In recent years the East Division has dominated the MAC, with the last nine winners of the automatic bid coming from that division. But the power was in the West this year, with Western Michigan and Toledo finishing with matching 14-4 conference records. As a result those two get byes to the semifinals, with three-seed Buffalo and four-seed Akron getting byes into the quarterfinals. The other eight teams begin play on Monday, and there could be a few surprises along the way to determining the league’s NCAA tournament representative.
The Rockets made some noise during non-conference play, winning their first 12 games before dropping a tough 93-83 decision at Kansas on December 28. Four starters are averaging double figures led by guards Julius “Juice” Brown and Justin Drummond and forward Rian Pearson. Toledo’s a very good offensive team but if there’s a concern entering the conference tournament it’s the fact that they’re 11th in the MAC in field goal percentage defense and tenth in defensive efficiency.
And if they lose?: Western Michigan
Few expected Steve Hawkins’ Broncos to grab the top seed in the conference tournament, but WMU managed to do just that. Shayne Whittington is one of the MAC’s best front court players and senior guard David Brown’s scoring 19.1 points per game. Western Michigan enters the tournament playing well, as they’ve won ten of their last 11 games with the lone defeat coming at Toledo on March 1. A possible concern for WMU: rebounding, with the Broncos ranked 11th in defensive rebounding percentage.
Buffalo: Senior forward Javon McCrea’s been one of the MAC’s best, and they’ve won five of their last six games.
Ohio: The Bobcats finished third in the MAC East, but they pick up a 66-50 win at Akron on February 22.
Akron: You can’t count out Keith Dambrot’s Zips, who have reached the last seven MAC tournament title games.
Studs: (three or four best players)
Javon McCrea, Buffalo: The preseason pick to win Player of the Year, McCrea’s averaging 18.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
David Brown, Western Michigan: Brown’s averaging a MAC-best 19.1 points per game, and he also leads the conference in made three-pointers per game (2.7).
Demetrius Treadwell, Akron: Treadwell’s averaging 16.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in conference play, and he’s also posted ten double-doubles against MAC foes this season.
CBT Prediction: Toledo outlasts Akron in the title game, avoiding what would be an excruciating wait to see if they can get into the NCAA tournament field as an at-large.
The Mountain West issued a statement on Monday in response to the altercation that happened after New Mexico’s win at Colorado State on Saturday.
Following the Lobos’ 84-71 road victory, Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal captured an incident on video between Colorado State forward Emmanuel Omogbo and the New Mexico coaching staff.
Both sides claimed that the other was the instigator and the incident didn’t make anybody in the video look good.
For as bad as things might have looked, the Mountain West has decided not to hand down any sort of punishment. After an investigation, the conference could not truly determine the root cause of all the drama saying in the release, “A number of conflicting perspectives have emerged and, in some cases, there is no definitive proof as to the responsible party or parties.”
What has been determined is the entire incident created an undesirable athletic competition environment, and did not reflect favorably upon either basketball program, either member institution or the Conference. There were a number of errors in judgment throughout the course of the afternoon and poor decisions made by various individuals. Such conduct is unacceptable.
The Colorado State and New Mexico athletic departments have already initiated follow-up conversations with all appropriate parties to address the events of this past Saturday. Those will continue, with the institutions taking corrective measures they deem appropriate and advising the Conference office accordingly.
The Mountain West Board of Directors and Joint Council have been adamant in their emphasis on good sportsmanship and appropriate behavior. Those involved with this most recent incident will be under close scrutiny going forward – as will all Mountain West constituents.
Obviously there is a lot to sift through with this incident but hopefully these two teams don’t have any further incident when they play at New Mexico on Feb. 21st.
No. 22 Xavier’s slide continues with loss to short-handed No. 7 Creighton
It’s officially time to be concerned about No. 22 Xavier.
The Musketeers have now lost three straight games, all to the top three teams in the Big East, and currently sit at 13-5 on the year with just a single good win to their name: Clemson.
But prior to Monday’s loss to No. 7 Creighton, Xavier had lost all of their games on the road to teams that will either get a top five seed in the NCAA tournament (Villanova, Butler, Baylor) or play at altitude (Colorado). On Monday, the Musketeers not only lost 72-67 to Creighton, but they did so on a day where the Bluejays lost star point guard and all-american candidate Mo Watson to a knee injury midway through the first half and spent the majority of the game playing with star center Justin Patton saddled with fouls.
Should I mention that Creighton, who is third-nationally in three-point percentage, shot 5-for-19 from beyond the arc, or that their two best healthy guards – Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas – shot a combined 10-for-31?
All of the stars were aligned. Coming how to an afternoon game against a top ten team on a holiday after losing back-to-back games on the road, and that top ten team lost their most important player early in the first half?
This should have been where Xavier landed that first elite win.
Instead, the Musketeers are left scratching their head again.
And it begs the question: If not now, when?
The Musketeers still play Villanova and Butler at home, visit Creighton and have the Crossroads Classic at Cincinnati. There are opportunities for them to get wins that they need.
But if they cannot get a win over a short-handed Creighton team at home, who are they actually going to be?
VIDEO: No. 7 Creighton beats No. 22 Xavier, loses all-american Mo Watson to a knee injury
The Bluejays would hold on to win a thrilling, hard-fought game, 72-67, without Watson. That’s impressive, and it means that they move into a tie for first place in the Big East with Villanova, but the story of this game was Watson.
According to a reporter at the game, Watson told head coach Greg McDermott that he “heard it pop“. Losing Watson to any significant injury would be catastrophic for the No. 8 Bluejays. Watson entered Monday averaging 13.4 points and a nation’s-best 8.8 assists. He’s been in the top ten of our Player of the Year Power Rankings all season long, is a clear-cut candidate for an all-american team and is the engine for the high-powered offense that has made Creighton a Final Four contender.
The injury may be somewhat controversial as well. Two minutes before the video clip above, Watson banged knees with a Xavier defender and had to be helped off of the floor. He was tested on the sideline and allowed to return to the game, albeit with a noticeable limp.
UPDATE: Greg McDermott told FS1 after the game that Watson’s ligaments are intact, but that they are concerned about the meniscus.
Kansas vaulted up to the No. 1 spot in the Coaches Poll for the first time this season, receiving 23 of the 32 first place votes.
Villanova comes in at No. 2 while UCLA, Gonzaga and Kentucky finish up the top five. Bay.or, who was No. 1 in the country last week, is No. 6 while Duke fell all the way to No. 18 with a pair of losses last week.
Villanova vaulted back into the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll after falling out for a week when they lost at Creighton.
Kansas comes in at No. 2 while UCLA, Gonzaga and Kentucky finish up the top five. Bay.or, who was No. 1 in the country last week, is No. 6 while Duke fell all the way to No. 18 with a pair of losses last week.