Opening Tip: Previewing the 2017-18 season for the Michigan mid-majors

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College basketball is back, Nation. Here’s to the defending champion North Carolina Tar Heels and here’s to another, what should be, an exciting and drama-filled season.

As is the case every year, some less-than-heralded teams come from no where to make some noise in March. They are often referred to as “Cinderella.” Could the glass slipper reside here in the state of Michigan? It’s time we preview what is in store for our quintet of mid-majors.

CENTRAL MICHIGAN CHIPPEWAS

LAST SEASON: Central Michigan finished with a even 16-16 record and carried the Mid-American Conference’s most potent offense, averaging better than 88 points per game, nearly more than 10 more points than the next closest team. They, however, found themselves in high-scoring affairs consistently, allowing the most points per game.

KEY STORYLINE: The Chippewas will almost assuredly drop off in the scoring department after losing both Marcus Keene and Braylon Rayson to graduation. This tandem ranked No. 1 and 2 in the league in scoring last season, combined to average better than 50 PPG.

SEASON OUTLOOK: MAC coaches and media have picked Central Michigan to finish last in the West Division, almost directly correlated to an expected drop-off in scoring output.

UP NEXT (click here for broadcast information):

  • 11/10 – vs. Siena Heights | 4 p.m. ET
  • 11/13 – at Michigan | 7 p.m. ET
  • 11/18 – vs. Eureka College (IL) | 1 p.m. ET

DETROIT MERCY TITANS

LAST SEASON: Detroit Mercy amassed just an 8-23 record in Bacari Alexander’s first year as head coach, their lowest win total since the 2008-09 season. Like CMU, they had no problem scoring with teams, but the defense as a whole ultimately let them down.

KEY STORYLINE: Expect some form of gradual improvement from the Titans this season. The team carries just four seniors, one of which is a graduate transfer in Roschon Prince. But they do return their top three scorers from a year ago, including leading scorer, senior Jaleel Hogan.

SEASON OUTLOOK: It will be hard for Detroit to be considered a major threat to win the Horizon League as it stands now, but don’t be terribly surprised if they make some noise throughout the season, given the upside of some key cogs.

UP NEXT (click here for broadcast information):

  • 11/10 – at Virginia Tech | 6 p.m. ET
  • 11/13 – vs. Michigan-Dearborn | 7 p.m. ET
  • 11/18 – vs. Seattle | 2 p.m. ET (in Nashville)
  • 11/19 – vs. Houston Baptist -or- Belmont | 2/4 p.m. ET (in Nashville)

EASTERN MICHIGAN EAGLES

LAST SEASON: Eastern Michigan finished 16-17 a year ago. They ranked near the bottom in the league in scoring but boasted the top scoring defense in the MAC.

KEY STORYLINE: The Eagles lose three of their top four scorers to graduation but still have quite a bit of experienced players returning. None are more impactful that James Thompson IV. The junior averaged a double-double as a sophomore, finishing second in the league in rebounding.

SEASON OUTLOOK: EMU was picked by coaches and media members to finish fourth out of six teams in the MAC West Division. Thompson is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams, so it will come down to how much help he gets around him.

UP NEXT (click here for broadcast information):

  • 11/10 – vs. Spring Arbor | 10:30 a.m. ET
  • 11/12 – vs. Michigan-Dearborn | 2 p.m. ET
  • 11/16 – vs. Arkansas State | 7 p.m. ET
  • 11/18 – vs. Howard | 2 p.m. ET

OAKLAND UNIVERSITY

LAST SEASON: Oakland put together a terrific season a year ago compiling 25 wins, their most since joining the Horizon League back in 2013. Unfortunately, they were bounced early from the conference tournament.

KEY STORYLINE: The Golden Grizzlies will try to put last year’s disappointing finish behind them and look to get back to the big dance for the first time since 2011. They return their top two scorers — and preseason first-team All-Horizon honorees — in Martez Walker and Jalen Hayes. In addition, they also welcome in former Illinois transfer Kendrick Nunn.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Oakland is considered a heavy favorite to win the Horizon League this year, but should get some stiff competition from defending conference tournament champion Northern Kentucky as well.

UP NEXT (click here for broadcast information):

  • 11/10 – vs. Fort Wayne | 7 p.m. ET
  • 11/13 – vs. New Orleans | 7 p.m. ET
  • 11/18 – at Toledo | 7 p.m. ET

WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS

LAST SEASON: Western Michigan finished .500 at 16-16 but they closed out the regular season winning eight consecutive games before falling in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

KEY STORYLINE: After flirting with the NBA Draft last spring, Broncos guard Thomas Wilder opted to return for one more year and help guide WMU to (hopefully) their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2014.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Western Michigan is considered a big favorite by coaches and media to win the MAC West. They, along with Buffalo in the East, are perceived to be the front-runners to represent the MAC in the dance.

UP NEXT (click here for broadcast information):

  • 11/11 – vs. Siena Heights | 2 p.m. ET
  • 11/13 – at South Carolina | 8 p.m. ET
  • 11/16 – vs. Tulsa | 8 p.m. ET (Puerto Rico Tip-Off at Myrtle Beach)
  • 11/17 – vs. TBD (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
  • 11/19 – vs. TBD (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)