Team preview: Chicago State
Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.
Over the summer, Chicago State coach Kevin Jones issued a warning to the rest of the Mid-Continent Conference.
''We're going to disturb the peace this season,'' Jones said.
Pressed to elaborate, the man who engineered a nine-game improvement from 2002-03 to last season aimed high. ''Our goal is to win the conference and go to the Big Dance,'' Jones said.
How can a coach who took over a program that was on life support just two years earlier possibly utter the words ''Big Dance''?
After winning Mid-Continent Coach-of-the-Year, Jones might have earned the right to swing for the fences.
Chicago State lost 14 of its first 15 games last season (the lone win coming against North Central College) before regrouping to win five in a row. The Cougars wound up beating every conference foe except champion Valparaiso. Chicago State also managed to pick up an opening-round win in the Mid-Con Tournament by knocking off Centenary.
That was the school's first postseason win since becoming a Division I team in 1984. Chicago State's 12 victories were its most in 15 years and its 9-7 conference mark was its best since joining in 1994.
The Cougars ended up as the nation's 10th-most improved team and saw their RPI skyrocket more than 100 places.