Tag Archives: College Basketball

Kenzie Bowers and Illinois State Redbirds are Going Dancing

Just a year removed from leading the Kent City Eagles to their school’s first ever state championship game, Kenzie Bowers is flying high again as a true freshman with the Illinois State Redbirds. ISU just punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament after stunning victories in the Missouri Valley semifinal and final games.

Though Bowers’ role has looked much different this year than when she wore the red & white of Kent City, she has played an important one for the emergent Redbirds with stretches as a starter when others were down due to covid protocols and as a reliable player of the bench.

Whatever her role will be in the Redbirds opening matchup with #2 seed Iowa, it is certainly an incredible moment in her young collegiate career and one that many excellent players never achieve. Such a moment may not come again, but for now the Redbirds have this season and only one task in front of them: beat the Hawkeyes.

Michigan MAC Men’s Hoops Struggling

In recent years, the Michigan MAC was in the thick of things and managed signature upsets if not outright success, but countless transfers have left things more in doubt in the 2021/2022 season.

Central Michigan (2-12 overall, 1-2 conference) and Western Michigan (4-13 overall, 0-6 conference) are at the very bottom of the MAC. The rest of the conference maintains overall records near .500 or better, but Eastern Michigan (7-9 overall, 2-3 conference) is the lone Michigan MAC program to be clawing out of the gutter.

It is not uncommon for MAC programs to struggle through non-conference play and hit their stride after the new year, but while that trend could be relied on in previous years, EMU and CMU are on two game losing streaks and WMU is on an astonishing 7-game losing slide despite nearly knocking off Akron (10-5) by a point.

Western Michigan, for their part, has been heavily impacted by transfers as MAC standouts left for the Big 10/Big East (F, Brandon Johnson) and Sun Belt/PAC-12 (PG, Michael Flowers). Those transfers followed the firing of longtime Bronco coach, Steve Hawkins. Forward, Chase Barrs, also transferred to Florida A&M and while he never played a huge role for the Broncos as an underclassmen, his size and experience two years later is missed.

Central Michigan has also been slammed by transfers and graduated key players in droves to make matters worse in recent years. PJ Mitchell, Ra’Shad McDaniels, Malik Muhammad and several others in the last two off-seasons. The vacuum created an incredible situation where the Chippewas added an astonishing 12 new players before this season (4 freshman and 8 transfers). The upheaval followed the firing of longtime coach Keno Davis and hiring of Kentucky basketball staff member, Tony Barbee.

Eastern Michigan has graduated key pieces in recent years, but has also managed to develop and, perhaps most importantly, retain their young talent. Those underclassmen have given the Eagles consistency in their roster with names like Darion Spottsville, Thomas Binelli and Derek Ballard providing leadership to a large freshman/transfer class that has made a huge impact. That consistency has given the Eagles’ turnover what the Broncos and Chippewas have been missing: chemistry. The Eagles also have a first year head coach in Stan Heath, but the circumstances for previous coach, Rob Murphy, dismissal was less tumultuous and the new hire has been the only among his peers to see reasonable success.

The jury is still out on what these three programs will produce in the coming years, but it appears each has a long rebuild ahead of it with Eastern Michigan having a legitimate head start.

Birds of a Different Feather: Kenzie Bowers Thriving at Next Level

Four-time all-state guard, Kenzie Bowers, traded the red, white and black of the Kent City High School Eagles for the red, white and black of the Illinois State University Redbirds when she committed to the Missouri Valley Conference Division 1 program during her senior campaign.

The standout guard became as big a household name as a high school girls basketball player could hope to become and did so representing a small school basketball powerhouse in one of the Michigan High School Athletics Association’s (MHSAA) smallest divisions under the tutelage of head coach, Scott Carlson (now the Director of Scouting and Student-Athlete Development at Western Michigan University). Bowers capped off her high school career with an abbreviated season due to Covid delays instituted by the MHSAA, but still managed to finish with an impressive 21-1 record and a state runner-up title.

