Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Analyzing Trey Zeigler's freshman season

In a season in which Central Michigan's basketball team has hardly lived up to expectations and hype, freshman Trey Zeigler has quietly put up one of the best season ever by a CMU or MAC freshman.

For those who expected Zeigler to come in and score 20 points per game right away, his 16.6 per game average isn't anything to sneeze at. Sure, the team hasn't enjoyed the success fans hoped for, but if Zeigler continues to improve his game during the next three years, the wins will come.

Will Trey Zeigler take the reins next season?
There's no doubting Zeigler is a special player. Despite being double teamed nearly every time he touched the ball, he set CMU's all-time freshman scoring record Tuesday night at Toledo, surpassing Dirk Dunbar's 1972-73 record of 471 points. He now has 488. He also sits fourth in MAC history for total points by a freshman. He has at least two more games remaining, so he could theoretically move into second place by scoring his season average. A look:

Kenny BattleNIU1984-85544
Gary TrentOhio1992-93514
D.J. CooperOhio2009-10498
Trey ZeiglerCMU2010-11488
Bonzi WellsBall St.1994-95474
Dirk DunbarCMU1972-73471

Zeigler's scoring average ranks fourth among Division I freshmen this season, right behind Kentucky's duo of Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones and Ohio State sensation Jared Sullinger.

PlayerSchoolPos.Ht.GFG3FGFTPtsAvg.Nnl. Rnk.
Brandon KnightKentuckyG6-3291726810051217.773
Terrence JonesKentuckyF6-8291742013049817.291
Jared SullingerOhio St.C6-930183314551417.196
Trey ZeiglerCent. Mich.G6-529183259748816.8114
DeAndre KaneMarshallG6-4291454010743715.1204

Zeigler has avoided injury, which was crucial for his development this season. He has started 28 of 29 games for the Chippewas, with his only game off the bench coming early in the season after he had eight turnovers in a loss at South Alabama.

There's no doubt his game needs to improve, though, mainly at the free-throw line. His 58.1 percent average from the line doesn't rank in the NCAA's top 250, and his 40.1 percent field-goal percentage ranks 10th among freshmen who have played significant minutes. He hasn't yet made 100 free throws despite getting to the line 167 times, more than anyone on CMU's roster.

But perhaps a more troublesome pattern are his turnovers. Zeigler has 97 on the season (3.3 per game) — 50 more than the next closest Chippewa. He also handles the ball more than anybody else, but giving up the ball that much will hinder CMU's chances to become a solid team. This might be a case of a freshman playing like a freshman, but in any case, this must improve next season and beyond.

In the MAC, he ranks third in scoring, behind two seniors:

Xavier SilasNIUSr.261785217157922.3
Brandon BowdryEMUSr.271862614254020.0
Trey ZeiglerCMUFr.29183259748816.8
D.J. CooperOhioSo.301615611849616.5
Zach FilzenBuffaloJr.27152974044116.3
Jalin ThomasCMUSr.271285611742915.9

So, what else has Trey done this year? His 2.2 assists per game leads the team (How, you ask? Well, CMU ranks dead lasts in the country in assists per game at 8.7). He's also second on the team in rebounds per game at 5.3 (but has 20 more defensive rebounds than Will McClure, the overall leader), second on the team in steals with 41, and third on the team in blocks with 27. He plays a team-high 34.4 minutes a game, hits 33.3 percent of his 3-point attempts (25-of-75).

Would Zeigler get drafted if he entered the NBA after one season? That's debatable. I think he still needs to find a spot on the national map by leading his team to the NCAA tournament before he's done at CMU to really make his stock skyrocket. That won't happen this year, or maybe even next, but his junior year might be when he really makes his mark nationally. He's still got the size and the ability to create offense, though, something NBA scouts noticed even in high school. 

Once Zeigler really get comfortable and puts on a few more pounds (he's still a little bit slim for as physical as D-I basketball, especially the MAC, is) he'll be a force. Right now, he's a good player on a mediocre-at-best team in the MAC who's still feeling his way into college basketball. I think he takes the leadership reins next season with the departure of senior Jalin Thomas, Will McClure and Antonio Weary, each of whom I think Zeigler deferred to as a show of respect. The team will have three seniors again next season, but two of them (Andre Coimbra and Paris Paramore) joined CMU's program this season along with Zeigler, so they're basically on the same level. The other, Nick Jordan, hardly plays and is a behind-the-scenes guy. 2011-12 is really Trey's time to break out of his shell as an individual. It'll be fun to watch.