Thursday, March 26, 2009

CMU 2009 Football Schedule

Well the football schedule was just released and the 2009 doesn't have a promising look for the Chippewas.

CMU will be plenty talented, but this schedule is certainly not a favorable one. Here are a few key points:

1. CMU doesn't have a bye during the regular season until its 10th game. Once the Chippewas get started on Sept. 5 at Arizona, CMU will play nine-straight weeks, and the only reason there is a break is because the Chippewas play mid-week.

2. Another three-game road trip in the later half of the season, at Western (Oct. 17) at Bowling Green (Oct. 24), and at Boston College (Oct. 31). Neither of these games is a cake walk and by the time they hit the Eagles on Halloween, the MAC race may be out of reach.

3. Tough crossovers. Akron at home isn't too bad, but Bowling Green and Buffalo are likely going to be the top two MAC East preseason pics, and CMU has them both on the road. Remember that crossover games affect MAC Standings now and those two games could certainly be the tipping point in the West race.

4. Along with non-conference games, CMU is playing against seven bowl teams. Aside from Alcorn State, I am not sure you can say there is an easy game on this schedule, and these tight, and physical contests will take their toll on the Chippewas by the end of the year, which I think was part of the reason for the letdown to end 2008.

I know if I am Butch Jones, I am not excited about this schedule.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Practice Observations Week 2

The Chippewas have hit the outdoors in the last few practices, and hit the pads.

Not too much to mention, but I have been very impressed with the progression of Taylor Bradley thus far at cornerback. He is really moving to the ball and keeping up his speed with the receivers on deep-ball coverage. He had a nice interception in 7-on-7's today as well.

Kito Poblah is also improving a lot and I think he is eager to have his shot at being a regular starter with Joe Bockheim finishing his eligibility. Poblah continues to make impressive catches and he really seems to have great control of his body while in the air.

Rocky Weaver continues to handle most snaps at left tackle while Jake Olsen is getting a fair share of snaps at both tackle positions. Weaver and Olsen each need to add a good 30 pounds by fall to really be effective. Ultimately, if these two can put on weight, you could have them at both tackle positions with Jeff Maddux, Allen Ollenburger, and Colin Miller in the middle. Either way, there isn't a lot of depth at the O-line and that will be the biggest concern for CMU in the 2009 season.

On the injury front, Mike Repovz was in a shoulder sling today on his right arm. He had been practicing earlier, but I was unable to attend Sunday's practice, so something may have happened then.

Practice continues on Thursday and I will be interviewing Jeff Fantuzzi, Jason Johnson, and D.J. Scott for a story on the three early enrollees.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Practice Observations

Day one of spring football is in the books and I think most of the day went well. CMU had a good opening practice and looked to have a lot of energy.

Some things I noticed right away was the injuries. While CMU had fewer red shirts on the field than in past years, the talent level of those injured players was much higher. Bryan Anderson, Frank Zombo, Eric Fraser, LaVarus Williams, and Lorenzo White Jr. are all going to miss the spring while recovering from injuries, while Josh Gordy and Chaz West are among those who will be limited in participation.

The players and coaches were all in Adidas shoes but the players were still in New Balance clothing while some of the coaches were split, wearing Adidas shorts with a New Balance top. I guess you can't give up old habits.

The three freshmen, D.J. Scott, Jason Johnson, and Jeff Fantuzzi all seemed to fit right in and Scott looks to have a lot of athletic ability to utilize.

Well, let's get to the position battles. Here is what appeared to be the first teams on offense and defense, but some are due to injuries to other players.