Her 1,822 points are a school record and would have certainly eclipsed the 2,000 point mark, had she been given a full senior season. Bowers finished her prep career averaging 19.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 5.0 steals per game as a four-year varsity letter winner.

Bowers has seen success at every level and has been a starter her entire career, so the shift to the Division 1 collegiate ranks brought with it an unusual experience: coming off the bench.

“The big difference is that in high school I needed to score maybe 15 to 20 points a game, whereas here, I don’t have to score at all. I didn’t score at all today and that’s perfectly fine as long as I’m doing what I can at the point, playing defense, getting rebounds and assists. That’s the biggest difference. I have to play hard all-around and that doesn’t mean I have to score a lot.”

Despite having to learn and adapt to a new role, Bowers has thrived in just her first season as a Redbird. She has set season highs for herself of 17 points (Missouri Baptist), 5 rebounds (St. Louis University), 2 assists (SLU) and 2 steals (Mo. Baptist) while averaging over 13 minutes per game as a true freshman.

On New Year’s Day, Bowers got the call to start for the Redbirds after three players, and ISU’s top two scorers, were lost to Covid protocols. The opportunity could not be more apropos, kicking off the traditional day of new opportunities with her first collegiate start. It also happened to coincide with Bowers’ first appearance in the historic I-74 rivalry against bitter conference foe and defending MVC tournament champs, Bradley University.

Bowers appreciated the opportunity. “It was exciting. It’s a different feel when I’m starting and I feel like I almost play a little bit different. It’s cool that I’ve got to that point and I’ve worked hard for it.”

The fun and drama of her first start was mirrored in the game, itself. The Redbirds (pre-season MVC #4) fell behind the Bradley Braves (pre-season MVC #5) by ten after a blistering scoring spree and things looked to be getting out of hand with just a few minutes left in the first half before ISU responded with an incredible 14-0 run of their own behind a series of three point buckets by senior guard Kayel Newland, which capped the half off with a 35-32 Redbird lead.

The Redbirds came out of the break and continued their dominant play, extending their lead to 14 before the Braves made one last attempt to close the gap. ISU finished things out with the 64-57 victory over their rivals to open Missouri Valley Conference play. Bowers finished the day scoreless, but contributed 21 critical minutes, as well as 3 rebounds, 2 steals and a block on the defensive end.

“It was great. The coaches came in the locker room and we sprayed them with water. It’s really fun. You can tell there is a big rivalry during the game.”

The victory set the Redbirds off on the right foot, overcoming the shorthanded effort, to begin MVC play 1-0 with lofty goals on the horizon. “This is a good start to hopefully getting a conference championship. That’s a big goal and something that we are all working hard for.”

Bowers had many things to be thankful for in celebrating the big victory and her first collegiate start.

“I’ve had a lot of people help me get here. Scott (Carlson) for example. He’s always pushed me really hard and help me get to where I am today. My parents have helped me a lot. I’ve had lots of good friends and teammates that have pushed me really hard. Kent City is a great place to be.”

Bowers is likely to resume her role as an integral piece of the Redbird attack off the bench in the coming weeks, but the experience of starting this early is instrumental in the growth of her young collegiate career. She and the Redbirds will trek through the next 4 games against favorable opponents Indiana State (MVC #9), Evansville (MVC #10), Valparaiso (MVC #6), Loyola Chicago (MVC #7) and Southern Illinois (MVC #8), before their biggest tests of the conference schedule with three consecutive matchups against the pre-season MVC top 3 programs: Missouri State (MVC #1), Northern Iowa (#3) and Drake (#2).

Hunter Dickinson Nets Freshman of the Week Honors for 2nd Straight Week

Hunter Dickinson has been named Big 10 Freshman of the Week for the second time in as many weeks.

The 7’1” center from Alexandria, VA AVERAGED 19 points on 68% shooting, 7 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots in wins over Toledo (4-3) and Penn State (3-2) to help the Maize & Blue remain undefeated and improve to 6-0. The win in their 2020-2021 conference schedule has propelled the Wolverines into the top 25 for the first time this season at the 25 spot.

