A view from the opposing bench: Chippewas led by elite scorers, defense


Sam Britten, Women's basetball beat reporter

By Sam Britten

Michigan State has drawn the No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament and will play Central Michigan in the first round. After collaborating with Central Michigan Life’s Evan Petzold, I was able to come up with a better view of what Central Michigan’s strength and weaknesses are.

After a good 25-minute talk with Evan, it seems as though these two teams are quite similar and both sides will be fighting fire with fire.

A “big three” in Mount Pleasant

Central Michigan’s best big, forward Reyna Frost, will be guarded by the Spartan center Jenna Allen. Frost is averaging 21.8 points and 13.5 rebounds per game while surprisingly shooting 41.5 percent from three.

No, Jenna Allen isn’t putting up these numbers, but she’s shown she can. It is a bit of a stretch to refer to games that were three months ago at this point, but she has still shown she can do it.

Allen is a stretch five, that’s no secret. The center has the third most 3-point shot attempts on the team. Evan said that Frost isn’t the type of big to hang out in the corner and take a three. If she shoots a three, it’s going to be in a pick and roll situation.

Allen might have less 3-point attempts than Frost, but she’s the type of center that will pull up and take a shot in a defender’s face every now and again.

Frost will be beaten on the glass, Allen will be beaten on defense, those are the differences between these two bigs. If Allen doesn’t get going early, expect the Chippewas to pull away. These two players will be battling it out on the glass from the tip to the final buzzer.

Presley Hudson is Central Michigan’s second-leading scorer, averaging 20.4 points and 5.7 assists per game. The senior is also shooting 42.1 percent from the field. The 5-foot-6 guard will likely be defended by Shay Colley.

Both players are second on their teams in field goals attempted. Something Evan noted was that it wasn’t always the “Reyna Frost Show.” Presley Hudson scored 21 points in her first game as a freshman during the 2015-16 season, also leading the team in scoring that year. From day one, it was clear that Presley would be a big player someday.

Evan praised Frost’s basketball IQ and her dedication to the game. She’s the first person in the gym and if she doesn’t get disrupted, the Chippewas will be hard to stop. It doesn’t matter what conference a school is in when they have a player that’s averaging more than 20 points a game. Frost is already going to be a problem for the Spartans, adding on Hudson almost seems unfair.

One more guard tops off Central Michigan’s “big three,” Micaela Kelly. The sophomore from Detroit was an All-MAC third team and defensive team selection. Averaging 14.3 points and 3.8 assists per game as a sophomore speaks to her talents alone. Adding the title “best team defender” to Kelly’s name says what she’s all about.

Evan says she’s the quickest defender in the MAC and will be leaving the Spartans all sorts of confused.

Feisty defense

Michigan State’s team field goal percentage is 43.8 percent, pretty good. This stat, however, is deceiving. Jenna Allen, Nia Clouden and Shay Colley, three of the Spartans’ starters, love to take it to the post and put the ball on the glass.

While Allen and Colley especially love their layups, these two, in particular, have had trouble finishing at the rim as of late. Something Evan and I talked about is the type of defense the teams could run Saturday, and it’s quite possible Central Michigan will be running a zone.

Running a zone would have Frost defending in the post, making it difficult for guards to have their way. The Spartans more favorable option would be to kick it outside to their shooters which would be Taryn McCutcheon and Nia Clouden every once in a while.

McCutcheon does have the third best 3-point shooting percentage in the Big Ten at 38.7 percent and Nia Clouden is shooting almost 45 percent from the field, but relying on roughly a player and a half at that point isn’t a great option. It could be the only one though.

Add on the aforementioned defensive-minded Micaela Kelly, the Spartans will face one of their bigger defensive challenges since Rutgers.

The schedule

Central Michigan does play in the MAC, but going 15-3 in conference play to claim an outright regular-season title is a good way to make up for a weak conference. To add on to this, for the first time in conference history, two MAC schools are in the NCAA tournament.

Central Michigan received an at-large bid while Buffalo was an automatic qualifier after winning the conference tournament.

Possessing an overall record of 25-7, Central Michigan made a good case to go to the Big Dance this year. Having seven losses isn’t all that convincing for a mid-major team, but they have wins over then No. 24 Miami, Virginia, Central Florida, who made the NCAA tournament, and a pair of victories over Buffalo. The Chippewas have also played then No. 3 Louisville in their non-conference schedule, only losing by a score of 72-68.

The Chippewas and Spartans have common opponents in Oakland, Bowling Green and Virginia. Both teams defeated their common opponents, handling their non-conference schedules quite well.

This game is a toss-up. A matchup between a No. 9 seed and a No. 8 seed can always go either way. Statistically, Central Michigan has the edge. The Spartans have also been inconsistent to finish out the season and haven’t looked like the team they once were.

A revenge win against Northwestern in the Big Ten tournament was a good way to end the season, but a beat-down loss to Maryland seemed to make that win irrelevant. If Jenna Allen plays her best, the Spartans can run with the Chippewas, but Hudson and Frost will not go quietly into the night in this matchup.