Men's basketball anticipates high-stakes rivalry game before MAC Tournament
To ensure a Mid-American Conference Tournament game at home, CMU must win the regular season finale against rival Western Michigan at home.
If the MAC Tournament were to start today, CMU (17-13, 6-11 MAC) would enter the first round as the No. 8 seed, holding the tiebreaker over Ohio (13-16, 6-11). CMU would play at McGuirk Arena in the first round.
The Chippewas can earn the No. 7 seed with a win over Western Michigan at 7 p.m. on March 2 and a Bowling Green loss. The Falcons and CMU would be tied with a 7-11 league record, but CMU holds the tiebreaker after a win on Jan. 20.
“Obviously, it’s a big game because it’s a rivalry game but we know we have more to play for in the postseason,” said sophomore forward David DiLeo. “Getting a win would carry some momentum into the tournament.”
The last time CMU won the conference tournament — which started in 1980 — was in 2003, when it defeated Kent State, 77-72. The last time a seventh-or-lower seed has won the conference tournament was in 2010.
Regardless of where CMU ends up, anyone can get hot at the right time and win a couple games, sophomore guard Kevin McKay said after CMU’s 75-51 win over Ball State.
“We might be around the bottom of the league but nearly every game we’ve lost has been close,” McKay said.
Head coach Keno Davis said since the Chippewas aren't fighting for a regular-season title, they are looking at the MAC Tournament as a new season.
“Some of these guys like Josh (Kozinski) and Luke (Meyer) were apart of a championship team," Davis said. "These guys dream about it and have been talking about it all season."
DiLeo thinks CMU can beat anyone when everything is clicking on the court.
“Ball State is a good ball club and what we did to them tonight says a lot about (our potential),” DiLeo said. “It’s been tough at times with our offense, but every time a shot went up tonight, we felt like it was going to fall. There’s no reason that can’t happen in the tournament.”
Davis wanted the team to have more energy earlier this season. With its latest win, and a possible win over WMU, the Chippewas can go into the tournament on a streak.
“No one will remember if you opened the conference season with a couple wins, but everyone remembers how you finish,” Davis said. “It’s not just playing our rival for a big game, we could also get home court advantage for the first round depending on how things shake up.
"Our guys will be ready for this one.”