2011-12 College Basketball Season Preview: Ball State

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Ball State Cardinals (Last Year: 19-13, 10-6 in MAC)

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

F/C: Jarrod Jones (Sr)/Zach Fields (Jr)

F: Chris Bond (So)/Matt Kamieniecki (So)/Aaron Adeoye (Fr)/Tyler Koch (So)

G: Jauwan Scaife (Jr)/Pierre Sneed (Sr)

G: Jesse Berry (So)/Zeke Chapman (Fr)

PG: Randy Davis (Sr)/Tyrae Robinson (So)

Gone: F-Malik Perry

2011-12 Outlook:
During Billy Taylor�s four years as head coach of the Ball State Cardinals, the program has shown steady progress. With their top-five scorers back, the Cards should compete for the MAC title.

Ball State�s 19 victories last season were the most the program has seen in nearly a decade. Only one contributor from that team has moved on, giving the Cardinals uncommonly high expectations in 2011-12.

Leading the way will be MAC Player of the Year candidate Jarrod Jones. At 6-9, he will be the tallest player in what figures to be a rather undersized starting five. Chris Bond stepped into the starting lineup late in the season and will be the Cards second tallest starter, which is a bit of a concern since he is just 6-4. Ball State will once again go with a three-guard attack featuring point guard Randy Davis and off guards Jesse Berry and Jauwan Scaife. Scaife is the team�s best three-point shooter though all three guards are more than capable of stroking it from deep.

The Cardinals will be a little shorthanded to start the season. Back-up point guard Tyrae Robinson is academically ineligible for the first semester, while reserve forward and Wright State transfer Tyler Koch is likely to miss time as he recovers from a hip fracture.

Until Robinson gets his grades right, senior Pierre Sneed and freshman Zeke Chapman will provide depth at guard. Sneed is an athletic wing player with no resemblance of an outside shot. Chapman is the son of former NBA player Rex Chapman and will provide the Cards with a capable shooter off the bench, something they lacked last season, and also play some point until Robinson returns.

While Ball State will boast a small starting five, they do not have much size off the bench. Zach Fields is the only other player besides Jones who is taller than 6-7, but was seldom used last year as a sophomore. 6-7 Matt Kamieniecki will probably see some minutes at the five while freshman Aaron Adeoye is undersized at 6-6, but not afraid to throw his 230 pound frame around in the paint.

Ball State was able to overcome a lack of size last season and must do so again this year. Their guard play must once again shine, while Jones will have to be effective in the paint and also stay out of foul trouble. Depth might also be an issue early in the season, but Taylor should have the Cardinals competing with Kent State and Western Michigan for a MAC Championship.

Player to Watch: Jarrod Jones, PF
Jones burst onto the scene right out of the gates, with a 21-point, 13-rebound performance in his first collegiate game. He has continued that level of play which is why many believe he has league potential. I imagine he will see more playing time than he did last year, when Jones played less than thirty minutes a night, but still averaged 14.7 points and 8.4 rebounds. If Ball State is going to dethrone Kent State as conference champ, Jones must elevate his game even more. Becoming a more consistent perimeter shooter will be a great asset to compliment his already stellar low-post game.

Predicted MAC Finish: 3rd

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