Games against MAC East will decide fate of men’s basketball team
One of the CMU men’s basketball team’s main priorities coming into the season was to win the Mid-American Conference West Division.
Yet, ironically, it might be how it plays against the MAC East that decides its fate.
This week started crossover play between the East and West division teams — six games that will either springboard or plummet division-title hopefuls on both sides.
In past years, the East dominated the West and, if CMU wants to separate from the pack, a strong record against the East is a must.
Last season, the MAC West went 7-29 against the East. The division went 1-17 on the road during crossover play and no team won more than two games.
And after the seven games of cross-over play this year, the East has won five. Four of those wins have came on the road.
If the East dominates the West again this year, and CMU goes .500 or better in the span, it will put itself in prime contention down the stretch.
Last year’s MAC West Division title ended in a three-way tie between Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Ball State. All three teams went 7-9 in the MAC and, if only one of them finished .500 during crossover play, it would have won the division outright.
If Eastern Michigan, Toledo or Northern Illinois finished .500 during crossover play, it would have tied for the lead or won the division outright as well.
A critical home stretch
CMU’s formula for success coming into MAC play was to win every home game and split on the road. So far, CMU is 3-0 at home and 1-2 on the road in the MAC.
Sticking to its formula will be key for CMU, especially against the East, when it hosts probably the most crucial home stretch of the season starting next Thursday. Between Feb. 4 and Feb. 9, CMU hosts Buffalo, Kent State and Akron, the top three teams in the East.
If CMU can win all three, it would likely hold a game or two advantage when MAC West play starts up again, no matter what it does on the road against the East.
Despite playing perhaps the three best teams in the MAC during that time, CMU has played well at home this season.
CMU is 6-1 at Rose Arena and has not lost since its home opener against Princeton on Nov. 14. The Chippewas went 2-1 at home against MAC East teams last year.
Senior guard Robbie Harman said last Saturday’s game against Northern Illinois was the loudest he heard Rose Arena during his four years at CMU.
If the team wants to keep that atmosphere, the wins must continue.
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