Basketball

COLUMN: CMU men’s, women’s basketball face different journeys to Cleveland

The Mid-American Conference basketball tournaments are right around the corner, and the men’s and women’s teams are facing much different paths to Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.

Six conference games separate the Chippewas from the week they have been working toward all year.

Every team qualifies, but only five men’s teams and four women’s teams are guaranteed a trip to Cleveland.

The women’s road to the Q is a simple one: Just win.

If the Chippewas win out the regular-season, they’ll be the No. 1 seed and will have a bye to the semi-finals.

Winning out will be tough seeing that its remaining five of six games are on the road against Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan and a good Miami (Ohio) team and home games with MAC-leading Toledo and No. 2 Ball State.

If CMU does take one of the top-two seeds, it’ll wait nine days between its final regular-season game and semi-final game, a task that always leaves coaches worried.

Of the four men’s and women’s teams to get a bye to the semis last season, only two made it to the finals and only one team won the MAC championship. That team was the Eastern Michigan women’s team, who beat the Chippewas by one with a last-second bucket, so perhaps the semi-final bye isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

The men’s road is a bit rougher. CMU is sitting at the bottom conference with the No. 11 seed, which is the last seed after Toledo became ineligible due to low APR scores.

As it stands right now, the Chippewas will have to win a road game to go to Cleveland, but they have been playing well as of late, despite a six-game losing streak.

Keno Davis has said his team is playing its best ball of the season in the last two games — it just ran up against a firestorm in MAC-leader Akron and Kent State on the road.

Ohio enters McGuirk Arena today and is favored, but the way CMU has played of late and at home, who knows what can happen.

Then it takes on the Rockets, who the Chippewas took to overtime in Toledo early on in the conference season. They also take on a hot-and-cold Northern Illinois team and Ball State on the road before coming home to play EMU on March 5. CMU then finishes the regular-season in Kalamazoo against Western Michigan.

It’s not out of the question that the Chippewas could finish their final six conference game at 4-2, or even 5-1 if they catch WMU or the Bobcats on a bad night.

The Zips and Ohio are by far the best two teams in the conference, followed by the Broncos, but, after that, it is a complete mess.

CMU is only a game and a half behind the Eagles, who still have to play Akron, and a game behind Kent State, who gets a bye to the second round in Cleveland.

The women control their own destiny as far as getting a straight shot into the semi-finals, but that doesn’t necessarily call for wins.

The men have a tough road ahead, but they have been improving and could steal a win or two and find itself in Cleveland or hosting a first-round game.

Whatever happens is these final six games in unclear, but what is clear is that March is right around corner.

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