QB: Dan obviously took first snaps, but it was Derek Rifenbury taking second team snaps while Ryan Radcliff was third in line.
RB: Bryan Schroeder was handling most of the carries but Paris Cotton and Carl Volny were also getting mixed in.
WR: With Anderson out, and Pitts unable to return with his neck injury, the WR's in the first team were mainly Kito Poblah, Antonio Brown, and Jeremy Wilson. Cornelious Gallon, Jerry Harris, and Cedric Fraser also got a lot of reps. Harris and Fraser are nice, tall, and athletic guys that could really shine in a few seasons. Jahleel Addae was also playing WR, which I think is a permanent move for him. Brown has put on some muscle and definition and is looking more and more like an elite-level athlete.
TE: David Blackburn took most of the tight end snaps as Rocky Weaver will be moving to the offensive line.
OL: Colin Miller was set at center and Darren Keyton and Jeff Maddux were at the guards for the first team while Allen Ollenburger and Weaver were at the tackle spots along with Jake Olson. I think Olson and Weaver still have a lot of weight to put on, as both look like tall, skinny tight ends, as opposed to offensive linemen.

DE: With Zombo out, Sam Williams, Larry Knight, and Darryl Stinson were the main D-Ends.
DT: CMU is struggling with depth here, but expect Josh Allison, Sean Murnane, and John Williams to see a lot of reps. Zombo may also see time at defensive tackle.
LB: Nick Bellore has really beefed up and is like a rock in his upper body. He, Tim Brazzel, and Matt Berning were making up the first team, but expect Mike Petrucci and Derek Carter to also compete for starting jobs. Carter was a defensive back, but is moving to linebacker.
CB: Kirkston Edwards and Taylor Bradley started with the first team and Bradley looks like he has put on some muscle and is moving to the ball well. Gordy was unable to do much in practice, but he would certainly be in the starting mix, along with LaVarus Williams.
S: Fraser are Chaz West are hurt, but Bobby Seay and Vince Agnew were taking first-team reps. White Jr. will also be in the mix come the fall and expect some of the new freshmen that come in to get moved around from linebacker to safety.

Stick with the Sun Sports Blog throughout Spring Football for updates on position battles and injuries. I will try to get to as many practices as I can and keep everyone up to date.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Final Four Picks

With the NCAA Tournament set to go tomorrow afternoon, I figured I would share my picks for the tournament. I am going with Pitt, Memphis, Louisville, and UNC for my Final Four (no real leaps of faith, I know). I have Pitt over Memphis in the finals.

I filled out a second bracket and am calling it my "dark horse" bracket where I have picked Wake Forest, Washington, Oklahoma, and Duke. I have the Sooners over Wake in the finals. I also have Radford over North Carolina as the first 16 seed to beat a 1 just because of my hatred for the Tar Heels.

Michigan tips at 7:10 tonight and I think Clemson is a tough match up. Clemson got a higher seed that I expected. If the Wolverines don't hit the 3-ball, their return to March Madness will be short lived.

MSU is taking the late night game on Friday (why?) I see them making quick work of Robert Morris and marching to the Elite Eight where they fall to Louisville. I just think the Cardinals have more overall talent and I just don't see State in the Final Four this year.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

MAC Tournament Predictions

The MAC Tournament kicks off in Cleveland on Tuesday and unfortunately yours truly will not be on hand for the opening. But, that won't stop me from listening, or watching, and also giving my take on what I expect to happen.

First Round:
No. 7 CMU defeats No. 10 EMU: I think the third time is the charm for the Chippewas against the Eagles. CMU has a lot of momentum, as does Eastern, but I think the Chippewas want another crack at EMU after the last loss and the manner in which it came.
No. 6 Kent State defeats No. 11 NIU: Kent State is rolling right now as well, defeating Buffalo and Akron in its last two games. KSU is also near Cleveland, which gives the Golden Flashes a nice home-court atmosphere over the Huskies, who have been streaky, and are too young to beat Kent State.
No. 9 Ohio defeats No. 8 WMU: Both teams are struggling with the Bobcats losers in 5-of-their-last-6 and the Broncos losing 4-of-their-last-5, including Sunday's embarrassing loss. Ohio lost to WMU in Kalamazoo by 14, but I think the Broncos lack of offense will hurt them on a neutral floor and I expect Jerome Tillman to step up for Ohio after a disappointing regular season.
No. 5 Akron defeats No. 12 Toledo: There isn't much good to say about Toledo right now and Akron has been playing well despite losing to Kent State on Sunday. Akron will also have a large fan base, which should make this opener an easy win.

