Men's basketball can earn improved seeding, rivalry win at WMU
With just four games remaining in the regular season, the Central Michigan men’s basketball team can still improve it’s current seeding for the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
If the MAC Tournament (March 7-10) were to start today, the Chippewas (16-11, 5-9 MAC) would be a No. 9 seed. However, they are just one game behind Miami (Ohio) and two games behind four other teams — Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State and Bowling Green.
CMU can close the gap with WMU (15-12, 7-7) at 7 p.m. on Feb. 20 in Kalamazoo.
“I feel like we’ve had our energy up for every game this season, but of course with everything at stake against (WMU) there’s a little more (energy),” said head coach Keno Davis. “For us, we need to harness the energy and use it for as much positive as possible.”
While Davis said he knows the game means a lot to the CMU community, this will be the first time the Chippewas have scouted the Broncos this season.
“We’ve been talking about how many wins we can get and the postseason, we haven't been talking about Western Michigan all year,” Davis said. “It’s not a game we necessarily circled, but I understand there is more at stake in this game.”
The Chippewas are coming off a 72-67 loss to EMU on Feb. 17, which resulted in a season series sweep of CMU for the Eagles.
Sophomore guard Kevin McKay, who scored a team-high 14 points off the bench, said the Chippewas this game means more.
“The fact that it’s Western (Michigan) and we are at their place would make it a little more special to beat them there,” McKay said. “We want to end this season right and it starts with them, so yeah it would mean a lot.”
In conference play, the Chippewas have won three games on the road.
The Broncos have the seventh-ranked scoring offense in the MAC at 75 points per game.
Senior guard Thomas Wilder is second in the MAC in scoring with 18.9 points per game. He also ranks third with 115 assists (4.3 per game) and 55 steals (two per game). The only other WMU player to average double figures in scoring is junior forward Josh Davis at 11 points per game. The Detroit native ranks eighth in the MAC with 192 boards (7.1 per game).
CMU (71.6 points per game) and WMU (72.3 per game) are third and fourth in the MAC defensively. CMU ranks third in 3-point field goal defense at 33.7 percent while the Broncos are No. 12 at 37.2 percent.
The Broncos have their last two games. WMU is 9-4 when defending University Arena in Kalamazoo.
Last season, each team won its respective home games. CMU earned the first win 86-82 at McGuirk Arena but then lost to close the regular season at WMU by a final score of 88-80.
Former Chippewa guard Marcus Keene brought the ball past half court with just 22.8 seconds remaining in a tie game and isolated Wilder as the seconds ticked off the clock in CMU's win last season.
With just over six seconds to play, Keene took a step-back 3-pointer and drilled it to complete a 18-point second half comeback.
In the second meeting, the Broncos second half lead was too much for the Chippewas to overcome after trailing by just a point at halftime.