Team preview: Central Michigan

Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: October 22, 2004, 11:36 AM ET
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In the afterglow of a 2003 MAC Tournament championship, and with a throng of alumni and fans chanting his name, 7-footer Chris Kaman intimated he would return for his senior season at Central Michigan. With Kaman, and a fine supporting cast, CMU had posted a 25-7 mark and qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Taking it one step further, the Chippewas knocked out Creighton, 79-73, in the first round.

But when the confetti was swept away, Kaman, who had averaged 22.4 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.2 blocks, reversed field and made himself available for the NBA draft. A lottery pick, he may have wanted to change his mind yet again after being selected by the Los Angeles Clippers (sixth overall), but it was too late.

With Kaman's early departure was it any wonder that Central Michigan experienced a major back slide and slipped to 6-24? It has been an up-and-down seven years for coach Jay Smith in Mount Pleasant-four single-digit win seasons sandwiched around two 20-win seasons and two MAC West Division championships. But last season was disheartening off the court as well.

Three members of the extended CMU basketball family died, including walk-on player Brent Edwards and Smith's father. And although the team did rally to scare Toledo, 91-88, in the first round of the MAC Tournament, it was a painful, emotionally-draining campaign.

The reality is 2004-05 could be another six-win season. Central Michigan returns just 41 percent of last year's scoring and 35 percent of its rebounding. Roster sheets will be coveted at Rose Arena in November as fans strive to learn the names of all the new players.