Second Round:
No. 7 CMU defeats No. 2 Ball State: Call me a homer, but I think CMU has to love a chance to face Ball State in the second round. The Chippewas have played the Cardinals tough, and Ball State has lost its last two and is coming into the MAC tourney backing in to the No. 2 seed. At this point, CMU would have won three straight and have a day in between games to rest up after a physical game with EMU.
No. 6 Kent State defeats No. 3 Buffalo: I am still skeptical about Buffalo and the Golden Flashes just picked up a win over the Bulls a week ago at home. I think Kent State has the experience in this tournament to pick up a win over Buffalo, which has surprised everyone all season.
No. 1 Bowling Green defeats No. 9 Ohio: Bowling Green has been on a mission this season and Ohio will not be able to stop it. The Falcons just destroyed Ohio 75-41 to end the regular season and swept the season series with the Bobcats. This game shouldn't be any different.
No. 4 Miami defeats No. 5 Akron: I think this game is close and comes down to coaching. Charlie Coles gets an edge in my book here as he has taken less-talented Miami teams deep in the MAC Tournament before (we all remember 2001).

No. 6 Kent State defeats No. 7 CMU: Again, location gives Kent State a big edge as this will practically be a home game for the Flashes. At this point in the week I think the Chippewas' lack of depth starts to play a factor in their play and Kent State wins a competitive game.
No. 1 Bowling Green defeats No. 4 Miami: I think the two best players in the MAC are Bowling Green's Nate Miller and Miami's Michael Bramos. I think Miller has more overall skills while Bramos is primarily a scorer, and I think Miller's contributions push the Falcons past the RedHawks.

MAC Championship:
No. 1 Bowling Green defeats No. 6 Kent State: Kent State will be in its fourth game in five days and that will be a factor as the physical beating it will take will be tough to overcome. Bowling Green has been determined all year and it would be fitting to see the Falcons walk out with the automatic NCAA berth.

That's how I see it. Lord knows Kent State and Bowling Green will now lose their first games.

(Thanks to Ryan Evon for the picture of Hardiman against Ohio)

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

CMU-WMU Gameday

-CMU wins 71-68. This one was a classic. Miami is down two in OT, but if the RedHawks can pull out a miracle, due to EMU beating Ball State in OT, then CMU would win the West and the No. 2 seed.

-This one is all about free throws. Allen hits two with 17 seconds to play to put CMU up 69-65. There was an interesting missed 10 second violation called earlier as CMU was flagged, yet only eight seconds had went off the game clock and CMU got the ball back. WMU fans were not happy. EMU up four, Miami down one in OT.

-Harman hits a stone cold 3 to put CMU up 63-60 with 1:49 to go. The Chips were down 14 points with 12:14 to go. Hell of an effort. Ball State and EMU going to OT!!!

-3:57 to go. Bitzer just hit a jumper and drew a fould to make it 57-54 in favor of WMU. The Chips have surprisingly rallied to this point without Harman on the floor. Hardiman missed the front end of a 1&1 earlier, but Michael Redell missed two free throws for the Broncos. CMU has a shot, but there is still a long climb ahead and the Chips will have to play flawless. Bitzer has 15 in the second half to lead the comeback.

-7:57 to go, WMU is up 53-43. Bitzer has scored eight points in the last few minutes and started to find his shot and Weary added a 3-pointer, but WMU is in the double bonus and hitting their free throws. Harman also has four fouls which has left William Eddie III to handle point guard duties and he isn't able to keep up on defense with David Kool.

-12:07 to go and Western is up 46-32. The fouls in the second half are 9-1 on CMU and the Chippewas are making carless mistakes. It would take quite an effort for the Chips to get back in this game.

-15:57 to play and Western is up 36-27. Ricks hit his fourth 3-pointer to open the half. CMU is struggling right now and the Broncos have a chance to blow this game wide open.