Michigan has largely been untested thus far with a schedule comprised of mostly Mid-American Conference and other mid-Major programs. However, reasons to cheer have been in short supply so far this year with several sports being postponed and a flailing football team.

They will face a struggling Nebraska team (3-3) and an interesting battle with Maryland (4-1) to close out the 2020 calendar.

Nevertheless, the Wolverines have exceeded expectations with several significant graduations or transfers from last year’s squad. Whether this early season success will last or is simply a mirage should be more clear in the coming weeks.

Fifth Annual Big Ten Women’s Basketball Preview Tips Off Wednesday

ROSEMONT, Ill. – With the 2020-21 women’s college basketball season rapidly approaching, the Big Ten Conference will hold its annual Women’s Basketball Preview this Wednesday-Friday, Nov. 11-13.

Now in its fifth year, the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Preview continues to reimagine the traditional preseason media day event, expanding it into several days of coverage dedicated entirely to all 14 Big Ten women’s basketball programs. What’s more, the complete Big Ten Women’s Basketball Preview content package is available online and on demand, whether on the Preview Central web site or through the Big Ten’s social media channels.


This year’s Big Ten Women’s Basketball Preview is expected to feature the most robust collection of content in the event’s five-year history, focusing on all 14 Big Ten women’s basketball programs, from interviews and highlights to feature stories, creative digital and social media offerings and unique behind-the-scenes access as the 2020-21 women’s basketball season gets started later this month.

Big Ten Men’s Basketball 2020-21 Preseason Honors Announced

ROSEMONT, Ill. — Iowa senior center Luka Garza has been chosen as the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year heading into the 2020-21 men’s basketball season, as voted on by a panel of conference media members. Garza was selected as the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2019-20 after leading the Hawkeyes to a 20-11 overall record with an 11-9 finish in Big Ten play. He is the second consecutive student-athlete to earn Player of the Year and then be selected as the Preseason Player of the Year the following season. Former Michigan State Spartan Cassius Winston received the preseason accolade in 2019-20 after claiming postseason honors following the 2018-19 season. 

The media also selected a 10-member Preseason All-Big Ten Team with eight conference programs represented.

Garza, along with Illinois junior guard Ayo Dosunmu, were unanimous selections to the Preseason All-Big Ten Team. Illinois sophomore center Kofi Cockburn, Indiana sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, Iowa junior guard/forward Joe Wieskamp, Michigan State junior forward Aaron Henry, Minnesota junior guard Marcus Carr, Purdue junior forward Trevion Williams, Rutgers senior guard Geo Baker and Wisconsin senior forward Nate Reuvers also earned preseason accolades.

Garza and Dosunmu earned first-team media All-Big Ten honors in 2019-20. Carr, Cockburn, Jackson-Davis, Reuvers and Wieskamp were third-team media selections while Baker and Williams collected honorable mention plaudits last year. Cockburn and Jackson-Davis were also All-Freshman Team honorees.

2020-21 PRESEASON BIG TEN PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Luka Garza, Senior Center, Iowa

2020-21 PRESEASON ALL-BIG TEN TEAM

Kofi Cockburn, Sophomore Center, Illinois

Ayo Dosunmu, Junior Guard, ILLINOIS (Unanimous)

Trayce Jackson-Davis, Sophomore Forward, Indiana

Luka Garza, Senior Center, Iowa (Unanimous)

Joe Wieskamp, Junior Guard/Forward, Iowa

Aaron Henry, Junior Forward, Michigan State

Marcus Carr, Junior Guard, Minnesota

Trevion Williams, Junior Forward, Purdue

Geo Baker, Senior Guard, Rutgers

Nate Reuvers, Senior Forward, Wisconsin

WMU Upsets NIU with Jared Printy Three Pointer in Final Seconds

The Broncos jumped out to a comfortable lead that got as high as twelve points in the first half and eighteen points in the second. The hot start was crucial against the visiting Northern Illinois Huskies who came into the game boasting a 17-11 (10-5) record, while Western Michigan 11-17 (5-10) at tipoff has struggled to gain prolonged momentum throughout Mid-American Conference play.

