Tag Archives: College Basketball

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

As the NCAA basketball regular season comes to a close for the men 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 – Michael Flowers (WMU)
G – Ty Groce (EMU)
F – David DiLeo (CMU)
F – Brandon Johnson (WMU)
C – Boubacar Toure (EMU)

Second Team

G – Noah Morgan (EMU)
G – Yeikson Montero (EMU)
F – Dallas Morgan (CMU)
F – Kevin McKay (CMU)
C – Rob Montgomery (CMU)

Central Michigan 13-13 (6-7) and Eastern Michigan 15-12 (5-9), at the time of publishing, both have four players representing their squads in our first and second teams, while Western Michigan 11-16 (4-10) grabs two first-team spots for the Broncos. The three teams have been boom or bust with several streaks going both ways throughout the year that have left each hovering around the .500 mark. However, there are glimpses that things might be heating up at just the right time going into post-season play.

Player Superlatives

Best 3-point Shooter: David DiLeo (CMU)
Best Dunker: Ty Groce (EMU)
Best Finisher: Kevin McKay (CMU)
Best Slasher: Michael Flowers (WMU)
Best Rebounder: Boubacar Toure (EMU)
Best Passer: Devontae Lane (CMU)

The MAC offers athletic and power dunkers, three-point sharpshooters and in-game battles between some of the best finishers and defenders you’re likely to see and these Michigan representatives are among the best in the conference.

Players of the Year

Offensive POY: Michael Flowers (WMU)
Michael Flowers has proven to be a tough matchup in his last two years in the Bronco’s starting lineup. Flowers’ game is well-rounded. He can hit the three, create his own shots off the dribble, make contested buckets in the lane and capitalize on free throw opportunities. Flowers is 5th in the MAC (1st in Michigan MAC) in scoring this season. In addition to his scoring prowess, he is also 8th in the MAC (1st in Michigan MAC) in assists.
Honorable Mention: David DiLeo (CMU) & Brandon Johnson (WMU)

Defensive POY: Ty Groce (EMU)
Ty Groce uses his unmatched vertical for more than high-flying dunks. He ranks 11th in the MAC (3rd in Michigan MAC) in blocked shots, 2nd in the MAC (1st in Michigan MAC) in steals and 17th in the MAC (5th in Michigan MAC) in rebounding. He is athletic enough to guard on the perimeter against shooters or slashers and big enough to defend a large percentage of the MAC’s big men.
Honorable Mention: Boubacar Toure (EMU)

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? Need we say more?
Best Parking: Eastern Michigan
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 Dunks: Eastern Michigan University
The EMU Eagles can dunk. The Eagles boast the most electric high fliers and power dunkers that can throw it down during warmups and take off on contested dunks that are not only relegated to open fast breaks.
Best Game Atmosphere: Central Michigan University
Fans always fill the stands reliably at McGuirk and the Chippewas brand of play & excellent three point shooting makes for a raucous environment when the shots start falling and the crowd in Mt. Pleasant gets “fired up!”

Final Minutes Swing in Favor of Toledo at Western Michigan

Saturday marked the first of several must-win games for teams battling to clear their way into the MAC tournament when the Toledo Rockets (12-14) came to Kalamazoo, MI in a face-off with the Western Michigan Broncos (11-15).

Each squad looked to gain a victory in what was sure to be a close contest. Toledo won the previous meeting in January 67-59 and things followed that track again on Saturday. Toledo came into the game with a strategy that seems to be at the heart of beating the Broncos and helped bring them the victory a month earlier: Stop Michael Flowers.

The junior guard, who recently eclipsed 1000 career points a week ago at EMU, is the Broncos most consistent scoring threat and part of a powerful inside-out offensive duo with redshirt junior, Brandon Johnson, who have each topped 400 points so far this season (double that of any other scorer on the team).