-Halftime and the score remains 29-23. Kool is scoreless with two fouls, but again, Ricks is killing CMU with 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting. CMU is just 9-for-26 shooting in the game but has a 21-8 rebound advantage. The Chippewas have played solid defense but WMU's role players have really shot well. It will be interesting to see what Kool does in the second half and if anyone cools off for the Bronco bench. EMU is only down four at half and Miami is up 13 on Buffalo at half, so a No. 2 seed and MAC West title is still very much up for grabs for both teams today.

-1:01 to go, WMU up 29-23 after Ricks hit his third 3-pointer. Ricks came into the game hitting just one of his last 14 3-pointers, but is 3-for-3 today. He has 28 points against CMU this season thus far and averages just 3.7 ppg.

-3:58 to play and Western leads 23-21. Martelle McLemore just hit a 3-pointer to give he Broncos the lead. Kool is still scoreless, but the rest of the Broncos are stepping up. I am not sure you can expect WMU to kept shooting this well, but Kool should heat up. CMU is dominating the glass with a 15-7 rebound advantage.

-7:11 left in the half. CMU ahead 19-18. The Chippewas completed a 9-0 to take their first lead and be up by as much as four at 16-12, but the Broncos scored six straight to take an 18-16 lead. Harman answered with a 3-pointer to give CMU a one-point edge. David Kool is struggling from the floor early on as he is 0-for-4 from the field and 0-for-3 from beyond the arc, however, Andre Ricks is 3-for-3 shooting with eight points.

-10:59 to go, game tied 12-12. Western took a 12-7 lead after Lawrence Bridges was called for an intentional foul on Gary. Gary injured his ankle on the play but managed to hit two free throws. He has since left the game and CMU went on a 5-0 run with Harman hitting a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired and Hardiman scoring on a nice drive to the basket. It looks like CMU has come to play today.

-15:18 to go in the first and WMU is up 8-7. The Broncos started their seniors and Michael Redell and Andre Ricks each have a 3-pointer early. Van has a pair of nice buckets to keep CMU in the game early. Donald Lawson has a pair of blocks on Jacolby Hardiman for WMU.

I am here in Kalamazoo for CMU's game with Western Michigan. Jacolby Hardiman is in the starting lineup after not playing against Toledo because of Coach Ernie Zeigler's decision. It is senior day at WMU and the Broncos presented senior Shawntes Gary with a framed picture of his facial dunk over Marcus Van from last year's game here in Kalamazoo. Hopefully someone tells that to Marcus.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

The MAC West title up for grabs once more

It would have seemed that CMU's chances to win the MAC West title in men's basketball was over once the Chippewas lost to Eastern Michigan at Rose Arena last Saturday. But, once again, neither Ball State or Western Michigan have done enough to keep CMU out of the race, with the Cardinals losing two straight and Western losing at Toledo before beating Ball State to pull even for first place.

So, as Sunday's game at Western Michigan approaches, here is the lone scenario, and rather unlikely one, for CMU to win the MAC West and get the No. 2 seed heading into the MAC Tournament next week.

-First, CMU has to beat Western in Kalamazoo.
-Second, CMU needs Eastern Michigan to win at Ball State
-Third, CMU needs Miami to beat Buffalo at Buffalo

If all three of these things happen, the Chippewas, at 7-9, will win the MAC West. It is hard to believe, but it is still possible. Now granted, all of these things happening in the same day are unlikely, but Miami and Buffalo is a toss up and Eastern has won three straight and playing as well as anyone in the West right now while Ball State has lost two straight.

The big key in all of this is for CMU to win at Western. It could shake out that CMU and WMU will meet in the opening round of the MAC Tournament on Tuesday, so it would be nice to have some momentum going into that contest. Ernie Zeigler has yet to win in Kalamazoo and this would be a nice monkey off of his back.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

CMU-Toledo Gameday

CMU wins 59-44. Van has 16 points and 13 rebounds in his final game at Rose. Nice ending for him. CMU made it interesting but showed poise to bounce back after losing the lead in the second half. CMU also won without Jacolby Hardiman, which is a big loss.

