It is not often that the men’s basketball team hosts someone in conference play that has advanced as far as the Sweet 16.
But it will Wednesday at McGuirk Arena when it plays Ohio, which still has most of the team that made the NCAA Tournament run still intact.
“I watched them play North Carolina in that Sweet 16 game. It was one of the great stories in college basketball,” said head coach Keno Davis. “That’s why the MAC conference is underrated.”
Point guard D.J. Cooper is still the floor general for the Bobcats, averaging a team-high 13.9 points per game and is third in the nation in assists with 7.9 per game.
“He is truly one of the best players, not only in our conference, but in the country,” Davis said. “A guy that can win games by himself, but yet he is an unselfish player that makes his teammates around him better.”
The last time CMU welcomed a team that had as much success in the NCAA Tournament as Ohio did last season was Jan. 5, 2000, when it lost to Miami, 60-55, at Rose Arena. The RedHawks had made the Sweet 16 the previous season.
The Chippewas have lost their last six games entering today, but Davis remains optimistic. He has stayed consistent throughout the season in saying his team needs to continue improving until the conference tournament comes around, instead of focusing on wins and losses during the regular season.
Davis said it was probably first talked about among the coaching staff in April.
“Let’s not worry so much about each individual game and the win-loss margin and our record,” Davis said he stated before the season. “But let’s see if we can be the best team we can be in March. So, that’s why we never talked to the team about what kind of record we could have and what place we could finish.”
One month until the MAC tournament, he said the team is playing its best basketball with a great effort in the last games against two talented teams in the MAC in Akron and Kent State.
“We’re a dangerous team now,” Davis said emphatically.
Sophomore guard Austin Keel said the mood is drastically different than when they endured losing streaks last season.
“This year, the games are a lot closer,” he said. “We’re young, and we lost a couple games we should have won.”
Keel’s minutes have varied throughout the season. In 11 minutes of play against Kent State, he scored 10 points, the second-most among CMU players.
“I just try to do the best I can with the minutes I’m given,” Keel said. “I just got in a groove early, and, from there ,I got some open looks.”
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.