Toledo’s strategy seemed to be working in the early going, keeping things stuck in a back and forth contest that had 12 lead changes in just the first half. Western was able to gain small leads, but the defensive focus paid to Flowers kept him off the scoreboard much of the afternoon and he finished with just 7-points.

On the other end, Toledo finished with five players in double figures and were led by Willie Jackson (19 pts & 10 reb) who netted a double-double and passed Luke Knapke in the scoring column with several late-game free throw visits. Spencer Littleson also made things interesting for the Rockets, engaging in a game-within-the-game tiff with Flowers that got chippy as the game went on. Littleson also made an impact on the offensive end with two steals that led to back to back breakaway dunks.

Things were not without a glimmer of hope for WMU, however, as junior guard Rafael Cruz Jr. stepped up in a big way in just his second start of the season. Cruz led the Broncos on Saturday with a career-high against Division 1 opponents of 21 points. His biggest moments of the afternoon came when the Broncos needed him most. Cruz hit back to back 3-point buckets to pull Western within striking distance in the final minute. Toledo was able to hold the Broncos at bay with solid shooting from the charity stripe and stretch the lead out one last time with a final score of 68-59.

The Toledo Rockets improve to 12-14 as they look to hit .500 before season’s end and Western Michigan drops to 11-16. Western closes the season with games against Ball State, Northern Illinois, senior night against Eastern Michigan and regular season finale at Central Michigan.

The Broncos will need Cruz to continue his ascent into a primary scoring option if Western Michigan is going to get back on track this season.

Michigan Senate Bill Proposes Amateur Athlete Likeness Commercialization

Democratic State Senator Adam Hollier of Detroit has proposed Senate Bill 660, which would extend likeness commercialization rights to all amateur athletes, regardless of level or league. While similar legislation has been proposed recently in the state supporting the measure for college athletes, Hollier thinks such a measure does not go far enough and would extend the allowance throughout the whole of amateur sports.

While the legislation is certain to raise more than a few eyebrows, the argument holds that an arbitrary cutoff at the college level is without logical merit and increases in the competitiveness and prevalence of nationally traveling club sports, AAU programs, etc. warrants the consideration that a market has developed in which even high school athletes could claim some value to their likeness being used commercially.

The move would certainly flip the industry on its head as many clubs advertise their teams with the athletes filling out their rosters. The possibility that players at younger and younger levels may be negotiating the best contract for their services before signing to club teams is a new frontier in sport and would certainly go beyond selling the prestige, cool gear and coaching benefits a club might provide and perhaps extend to how a player could be benefited commercially for signing with a particular organization.

The legislation seems very unlikely to leave committee as support for such a measure falls well below that of allowing similar benefits in the college ranks. While some may begrudge the changing landscape of college landscape with players becoming more like free agents and less like recruits, proponents suggest that such a belief has long been a thin veneer of amateurism above an underbelly of big business for decades.

Regardless of which camp you find yourself in, one thing is certain: College sports and perhaps amateur sports in general are destined for a sea-change in the coming years. Whether that change is a positive for amateur sports as a whole is yet to be seen. Will the allure of college athletics lose its luster and relegate it to the relevance of “minor leagues” or will individual athletes be able to harness this new tool in a way that allows them to transcend the major traditional brands in amateur sport? Only time will tell.

Eastern Michigan Beat Broncos in Dominant “Super Hero” Day Performance

The Eastern Michigan Eagles asserted themselves against the visiting Western Michigan Broncos from the opening tip and did not look back in their second in-state rivalry game of the week.

A crowd gathered to support the home team on “Super Hero Day” chalked full of Super Heroes greeting children in the stands and fun games of “Simon Says” at halftime.

The superheroes weren’t the only ones wearing capes on Saturday, as visitors were treated to their very own Eastern Michigan Capes and high flying acrobatics from the EMU men that provided scores of dunks all afternoon.