Western Michigan carried a 32-24 lead into the half thanks to a couple familiar faces: Michael Flowers and Brandon Johnson. The pair each tallied 20-points on Saturday afternoon and gave the Broncos a necessary offensive duo to compete with NIU’s prolific offense. NIU standout, Eugene German, did not play in the first half and proved to be a difference maker in the second. German has been suspended twice this season and it has been clear that the Huskies are a different team without him in the lineup.

The big first half with a German-less NIU was crucial for WMU and proved to be increasingly important as NIU closed things in the second half. WMU was not done extending their lead despite German entering the game, however, as teams took the court after the break and pushed the game as far apart as 18 points with only 8:48 left in the game. The run was due in large part to the Broncos ability to apply firm defensive pressure that kept NIU’s offensive efficiency uncharacteristically low.

Trailing big with less than half way to go in the second, NIU finally made their move and the shots began to fall. The Huskies began rushing back and got the score to within single digits just over two minutes later and to within a one-possession game with 3:33 left to go.

Fans watched with baited breath as they wondered if the collapse would prove to be one of the great letdowns of the season, especially in a game that the Broncos had controlled so handily. In the course of just five minutes, Western Michigan went from blowing out the visiting Huskies en route to a lopsided upset to risking a devastating loss at home.

Those fears were not alleviated when NIU’s Eugene German, who finished with 23 points in only one half of play, went to the free throw line and tied the game at 67-all with 1:41 on the clock. WMU’s standout guard, Michael Flowers, answered on the following possession and gave the Broncos a temporary lead before German tied the game again at 69-all with only 33-seconds left to play.

WMU took possession with one last chance to put the game away. That is when the Broncos took advantage of the collapsing help-side NIU defense and kicked the ball out to senior guard, Jared Printy, who had been mostly quiet on the offensive end all afternoon.

Printy handled the pass, rose up for the corner and dropped it for three points to give the Broncos the lead and fans a reason to go wild with just 5-seconds remaining. The Huskies called timeout and had one last chance to tie the game on a half court three point shot by German that gave fans one last gasp as it clanked off the iron at the buzzer. The miss sealed the big upset at home and gave the Broncos some much-needed momentum going into their final games in back-to-back contests against their Michigan MAC rivals.

The Broncos improved to 12-17 (6-10) and the Huskies fall to a mirror image record of 17-12 (10-6). Western Michigan closes their home schedule for senior night against Eastern Michigan on March 3rd and on the road against Central Michigan on March 6. Both games will be exciting contests and should give fans competitive basketball as we prepare for post-season play.

The Mid-American Conference has been a tale of Home vs. Away all season and Saturday’s contest was no different. The season-long advantage home teams have maintained this year in the MAC will be tested on the neutral site of Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland after first round contests at campus sites.

WMU Stampedes NIU with Electric Performance by Jordan Walker

The Western Michigan University women’s basketball team took care of business on Saturday afternoon and defeated the visiting Huskies of Northern Illinois University.

The Broncos effort can be summed up in just two words: Jordan Walker.

Walker was an absolute whirlwind that the Huskies could not contain. The guard scored 17 of WMU’s first 21 points. Simply put, magic happened whenever the ball was in Walker’s hands and each time she was in control, we were reminded of Mark Jackson iconic remark about Kobe Bryant, “Mama, there goes that man!” Her performance on Saturday afternoon warranted an update to the phrase: “Mama, there goes that woman!”

Northern Illinois knew where the ball was going every time the Broncos set up their offense: Jordan Walker. The only problem was that Walker also knew where the ball was going: In the basket.

Despite the remarkable opening for Walker and the Broncos, they trailed after the first quarter, thanks in large part to a stellar opening by Myia Starks. However, Walker proved that she is going to be trouble for opponents in the Mid-American Conference tournament in the coming weeks.

