The Ball State men’s basketball team has made drastic improvements from last season, and it has shown through the first part of the season.

The Cardinals started Mid-American Conference play four wins (9-4) ahead of last year (5-6), and split its first two games in conference.

Currently sitting at 10-5 (1-1), the Cardinals are gunning for the conference championship.

Season Record By Season

2014-2015 - 7-23 (2-16)

2015-2016 - 10-5 (1-1)

“We are taking big steps forward and have improved tremendously from the Bradley and Eastern Illinois games," Head coach James Whitford said. "This team has developed a good culture moving forward.”

With key additions such as redshirt junior guard Ryan Weber and sophomore guard Jeremie Tyler, Ball State has shown it has proven scorers and depth on the defensive end.

Ball State's depth will be a crucial part to their success in the MAC. 

Players like redshirt senior guard Jeremiah Davis and sophomore forward Sean Sellers, who both started the majority of last season, have developed new roles providing scoring and defense off the bench.

Coach Whitford’s philosophy is clear, in order to compete for a conference championship means his team has to play defense.

“We have to fight to get better every day," Whitford said. "We have a saying, 'You build a castle one brick at a time.' We are building this team one brick at a time.”

According to the KenPom rankings, Ball State has the 338th toughest schedule so far out of 351 teams. The KenPom rankings are a metric used to predict the current play of a team, not a ranking system defining how well a team has played up to this point. 

The easier schedule helped build a strong record prior to league play, but there are only two teams in the MAC under .500 (Miami, 6-8 and Western Michigan, 6-9).

When asked, Whitford could not think of another conference as balanced as the MAC.

“This conference is deeper this year compared to most," Whitford said. "The gap between the bottom and top of the league is not very high.”

Winning on the road has not come easy in the coach Whitford era. Ball State has played three true road games this year against Eastern Kentucky, Bradley and Indiana State, losing all three by a combined score of 234-205. 

Whitford is looking to get his team out of the road slump and improve as conference play goes on.

“We must come out with more composure in order to focus and compete for 40 minutes,” Whitford said.