Eastern Michigan got an early jump on the Broncos and things never really felt close. The Eagles showed that they have a player for every occasion. EMU is one of the most balanced teams in conference and show flashes of success that may surprise opponents this post-season. Italian guard Thomas Binelli is a deep threat sharp shooter, Ty Groce, Noah Morgan and Yeikson Montero provide pressure with agile dribble drives, Senegalese 7-foot center Boubacar Toure locks down the lane in EMU’s vaunted zone defense and demands double coverage in the paint on offense, and Darion Spottsville runs the entire show at point guard. The Eagles quite literally have every angle covered when things are clicking.

On the opposite end, Western’s young squad seemed to struggle in the particular matchups that EMU forced them into during the showdown. The lone bright spot for the Broncos on Saturday came in the first minutes when junior guard, Michael Flowers, netted his 1000th point on a deep three.

However, things never really got going at a pace necessary for the Broncos to bridge the gap and EMU ran away to a big 69-51 home victory.

The Eagles improve to 14-11 (4-8) and the Broncos fall to 11-14 (4-8) in a wide open Mid-American Conference. The Broncos face a tough opponent in conference-leading Akron and the Eagles challenge Kent State in their next matchups.

Akron Women Hold on after 4th Quarter EMU Comeback

The opening game for Eastern Michigan’s “Super Hero” Day did not disappoint. Fans sat side by side with Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Spider-Man and other super heroes as they cheered on the hometown Eagles taking on Mid-American Conference foe, Akron.

The 12-11 Eagles and 10-12 Zips have both hovered around the .500 mark much of the season and each desperately needed a strong showing in final pushes towards the conference tournament early next month in Cleveland, Ohio.

Akron started strong and EMU fell behind by double digits going into halftime, but a strong performance by junior guard Areanna Combs gave the Eagles and raucous crowd new life in the second half.

The Eagles nearly lost Combs after a nasty fall going up for a rebound where she appeared to hit her head directly on the hardwood as she came down hard. She was able to return, however, after a few minutes and reignite the her team with a big three point play that got everyone off the bench and to their feet.

Unfortunately for the home team, the Eagles began to cool down and struggled to convert lightly contested shots in the paint and some wide open three point attempts. Making matters worse, the Zips caught fire and seemed unable to miss with bucket after bucket coming from Kendall Miller, Haliegh Reinoehl and Vari Caitlin.

The scoring surge extended the Akron lead and the Zips held on for the 64-53 win. The victory marked the second win over EMU in recent weeks, with the prior game going into OT.

Akron improves to 11-12 and EMU drops to 12-12. Akron will next play a struggling Buffalo (13-10) team that started conference play strong, but has lost five straight. Eastern Michigan has a significantly tougher matchup against MAC #2 Ball State (17-7).

Eastern Michigan Beats Shorthanded Chippewas at McGuirk

The crowd at McGuirk arena gathered for a MAC conference showdown between in-state rivals Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan University on Tuesday night.

The CMU Chippewas were riding high and hoping to continue their momentum against the visiting Eagles as they prepare for a run in March. However, the contest was not without some added difficulty, as the Chippewas were missing two starters, Devontae Lane (injury) and Dallas Morgan (illness).

Despite missing two key players, the Chippewas were able to take a lead into the half thanks in large part to 8 three point buckets. The Eagles were able to keep things relatively close on the back of stellar three point shooting of their own by Italian guard, Thomas Binelli, who hit 4 straight in the first half. The Chippewas kept the Eagle attack at bay and out of the hands of 7-foot Senegalese big man, Boubacar Toure. The strategy paid off in the first half, as CMU was able to force several handling errors in the post, which kept Toure from devastating the shorthanded Chippewas.

In the second half, the Chippewas shooting slowed and the Eagles were able to consistently get the ball to Toure, who proved unstoppable once the ball was entered successfully to the paint. Binelli’s shooting cooled, but Eagle guard, Ty Groce, began attacking the rim with effective slashing drives that gave EMU a one-two punch in the paint.

