MEN'S BASKETBALL: Ball State won't underestimate Central Michigan
4-11 Chippewas have been competitive in each loss
From the surface, Central Michigan looks like a bad team.
The Chippewas are 4-11 on the year and sit at the bottom of the lowly Mid-American Conference West Division.
Dig a little deeper, and teams will see they have the potential to be dangerous.
Central Michigan may not always win, but they push teams to the edge. Four of their losses came in overtime while four others were by less than five points.
A four game stretch against Temple, DePaul, LSU and Wright State tested the Chippewas early, and each contest was competitive.
Ball State coach Billy Taylor recognizes Saturday's game at home will be a dogfight.
"They're much better than their record," Taylor said. "Look at Central last year and who they lost. Four guys who scored a lot of points are gone—the core of their team. In their early nonconference schedule, guys were trying to find their roles and moving around in positions. I think in early January people will start to see more of a conventional Central approach."
The conventional Central Michigan approach included a MAC West regular season title last year.
Similar hopes for the Chippewas aren't out of the question with the talent they have on the team.
Freshman Trey Zeigler was one of the top recruits coming out of high school this year and decided to play for his dad, Ernie Zeigler, at Central Michigan. He hasn't disappointed so far, averaging 16.7 points per game to lead the team.
Senior Jalin Thomas stepped his game up this year and has doubled his scoring average from last season (14.9 points per game).
Ball State's defensive specialist Pierre Sneed will have his hands full containing both scorers Saturday, but Taylor said it will take more than just good individual defense.
"There can't be just one guy assigned to [Zeigler and Thomas], they're too talented," Taylor said. "We will need our help defense and the individuals in the second and even third lines of defense to step up."
After a big win against Western Michigan on Wednesday, the Cardinals sit atop the MAC West. On paper, this looks like a trap game, but Taylor said there is no lack of motivation in his team.
"Over the last couple of years, they have become a rival for us," Taylor said. "Both games last year came down to the wire. Guys remember last year. They are excited."