Selection Sunday is two weeks away. Will your favorite mitten team make the dance?
Mittens says if they’re not Spartans or Wolverines… they’re only making it by winning their conference tourney. Both the Big Ten and Horizon League begin their league tournaments and I’m glad this early start is just a one-time deal for the Big Ten. The Mid-American Conference wraps up their regular season this week as well.
We preview that and the (potential, in some respects) matchups in the conference tournaments, along with your key players to watch.
[Click here to view our Week 16 roundup]
CENTRAL MICHIGAN CHIPPEWAS
RECAP: Two more losses for Central Michigan (16-13, 5-11 MAC) last week on the road, falling to in-state rival Western Michigan and MAC West division leader Toledo. In the latter game against the Rockets, the Chippewas fell victim to a 60-percent output from three-point land for Toledo.
UP NEXT (Click here for broadcast information):
- 02.27 – vs. Ball State (19-10, 10-6 MAC); CMU has lost three straight and six of eight overall against the Cardinals, including an 82-76 defeat in Muncie earlier this season | 7 p.m. ET
- 03.02 – vs. W. Michigan (17-12, 9-7 MAC); Central is looking to avoid a fourth season series sweep at the hands of their rivals from Kalamazoo, in the last six seasons | 7 p.m. ET
PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior Luke Meyer was limited to just a combined five points in 39 total minutes of action last week for CMU, his lowest two-game output since mid-December. The former Addison High School product, however, did net a season- and career-high 26 points in the first meeting against Ball State, whom Central plays on Tuesday.
DETROIT MERCY TITANS
RECAP: Detroit Mercy (8-23, 4-14 Horizon) closes out the regular season with three straight losses. Their overall record of 8-23 matches the record from a season ago, and it is the first time since 2007-09 that the Titans finish consecutive seasons with fewer than 10 wins. They also finish last in the Horizon League heading into the conference tournament held at Little Caesars Arena.
UP NEXT (Click here to view the Horizon Tourney bracket):
- 03.02 – vs. UW-Green Bay (12-19, 7-11 Horizon); Detroit lost both meetings to the Phoenix this season, surrendering 95+ points in both losses. The Titans have lost three straight and 10 of 11 overall to Green Bay going back to February of 2013, including their most recent meeting just this past Saturday, 107-97 | 5:30 p.m. ET
PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior transfer Roschon Prince exploded for 32 points on an efficient 14-19 shooting in 33 minutes against Green Bay, adding 10 rebounds for just his third double-double of the season This comes after logging just 10 points in 37 minutes combined against UW-Milwaukee and UI-Chicago prior. Which Prince will show up at LCA?
EASTERN MICHIGAN EAGLES
RECAP: Eastern Michigan (18-11, 9-7 MAC) continued their strong late-season push with two more wins, including a very nice victory at home against Toledo and a blowout of Northern Illinois. The Eagles have now won four straight and seven of nine overall heading into the final week, which should be a real gut check for them.
UP NEXT (Click here for broadcast information):
- 02.27 – @ W. Michigan; Looking to avenge one of those two defeats in this recent nine-game stretch, the Eagles have not been swept in-season by the Broncos since the 2010-11 campaign | 7 p.m. ET
- 03.02 – @ Toledo (20-9, 12-4 MAC); Conversely, EMU will look for their second series sweep of the Rockets in the last three seasons, after Toledo swept them last year | 6 p.m. ET
PLAYER TO WATCH: Junior Elijah Minnie was exceptional for Eastern last week, collecting a total of 49 points in the games against Toledo and NIU. Between the two contests, Minnie shot 19-30 (63.3 percent) from the floor and 8-15 (53.3 percent) from downtown, both well above his season marks in those departments. He’s averaged close to 18 points per game over the team’s last nine games.
RECAP: Michigan (24-7, 13-5 Big Ten) finishes the regular season on an under-reported five-game winning streak, capping it with statement road wins over Penn State and Maryland. The Wolverines averaged better than 77 PPG over those final five games and they enter the Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden as the No. 5 seed. Despite have the same conference record and a better overall record than fourth-seeded Nebraska, Michigan missed out on a double-bye by virtue of the tiebreaker Nebraska holds from beating the Wolverines at home earlier this season.
