Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The losses keep mounting, the confidence keeps declining

Trey Zeigler, left, drives against Wright State.
CMU lost its sixth consecutive game Monday night 72-69 on a last-second 3-pointer by South Dakota State's Nate Wolters.

Things are not looking good. And while it's not time to push the panic button just yet (that might come later in the first half of the conference season), there are some warning signs that this just might not be a very good team.

No offensive continuity, flow or comfort: After attending the team's 53-49 loss against Wright State, I waited to post because I wanted to see what it did against Detroit. Well, it turned out to be another stellar 49-point effort in a 75-49 flat-out embarrassment against another father-son tandem that looks like they're comfortable together.

And although the Chippewas put up 69 Monday night, South Dakota State came in giving up 67.2 per game, good for 165th nationally. And without a 45-point second half, CMU doesn't crack 60 again.

Something happened at halftime. Whether or not it continues into Wednesday's game against Cornerstone is another matter. CMU shot an anemic 9-of-36 (25 percent) in the first half, but made up for it with an 18-of-33 clip in the second.

Jalin Thomas' 15.6 points per game leads CMU.
Put the ball in the hoop: The offense in both the Wright State and Detroit games was some of the worst I've ever seen. I call it a "street-ball offense." After pass after pass along the 3-point line, usually either Trey Zeigler or Jalin Thomas end up with it and have to dribble into a double team in the patiently-waiting zone defense, which has expended little or no energy during the 35-second waste of everybody's time. CMU played like it had never seen a 2-3 zone against Detroit. The shots they did get up missed badly. Everyone was spooked to shoot. Was it the nationally-televised audience? Coach Ernie Zeigler's voice ringing in their ears? Who knows, but Zeigler addressed it after the game, saying something telling:
“We’d be getting rebounds and guys would be standing 12-15 feet from the basket and would not shoot the ball,” he said. “You would think that we’re telling some guys (not to) shoot or take open shots. We’re going to keep trying to stress and keep teaching guys not to pass up open shots.”
CMU is a healthy 39.1 percent from the field this season, good for 300th out of 346 Division I schools. I'd say the Chippewas miss departed senior Jordan Bitzer and Robbie Harman, who could hit about anything from anywhere.

Not too tough: A staple for Zeigler in post-game press conferences, he called his team "soft" multiple times and promised changes to the starting lineup. Against the Jackrabbits, he sat down Amir Rashid at the point, Antonio Weary at the three and Will McClure at the five and went with Derek Jackson, Finis Craddock and Andre Coimbra instead. Craddock had a career-high 15 points, while Jackson struggled, not scoring and recording only one assist. Coimbra continues to show flashes, getting two blocks and five rebounds.

Finis Craddock, center had a career-high 15 points Monday.
Lineup changes: I thought this move was overdue. Craddock is CMU's most improved player, and you just can't start three players that give you nothing on the offensive end (Rashid, Weary and McClure). You might be able to get away with one, but pretty soon, it catches up with you. McClure is a great defender and does all the little things, but just can't score. Rashid still played 32 minutes off the bench because of the freshman Jackson's inconsistencies, but Rashid is just a bad shooter and an inconsistent decision-maker. A 2-of-7 shooting night put him at 31.5 percent for the season. He had two assists and leads the team with 2.6 per game...not exactly stellar for your point guard.

Foul man walking: Antonio Weary is a walking foul. He fouled out Monday in 16 minutes. He has great athleticism but isn't sure how to harness it. He's too aggressive on defense most times and isn't a great shooter on the offensive end. He probably has the most hops on the team, but that's only showcased when CMU decides to run.

Assist update: CMU did not have one until deep into the second half against Detroit and finished with three. Three. This is after recording just two against LSU. CMU cracked double digits against Wright State (11) and SDSU (10), but still lost. Before Monday's game, at 9.0 assists per game, the Chippewas had dropped all the way to 342nd out of 346 schools.

What's next: CMU has just two games (Wed. vs. Cornerstone, Dec. 30 at UNLV) remaining before Mid-American Conference play begins Jan. 9 against Western Michigan in Kalamazoo. While "disaster" might not be the right word to describe the non-conference slate, regardless of what happens in the final two, it hasn't been pretty. CMU should reap the benefits of the break between Dec. 30 and Jan. 9. This team has traveled all over the country and will need the days to recharge after heading to Las Vegas to close the non-conference schedule.

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