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November 21, 2013

Chippewas host three teams in CMU Tournament

Coming off two losses, including one at home to Pepperdine, the Chippewas will host the Central Michigan Tournament in McGuirk Arena over the next three days. CMU will welcome Austin Peay, Montana State and CSU-Northridge to Mount Pleasant for a round-robin style tournament. CMU will play their first game of the tournament on Thursday night against the Austin Peay Governors, from the Ohio Valley Conference. They will play the Montana State Bobcats, out of the Big Sky Conference, on Friday night and will close the tournament against CSU-Northridge, from the Big West Conference, on Saturday night. CMU comes into the tournament ranked 313th on KenPom.com., with the 267th-ranked offense and the 334th-ranked defense. Here's a look at the three teams that CMU will play in their tournament this week.


Austin Peay

Central Michigan will open the tournament against the Governors on Thursday night. APSU is ranked 279th on KenPom, with the 277th-ranked offense and the 271st-ranked defense. They have a 2-1 record on the young season, with home wins over Oakland City, a Division 2 team, and Southern Illinois, ranked No. 222. The Governors loss was a 95-69 loss at No. 25 Memphis. This game is projected to be a tight contest. KenPom predicts a 78-76 CMU victory in a 74-possession game and gives the Chippewas a 57-percent chance at the win.

The Chippewas have played at a faster pace early in the season than they did last year, averaging 69.7 possessions-per-game, compared to 65.6 last season. They are No. 150 in the nation in adjusted tempo. Long-time head Dave Loos now prefers an up-tempo style, which is a contrast to the style APSU ran 10 years ago. The Governors were below 200th in adjusted tempo for the first three years of the KenPom era (2002-05) and were never above 100 until 2010-11. Last year, they were 41st in adjusted tempo and through three games this year, they are 26th, averaging 74.3 possessions-per-game.

APSU runs an aggressive defense, which has been mostly man-to-man this season, but had some zone features last season. They have been very good at keeping teams off the foul line, forcing turnovers and blocking shots in their three games this season. As a perimeter-based team with a lack of size (268th in effective height), they have struggled to rebound the basketball, ranked 342nd in defensive rebounding and 336th in offensive rebounding. The Governors have not faced a team this season like CMU, who is 67th in the percentage of field goal attempts that are three point shots. Both Memphis and SIU are in the bottom 30 nationally in three point attempts per field goal attempts.

Starting point guard Zavion Williams and sixth man guard Demarius Smith have dominated the ball in the offense this season and both can create for their teammates, with assist rates over 29 percent. Starting shooting Travis Betran dominated the ball last year and led the Governors with 17.2 ppg. Starting forwards Will Triggs and Ed Dyson lead APSU in ppg this season. They get less touches, but are more efficient scorers and are often on the receiving end of Williams and Smith assists. Chris Horton is the team's starting center and is really their only good rebounder. Horton is an elite shot blocker. He was 12th in the nation in block percentage and is 16th through three games this season. Aside from offensive rebounding, the other big weakness that Governors offense has is taking care of the ball. They are 310th in turnover percentage this season. Last year, they were 321st in turnover percentage.

Montana State

Despite being a seasoned team (ranked 35th in the country in experience), the Bobcats are the lowest rated squad in this tournament, entering Thursday ranked 340th by KenPom. They are 309th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 348th (out of 351 teams) in adjusted defensive efficiency. The only teams with worse defensive performances this early in the season are Central Arkansas, Grambling State and Cornell. They are 0-2 in 2013-14, with a 29-point home loss to CSU-Fullerton and a five-point road loss at UC-Riverside. Montana State was 190th in adjusted tempo last season, averaging 65.6 possessions-per-game, which was the exact tempo that CMU played at last year. KenPom is projecting a 74-67 CMU win in a 66-possession game and gives the Chippewas a 77-percent chance to win this game.