The effort was not without reward, though, and Walker had the Broncos and Huskies tied up at 35-35 going into the half. Despite trailing early and only managing a tie at halftime, the Broncos never seemed nervous and played with confidence throughout. They displayed the poise and calm efficiency that will be required to make a run in the coming weeks.

Out of the break, the Broncos continued to play at a consistent level, while the Huskies finally began to slow. The steady efficiency of Western Michigan’s pressure had them edge out a four point lead after the third period and break the game wide open in the fourth, holding NIU to just 4 points in the fourth quarter.

Despite things often being close on the scoreboard, Western Michigan never seemed to be under threat of losing the game. Whether because of the stellar performance from Walker or the consistent all-around production from the WMU women as a whole, the Broncos appeared to be in control all afternoon.

Walker accounted for over half her team’s points and ended the afternoon being embraced by fellow teammates in recognition and appreciation of her career day. Her stat line of 33 points (13-21 field goals & 7-11 three point) and 6 rebounds unequivocally played a huge part in the Bronco’s success, but Walker was also supported by teammates Leighah-Amori Wool and Sydney Shafer who both chipped in 10 points. The Broncos also relied on a well-balanced performance by Breanna Mobley who finished the game with a full stat sheet of 9 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and 3 steals.

The Broncos will close out their regular season with a road matchup against Eastern Michigan on March 4th and senior night on March 7th in an early post-season test against a conference tournament contender: Ball State.

Wisconsin Stuns Michigan at Home

Fans packed the stands for a sold out game at Crisler Arena expecting to cheer their Michigan Wolverines to victory over the visiting Wisconsin Badgers basketball team. Wisconsin had other plans, however, and delivered one of their finest performances of the season to upend the home squad and send fans home wondering what might have been.

Contrasting the scene envisioned by most of the 12,707 fans arriving to stiff winds and frigid temperatures at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Wisconsin never trailed and put forward an astounding shooting performance that left Michigan hapless trying to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit.

Each time Michigan made a run and cut the score to within a bucket or two, Wisconsin delivered a death-nail from behind the arch or several consecutive buckets in the paint. The feeling in Crisler was that if Michigan was going to come back, it would have to do so by matching Wisconsin’s shooting; a tall order on a night that Wisconsin shot 64% from the field.

That hope never materialized and two missed opportunities with trips to the free throw line in the final minute kept the spread at three points, which got extended to five and seven after Wisconsin capitalized at the charity stripe on their own end.

The standouts of the game for both teams were evident most of the way. Wisconsin junior point guard, D’Mitrik Trice, turned in a career performance, scoring his way out of a season-long slump and shooting the lights out of Crisler Arena in the process. Trice delivered on 10 of 16 from the floor and a soul-crushing 5 of 6 from three point land. Junior forwards Micah Potter and Aleem Ford also performed well and each added 18 points. Potter finished the night with 7 rebounds and Ford finished with 8. The trio shot nearly 64% from the field and an even more impressive 67% from behind the arch.

Michigan senior point guard, Xavier Simpson, had a career day with 32 points on 14 of 22 shooting. The guard cut deep into the Wisconsin defense and consistently delivered multiple hook shots off the glass over sizable Badger defenders all night. He added 5 rebounds and 6 assists to his stat line on the night. Despite the performance, few other Wolverines scored effectively in the first half or second half and defensive woes meant the Wolverines were unable to sustain runs long enough to close the deficit.

Simpson was aided by freshman guard, Franz Wagner, who came alive in the second half and got to the rack on a number of contested takes. Wagner was the only other Wolverine to finish in double digits and concluded his night with 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting, which he paired with 7 boards.

Wisconsin held off the late Michigan run to secure the 81-74 victory.

Wisconsin will close out their regular season with games against Minnesota, Northwestern and Indiana. Michigan will look to rebound at #23 Ohio State before moving on to face Nebraska on senior night and #9 Maryland on the road in the regular season finale.

