Team preview: Chicago State

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

A mixed bag is not exactly the circumstance under which Kevin Jones likes to operate.

But that's precisely what the intense, former U.S Marine Corps coach got from his Chicago State team in 2004-05.

"It was a pretty good year, but not quite the year I wanted," said the 45-year-old who is entering his fourth season and third full season at the school. "I was pleased with the growth though."

From where the Cougars started (seven consecutive losses—including UCLA, Illinois, Minnesota and Texas A&M -- and one win in their first 10 games) to where they finished (four points away from reaching the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament championship game), steps in the right direction were indeed taken, however. Especially considering they upset Valparaiso in the quarterfinals and took NCAA participant Oakland to the brink in the semifinals.

Against Valparaiso, Chicago State -- 1-23 all-time against the Crusaders entering the game -- made a 22-2 run after trailing by nine at halftime.

"It was a huge win for our program," Jones said.

In the Oakland game, the outcome may have very well been different had Deji Akindele stayed on the floor (four fouls in 17 minutes) and Craig Franklin (eight points) been more productive.

As for the conference season, Chicago State's record of 7-9 was inverted from the previous season. The way the Cougars reached that mark was alarming.