-2:52 to go and CMU is up 54-41. The Chips are in the midst of a 54-41 run. Adrian Hunter has hit a pair of big 3-pointers and got an assist on a Bitzer 3-pointer. CMU is once again clicking offensively and holding Toledo down on defense. CMU should snap its 12-game losing streak to the Rockets unless it completely falls apart in these final minutes.

-7:17 to go. CMU is ahead 44-39. Toledo is basically challenging anyone aside from Bitzer and Harman to shoot the 3. The Rockets are playing a soft zone around the perimeter and to CMU's credit, they aren't giving in to it and trying to penetrate for good looks. Toledo has been quieter on offense as CMU is currently on a 11-4 run.

-11:16 to go and CMU is up 37-35. Jeremy Allen has scored four-straight in the game and drew a charge for a nice spurt, but he has also missed a pair of jumpers that were early in the possession. He seems to be playing with confidence in this game, but he could be taking better shots right now too.

- Kent hits another 3-pointer to give Toledo a 33-31 lead but Weary answers with a nice take to the basket to tie the game. Toledo is looking like the better team right now, and has five field goals this half after just four in the first half.

-CMU ahead 31-30 with 15:41 to play. Tyrone Kent has hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Clayton Sterling had a put-back to get the Rockets within one. Harman picked up his third foul early and is on the bench and it looks like Hardiman will not be playing tonight whether it is because of injury or disciplinary reasons. Kent's 3-pointer with 17:12 to go was the first field goal in the game for a Toledo player aside from Anyijong.

-26-20 CMU at halftime. Toledo keeps chipping away at the line. The Rockets have just four field goals made in this game, but are 10-for-12 at the free throw line while CMU is just 2-for-4. Still no Hardiman appearance yet. Van has 11 points and scored nine of the last 10 points in the half for the Chippewas. Toledo is 4-for-15 from the field with its 13 turnovers. Yikes! But, give Toledo credit, as they are still very much in the game.

-3:59 to go, CMU up 23-14. Van just ended a 9-1 Toledo run. Marcus has the last seven points for CMU. Strangely enough, Jacolby Hardiman hasn't played in the game yet. I will see what I can find out about that at halftime.

-7:32 to go, CMU up 20-8. Anyijong hit another 3-pointer to end Toledo's 11-minute drought without a field goal. Van has scored the last four points for CMU. The Rockets have 10 turnovers and starter Mohamed Lo has three fouls. Not a good half for Toledo.

-11:50 to go and CMU is up 16-3. Toledo is now looking at nine minutes without any points. The Rockets have eight turnovers and you can see Tyrone Kent is visibly frustrated. Toledo is complaining about the refs, and more calls could be made, but the fouls are still 3 on CMU and none on Toledo. CMU had a stretch for two minutes where it looked as good as it had all season, creating turnovers and finishing in transition. Jeremy Allen has four points and Bitz has five to lead CMU.

- Toledo takes a time out after a Harman three to make the score 12-3. Toledo coach Gene Cross is all over the refs early. Feels the game is getting too physical.

-CMU up 7-3 with 15:37 to play. The Chippewas are on a 7-0 run after Toledo hit a 3 to open the game. The Rockets haven't scored in four minutes, but play has been a little sloppy early as each team has two turnovers. Ernie Zeigler started all Van, Ford, and walk on Ryan Thomas as part of senior night, which was a nice gesture by the coach.

-Getting ready for Toledo at CMU for the Chippewas' home finale. Tonight's game will come down to guard play and how well CMU can defend Toledo's big three guards in Jonathan Amos, Tyrone Kent, and Ridley Johnson. Kent and Amos average over 28 points per-game and are clearly the leaders of this team.

-Chris Kellermann is on crutches after successful foot surgery. Hopefully things heal quickly and correctly for Chris so he can resume playing during the offseason.