MAC women's basketball update: Chippewas facing long odds in pursuit of fifth straight MAC title
Central Michigan's women's basketball team has made it to late-February without any sort of coronavirus-induced stoppage. A feat worthy of applause.
The Chippewas also qualified for the Mid-American Conference Tournament nearly a month early, which is impressive as well.
But when it comes to the conference standings, the Chippewas aren't where they've been accustomed to being heading into the season's final two weeks.
After claiming the MAC regular season crown in each of the past four seasons, is looking up the leaderboard. A loss to Bowling Green on Feb. 17 pushed the Chippewas two games out of first place with just four remaining. The Falcons have just three scheduled games remaining after their game Wednesday at Ohio was postponed.
If the season ended now, the Chippewas would hold the No. 2 seed in the MAC tournament.
CMU next takes the court at 5 p.m. Wednesday at home against Toledo.
All four of CMU's remaining games are against opponents who used to make up the MAC West division. With the two divisions consolidating prior to the season, any chance of CMU taking the West for a sixth-straight season was off the table.
After the showdown with Toledo, the Chippewas go to Ypsilanti for a Saturday night showdown against Eastern Michigan. The Eagles upset the Chippewas, 70-67, on Jan. 20 in McGuirk Arena as the final leg of CMU's three-game losing streak.
The Eagles are fighting for a MAC Tournament berth, currently standing in seventh place, and their chances will go up should CMU defeat Toledo on Wednesday, as the Rockets are in ninth place with the bottom three teams in the conference are mathematically eliminated.
Ball State, which is in eighth place and four games ahead of Toledo, hosts CMU on March 3. The Cardinals knocked off CMU at McGuirk Arena, 69-66, on Feb. 3. In that matchup, the Chippewas lost senior forward Kyra Bussell late in the first half to a shoulder injury and had to go small, struggling to defend the size in Ball State's frontcourt.
The season finale for the Chippewas is yet another chance for revenge, as Northern Illinois comes to town. The Huskies handed the Chippewas their first conference loss, winning 104-73 in Dekalb, Illinois on Jan. 13. In that game, NIU hit 15 3-pointers and shot 58 percent from the field. The Huskies are currently tied for fifth place with Buffalo and hold the tiebreaker over the Bulls with an 81-75 win in the two team's only matchup this season.
Path to a championship
With the MAC championship likely to be decided on winning percentage, the Chippewas still have a chance to claim the title. Should CMU win out, its winning percentage would be .750. Bowling Green's winning percentage currently sits at .800, so the Chippewas would need the Falcons to lose at least once.
If the Chippewas win out and the Falcons lose two of their final three, CMU would claim the conference with a .750 winning percentage to BGSU's .722. If the Falcons were to lose out, the Chippewas would control their own destiny.
Ohio, third in the standings, is 10-5 in conference play. The Bobcats and Chippewas split their two meetings, with Ohio winning the most recent showdown. Ohio is currently dealing with a COVID-19 issue, with games canceled on Feb. 17 and 24. The Bobcats have just two scheduled games remaining.
When it comes to seeding, the Chippewas could be anywhere from one to eight in the tournament. Ball State is currently 9-7, so a win over CMU in the March 3 matchup could sent shock waves throughout the standings. EMU had five straight games canceled, so every win will be vital to boosting its win percentage as it has played the least amount of games of any team in the conference.
The top seed and the eighth seed are separated by four games with two weeks remaining. A lot is still to be decided within the MAC.
TEAM -- MAC -- OVERALL
Bowling Green -- 12-3 -- 16-4
Central Michigan -- 11-5 -- 13-7
Ohio -- 10-5 -- 12-6
Kent State -- 8-4 -- 12-6
Buffalo -- 9-5 -- 12-7
Northern Illinois -- 9-5 -- 11-8
Eastern Michigan -- 7-4 -- 10-6
Ball State -- 9-7 -- 11-9
Toledo -- 5-11 -- 9-11
Western Michigan -- 3-12 -- 4-13
Akron -- 2-12 -- 5-12
Miami (Ohio) -- 2-14 -- 3-17