Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
CLEVELAND – They’ve been awaiting this opportunity for a year.
The Central Michigan women’s basketball team is back where its dreams of a Mid-American Conference Tournament title ended a year ago with a heartbreaking upset loss to rival Western Michigan.
That result lit a flame that has burned brightly, and hotly, all season, an extra motivation that has helped produce an historic year that has seen the Chippewas -- in their 50th year of women’s basketball -- post the second-most wins in program history along with a litany of records, milestones and individual accolades.
That matters little now as the Chippewas enter the postseason, where it’s one-and-done, win or go home. CMU begins its quest for the coveted MAC Tournament championship on Wednesday (noon) at Quicken Loans Arena against Eastern Michigan.
CMU is the No. 1 seed in the tournament, the result of its second consecutive regular-season MAC title. Eastern Michigan is seeded ninth, and reached ‘The Q’ with an 84-77 win at Northern Illinois on Monday.
CMU is 25-4 and ranked sixth in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 and carries an RPI of 20, which is second among MAC teams (Buffalo, at 19, has the highest RPI among MAC members).
The Eagles are 11-19. CMU topped Eastern twice during the regular season, 95-72 and 95-82.
Since the start of the season, CMU’s Sue Guevara – who on Monday was named the MAC Coach of the Year – has stressed “staying in the moment” and not looking ahead despite the fact that her Chippewas, who returned four starters, were the overwhelming league favorite.
“If we start thinking about the next game before we play the first one, we’re in trouble,” Guevara said after the Chippewas’ 72-67 win at Toledo on Saturday, a victory that clinched a second straight outright MAC regular-season crown. “It’s the same type of the approach. It’s one game at a time.”
The CMU-EMU winner will play a tournament semifinal game on Friday (11 a.m.) against either Ohio or Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks are seeded fourth, the Bobcats fifth. The title game is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BRACKET
Buffalo, which handed CMU its only league loss, 85-82 in Buffalo on Feb. 14, is seeded No. 2 and on the other side of the bracket. The Bulls (25-4) are slated to play 10th-seeded Kent State in a quarterfinal on Wednesday.
Third-seeded Ball State and sixth-seeded Western Michigan meet in a quarterfinal on Wednesday and the winner faces either Buffalo or Kent State.
The tournament champion receives the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. If the Chippewas do not win the MAC Tournament, they would be a candidate for an at-large bid to the NCAA.
As the regular-season league champion, CMU would receive an invitation to the Women’s NIT. CMU last’s NCAA Tournament appearance, and its last MAC Tournament title, came in 2013.
The Chippewas are approaching yet another milestone, this one in the wins category. CMU enters Wednesday’s game with 25 victories, the second most in program history. The record is 27, set by the 1983-84 squad.
The Chippewas’ four losses this season came to teams – Purdue, Duquesne, Quinnipiac and Buffalo -- which are a combined 93-29. Nearly half of those losses came from one of those teams, Purdue, which is 18-13 and carries an RPI of 61, bowed out of the Big Ten Tournament earlier this week.
Quinnipiac is 27-5 with an RPI of 36 and on Monday won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament; Duquesne is 23-7 with an RPI of 72 and is the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.