MI Herald Tribune: 2020 MAC Women’s Basketball Top Performers

As the NCAA basketball regular season comes to a close for the women of the Mid-American Conference, we have finalized our first and second team awards, as well as superlatives from the league’s best players and arenas.

First Team

G – Molly Davis (CMU)
G – Micaela Kelly (CMU)
G – Jordan Walker (WMU)
F – Breanna Mobley (WMU)
C – Kyra Bussell (CMU)

Second Team

G – Jenna Annecchiarico (EMU)
G – Maddy Watters (CMU)
F – Areanna Combs (EMU)
F – Leighah-Amori Wool (WMU)
C – Gabrielle Bird (CMU)

Unsurprisingly, all five starters from the MAC-leading Central Michigan Chippewas are represented between our first and second teams. The Chips boast a conference best 21-4 (14-0) record at the time of publishing and have three players in contention for our All-Michigan MAC Offensive POY. Western Michigan 15-10 (8-6) is represented with three players of their own and Eastern Michigan 13-12 (8-6) rounds out the list with two.

Player Superlatives

Best 3-point Shooter: Molly Davis & Maddy Watters (CMU)
Best Finisher: Breanna Mobley (WMU) & Molly Davis (CMU)
Best Slasher: Micaela Kelly (CMU) & Jordan Walker (WMU)
Best Rebounder: Breanna Mobley (WMU)
Best Passer: Jenna Annecchiarico (EMU)

Several players competed in a few categories and the comparisons were too close to only name one winner. One thing is for sure, Michigan owns the MAC and while CMU is the clear favorite going into the conference tournament, EMU and WMU have the tools to make runs as well.

Players of the Year

Offensive POY: Micaela Kelly (CMU)
Kelly established herself as the presumptive POY early in the year and hasn’t looked back since. Nonetheless, it is impressive that she was able to hold off incredible competition for the award, even on her own roster. Kelly leads the MAC in points and assists. She also ranks 5th in rebounding in Michigan MAC schools and 15th overall in the MAC.
Honorable Mention: Molly Davis (CMU), Jordan Walker (WMU) & Kyra Bussell (CMU)

Defensive POY: Breanna Mobley (WMU)
Breanna Mobley has dominated all season on the defensive end. She has put together an impressive resume, leading the conference with her rebounding dominance and is third overall in the MAC for blocked shots (1st in Michigan MAC).
Honorable Mention: Kyra Bussell (CMU)

Team Superlatives

Best Concessions: Western Michigan University
Bacon Cheeseburgers, Italian Sausage and delicious soft pretzels. The food at WMU has all the stadium favorites, but without the usually disappointing gameday quality. Plus: did we mention Bacon Cheeseburgers?
Best Parking: Eastern Michigan University
While CMU has an adjacent parking lot and WMU offers a shuttle to the game, Eastern Michigan offers the most and closest parking for those attending games.
Best Arena: Eastern Michigan University
The Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, MI is undoubtedly a beautiful and well kept space. The large Jumbotron over center court sets the scene for the nicest MAC arena in Michigan.
Best Timeout Entertainment: Central Michigan University
It doesn’t get much better than Central Michigan University’s timeout entertainment. All the usual suspects are there (Trivia, basketball shell game and various shooting competitions), but our personal favorite is the Buffalo Wild Wings Chicken Chuckin’ contest where a contestant slingshots a rubber chicken from half court.
Best Shooting: Central Michigan University
The Chippewas can shoot from behind the arch up and down the lineup. The Chips make it rain from deep and the crowd at McGuirk loves it. The Chips also boast some of the MAC’s best finishers on dribble drives to the rim. If you want to see electric offense, attend a game at McGuirk.
Best Game Atmosphere: Central Michigan University
It is rare that a women’s sports team outdraws their male counterpart, but the CMU women routinely accomplish this rare feat and regularly pack McGuirk Arena to the rafters with a rowdy and raucous crowd. If you see only one Michigan MAC basketball game, you can not do better than cheering on the CMU women at McGuirk.

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