"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Central Michigan Preview, 2022-23

Central Michigan Chippewas

November 10, 2022, Al McGuire Center

Head Coach: Tony Barbee (138-150, 7-23 at Central Michigan)

Three-Year NET Average: 274.3

Three-Year kenpom Average: 271.7

Projected 2022-23 T-Rank: 315

Projected Starters: PG Kevin Miller (6'0" So), SG Reggie Bass (6'4" Fr), SF Max Majerle (6'4" Fr), PF Markus Harding (6'10" So), Nicolas Pavrette (6'11" So)

Kevin Miller & Brian Taylor return as projected starters

Photo from Central Michigan Athletics

Tony Barbee returned to a head coaching job after 7 years as a Kentucky assistant and it didn't go well. A 4-1 stretch in the middle of the season was the only thing that kept them out of the MAC basement. Their 23 losses were the most by a Chips squad since 2006 and their #318 kenpom rank was the worst in program history. Adding to the rebuild effort was that of the ten players to start a game in 2021-22, four graduated and five entered the transfer portal. Two of those, Kevin Miller and Nicolas Pavrette, did pull their names out of the portal, saving Barbee from a second year of a near-complete rebuild.

Miller's return is huge for Central Michigan as he led the team in scoring and assists. The diminutive guard can create for others or for himself while scoring both inside and out. He's joined in the back court by Reggie Bass, who initially committed to Illinois but reopened his recruitment after his head recruiter, Orlando Antigua, left for Kentucky. Bass is regarded as an athletic combo guard with big shot making ability. Taylor is the do-everything wing that is a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. Up front, the Chips have significant size. Markus Harding is a 265-pound monster who showed some limited ability to stretch the floor at the JUCO level while Pavrette is an excellent shot-blocker. Another newcomer to watch is transfer Jesse Zarzuela, who did a bit of everything at Coppin State and could crack the starting lineup. Off the bench, keep an eye on freshman Max Majerle, son of former CMU and NBA star "Thunder" Dan Majerle. Miroslav Stafl is another likely contributor who played limited minutes due to injury after transferring from Hartford.

Offensively, Barbee likes to run an up-tempo style. When things are going right, lots of threes and shots at the rim designed to get his team to the free throw line. On defense, they will aggressively chase teams off the three-point line and are physical all over the floor, which can get them into foul trouble. Compounding those issues is that five of the top-six scorers from last year are no longer on the roster.

Barbee did very well at UTEP in his first head coaching job, building the Miners into an at-large NCAA Tournament team in 2010. This looks like a much tougher job, and a far different situation. While Miller and Taylor give him some experience and newcomers like Bass, Harding, and Majerle give him some promise, this is a team that was bad last year and got worse over the summer. Anything less than a thorough beat-down in front of the students at the Al would be a disappointment for Shaka Smart's team.

What We've Learned: In their exhibition against Northwood, Max Majerle got the start as Brian Taylor didn't play. We don't know if Taylor will be back tonight but we've inserted Majerle as the starter. Bass led the way with 19 points and Zarazuela added 17 off the bench in an 88-61 win. Another contributor was JUCO transfer Carrington McCaskill, a forward whose 23 minutes led all bench players. With Harding and McCaskill, keep an eye on the glass. Both were big-time offensive rebounders in their exhibition and this is a team with more up-front beef than Radford had, so how Marquette handles that physicality will likely determine how well the night goes.

Marquette Connection: The Chippewas have only taken on Marquette once, an 81-67 win in Buzz Williams' debut 2008-09 season. Wes Matthews led the Golden Eagles with 18 points in a slogging foul-fest that involved 49 fouls between the teams.

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