UP NEXT (Click here to view the B1G Tourney bracket): Michigan will next play on Thursday, March 1 shortly following the conclusion of the noon ET tip-off game that day. They will take on the winner of Iowa (13-18, 4-14 Big Ten) and Illinois (14-17, 4-14 Big Ten) in the 12/13 matchup. The Wolverines won both meetings with the Hawkeyes this year and their lone matchup with the Illini and are sure to be favored against either team. A win in that game would pit Michigan against a desperate Nebraska team in the quarter-final where they would be playing for a shot at a potentially big in-state rematch (more on that to come).
PLAYER TO WATCH: After a rough go of it in Happy Valley early in the week, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman responded with setting a new career-high in points with 28 against Maryland, 22 of which came in the second half. Rahkman knocked down six triples in that game, adding eight boards and seven dimes as well. Expect the senior to be a steady contributor at worst in NYC, he’s averaged better than 11 PPG in nine career conference tournament games, scoring 14+ in four of those.
MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
RECAP: Amidst the ongoing dark cloud surrounding the program and all of college basketball, Michigan State (28-3, 16-2 Big Ten) has continued to weather the storm and did so again last week with two wins to solidify their first outright conference crown since 2009, earning the No. 1 seed in the league tournament this week.
UP NEXT (See B1G bracket above in UM section): The Spartans have been rewarded a double-bye and their postseason will begin at noon ET on Friday, March 2. They now await the winner of the 8/9 tilt between Wisconsin (14-17, 7-11 Big Ten) and Maryland (19-12, 8-10 Big Ten). MSU swept the season series from both the Badgers and Terps this season.
Also, should decisions of matchups fall accordingly, per the bracket, we could be looking at a sequel “Michigan vs. Michigan State” in the conference semifinals. The Wolverines put together arguably their most impressive game of the season back on January 23 in East Lansing, when they toppled the then No. 4 Spartans, 82-72.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Sophomore point guard Cassius Winston has been a nightmare for opposing teams lately. The former U of D Jesuit standout potted 12 and 20 respectively last week, including a perfect 6-6 from deep against Wisconsin on Sunday. He’s been scorching hot from outside, knocking down 14 of his last 20 triple attempts. And when he’s not doing that, the conference’s leading assist man has been finding his buddies on the floor.
OAKLAND GOLDEN GRIZZLIES
RECAP: Oakland (18-13, 10-8 Horizon) salvaged a win in their season finale at home against UW-Milwaukee after dropping the previous two at IUPUI and at home to UW-Green Bay. The Grizzlies and head coach Greg Kampe finish a third straight winning season, the first time they’ve done so since six straight winning seasons from 2006-12.
UP NEXT (See Horizon bracket above in UDM section): 4-seed Oakland will next play on Sunday, March 4 (7:30 p.m. ET) in the second leg of the tournament quarterfinals against aforementioned 5-seed IUPUI (11-18, 8-10 Horizon). Kampe & Co. split the season series with the Jaguars. It’ll be the 35th all-time meeting between these two programs as Division I schools, the most for OU against any opponent.
PLAYER TO WATCH: It’s Kendrick Nunn time. The former Illinois transfer poured in a combined 105 points in three games last week, adding two more 30+ point performances to his season collection (including a new career-high 39 points against GB), giving him 11 such games on the season. Nunn currently sits at 26.4 PPG, second only to Oklahoma freshman Trae Young (28.3 PGG).
Also, shout out to OU senior and former John Glenn HS (Westland, MI) star Nick Daniels, who picked up his first career double-double against Milwaukee and was two rebounds shy of a triple-double in that contest.
WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS
RECAP: Western Michigan (17-12, 9-7 MAC) got back on track with key wins at home over Central Michigan and at Ball State. The Broncos now look to finish the regular season on a high note but also complete a state sweep of their mitten league rivals in hoops (have not swept CMU and EMU in a single season since 2010-11).
UP NEXT (Click here for broadcast information):
- 02.27 – vs. E. Michigan; A win for WMU here against the Eagles would make it three straight over EMU, which would be the first time since winning five consecutive from 2008-10 | 7 p.m. ET
- 03.02 – @ C. Michigan; Conversely, a win over the Chippewas would give the Broncos not only a third straight win over CMU but also make it four streaks of 3+ wins since March of 2010 (WMU has won 11 of 14 overall in the all-time series) | 7 p.m. ET
PLAYER TO WATCH: Junior Bryce Moore scored 17 and 14 respectively last week for Western, extending a streak of 10+ point games to three after failing to reach double-digits in four straight. The Indianapolis native connected on five of his 11 three-point attempts in the overtime win vs. Central Michigan, both setting season-highs.