Montana State's awful defensive numbers are a carryover from last season, when they were ranked 339th in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Bobcats are okay at forcing turnovers and getting defensive rebounds, but they are bad at keeping opponents off the foul line and they're among the worst in the nation at defending shooters. Last season, they were 343rd in defensive effective field goal percentage and this year, they are 314th. Teams have been able to score on them in the paint and from the perimeter. It doesn't help that they aren't a good shot blocking team. All the turnovers that they force come from their perimeter players. Starting point guard Antonio Biglow was third in the Big Sky Conference in steal percentage last season. Starting small forward Calen Campbell, along with guard Marcus Colbert and forward Terrell Brown, who both come off the bench, are solid at forcing turnovers. Brown and starting center Paul Egwuonwu are the only guys who are decent shot blockers. Egwuonwu and Brown,, along with Flavien Davis and Eric Norman, who have split time at power forward, are the team's best rebounders.

Last year, the offense went through Davis and Biglow. This year, Davis has been the guy that has gotten the most touches and he's second on the team in scoring, with 11 ppg. Three of the other four starters get a good amount of touches, with the lone exception being starting shooting guard Michael Dison. Egwuonwu is third in touches and leads the Bobcats in scoring with 11.5 ppg. MSU has struggled to shoot the ball from beyond the arc, only making 14.3 percent of their three-point shots, 349th in the country. They have made 54.9 percent of their two-point shots, which is 53rd in the country. The Bobcats have also struggled to get offensive rebounds: they are 306th in offensive rebounding, They also haven't been able to get to the free throw line much, ranked in 264th in free throw rate. When they do get to the charity stripe, they can get points. MSU is 27th in free throw percentage this season, hitting 78.4 percent of their free throw shots.

Cal State-Northridge

The Matadors, led by former NBA All-Star and former Sacramento Kings head coach Reggie Theus are the highest rated team in the field, ranked No. 202 by KenPom. Theus, in his first season at the helm in Northridge, has seen his team go 1-2 in their first three games. CSUN has a 86-74 home win over Hope International, a NAIA team from California, and road losses to No. 115 USC and No. 91 Fresno State. They play a very fast style, averaging 74.2 possessions-per-game, 28th in the country. The Matadors are 154th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 246th in adjusted defensive efficiency. KenPom projects an 81-77 CSU-Northridge victory and gives CMU a 37-percent chance of pulling off the upset.

CSU-Northridge has been average at most aspects of their offense: taking care of the ball, rebounding and getting to the free throw line. Where they have struggled is making shots. They are 275th in two-point percentage and 322nd in three-point percentage. The Matadors individual scoring numbers look better because they have so many possessions. Freshman sixth man guard Aaron Parks has the highest percentage of possessions, but has only played 20.7 minutes-per-game and is averaging 8.7 ppg. Junior power forward Stephen Maxwell has the highest usage rate among the starting five and leads the team in scoring, with 17.7 ppg. Maxwell is CSUN's best offensive rebounder (fourth in the Big West) and has 9.3 rebounds-per-game. Starting senior point guard Josh Greene doesn't get nearly as many touches, but has been very efficient, with the second-highest offensive rating in the Big West. Greene is averaging 17.3 ppg. Starting junior three-guard Stephan Hicks has the highest usage rate among starters after Maxwell and is third in scoring, with 15.0 ppg. Sophomore center Tre Hale-Edmerson is averaging 9.3 ppg. The starting sophomore two-guard is Landon Drew, who is the son of Larry Drew, a 10-year NBA veteran and current Milwaukee Bucks head coach, has been their best shooter, with a 60.0-percent effective field goal percentage, but has had limited shots.

The biggest defensive struggle for CSUN through three games has been their inability to stop teams from scoring inside, allowing opponents to make 67.1 percent of their two-point shots, 349th in the nation. The Matadors have also struggled to rebound the ball defensively, but have been above average at forcing turnovers and keeping opponents off the free throw line. Parks and Hale-Edmerson have been good at getting steals. Hale-Edmerson has been the only good shot blocker through three games for the Matadors.

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