 and 270 pound freshman Brendan Connolly will be looking to do most of his damage in the paint.

As a team, Princeton averaged only 57.8 points per game last season, and much of that was done by design with their unique offense. The Tigers shot 37.3% from three point land as a unit, but have shown vulnerability on the boards. Last season their defense held CMU to just 33.9% shooting, but allowed 14 offensive rebounds.

How CMU wins:

The Chippewas have the benefit of seeing and eventual beating Princeton last season, giving them much needed practice and game film on their unique offense.


"You know, you have to be extremely disciplined," said CMU head coach Ernie Zeigler when asked about stopping the Tigers offense. "Fortunately for us, we played it last year and prepared for it, but their a much better team and much more experienced. They have all those guys back and they understand that system even more. And they added some other pieces to it, so it's going to be a really hard fought game and a difficult home challenge".

With that in mind, CMU should look to establish themselves on the boards and look to get 6-foot-9 junior forward Marko Spica involved early. Spica has the ability to draw double teams and will open up kickouts for CMU's shooters to get good looks. Last season the Chippewas were without departed senior Marcus Van and guard Jordan Bitzer, so Bitzer's influence should help in terms of shooting and rebounding. Senior Robbie Harman had a particularly rough game against Princeton last season, shooting 1-7 from the field and turning the ball over seven times, but expect better numbers this time around. If Harman and his fellow backcourt mates can shoot a high percentage from three, it will force Princeton to turn the tempo up and get them out of their element.


PREDICTION

Both teams will have plenty of new faces, but the Chippewas will be bringing two experienced starters in Spica and Bitzer who missed the Princeton game last season. Their return along with the rest of the Chippewas supporting cast and a healthy Kellermann should pose some match-up problems for the Tigers and force them to be incredibly efficient on offense. The game will be close, but ultimately CMU should pull away late if they can hit their free throws.

Central Michigan: 65
Princeton: 54


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