CMU was not out of things, and the fans at McGuirk were treated to a familiar sight, namely senior forward David DiLeo going off on a three point barrage that pulled the Chippewas within three with seconds left in the game. Eastern missed some big free throws down the stretch, which exposes the one element of their game that suffers and gave the Chippewas one final shot to tie the game on a last second shot, which just missed.

The Chippewas will look to regroup on Friday against visiting conference leader, Akron, and hope to have Morgan back in the lineup as they try to slay the Zips. Eastern Michigan will face their in-state rival of the week, Western Michigan, at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti this Saturday.

Morgan & DiLeo Lead Chippewas to Statement Win Over Bowling Green

Central Michigan University (12-8, 5-2) was currently in the MAC West lead after coming alive in recent weeks of conference play. Tuesday night provided the matchup of the week as MAC East leader, Bowling Green (17-5, 8-1), arrived in Mt. Pleasant coming off a huge comeback victory against Buffalo for a showdown with conference title implications on the line. As as been the case this year, CMU shows up at home (improved to 11-1 after Tuesday).

The game also provided CMU with an opportunity to grab a statement win and show that their recent string of victories is not a fluke.

If there was a doubt going into Tuesday that CMU’s success thus far in the MAC was less than legitimate, there can be no doubt after Tuesday night. The Chippewas knew they had to show up in a big way against the Falcons and they did just that.

The Chippewas torched the Falcons in the first half with a relentless attack of three point shots and efficient shots in the paint on the way to a 48-35 halftime lead that was extended on a buzzer beater from downtown by senior forward, David DiLeo, who finished with 26 points on 6 of 8 three point shooting for the night.

Dallas Morgan also assisted in the onslaught with 29 points on an additional 5 three point buckets. The pair were an integral part of setting the game record for three point makes on 12 of 23 shooting.

While the second half seemed to tighten up, Bowling Green was unable to make up the first half deficit, cutting the lead several times to 8 points before runs by the Chippewas pushed it back to double digits, CMU never seemed in danger of letting go of things.

The Chippewas extend their winning streak and improve their record to 13-8 (6-2). The Chippewas head to Buffalo (14-9, 5-5) for another tough contest in a season where they have struggled on the road (2-7).

Rivalry Week Ends with CMU Victory Over WMU

The Greeks & Persians, Frazier & Ali, Red Sox & Yankees… While Central Michigan vs. Western Michigan may not seem like a worthy addition to this list, to those who have ties to either school will certainly disagree.

The triad of Mid-American Conference Michigan schools (Central, Eastern and Western Michigan) have a heated rivalry that dates back a century with the resurrection of Western Michigan University. Eastern Michigan boasts being the oldest of the three schools, founded in 1849, but its cousins have made up for lost time in the century-plus of their existences and we have all benefited from the rivalry that ensued over the decades, though the in-state rivalry didn’t get started on the hardwood until 1975.

In that time, the Broncos have managed a 17-27-1 record in men’s basketball against the Chippewas.

Saturday gave us another great matchup in the rivalry as both teams looked to make moves in Mid-American Conference play.

The Chippewas have struggled mightily on the road this season, going just 1-7 in contests outside the friendly confines of McGuirk Arena in Mt. Pleasant.

On the other end of the court, the Broncos have been largely successful on their home court, going 7-2 at University Arena this season.

The Broncos would be disappointed if they hoped CMU’s homesick blues would carry over into their game on Saturday. From the onset, CMU seemed intent on establishing that this game would be a departure from their road woes and be more indicative of their overall success as of late.

The Chippewas played a physical first half, but Western Michigan was able to keep things from getting out of control for much of the first half. However, CMU proved too much and was able to take a comfortable 7-point lead into halftime, 41-34.

Western Michigan came out of halftime on a mission and a plan at making things competitive down the stretch. They did just that.

Broncos began to drop shots and get the ball into the paint, which in turn, began creating opportunities from behind the arch. WMU used the three ball to pull the game within reach several times in the final minutes, but clutch free throws by the Chippewas kept things from ever feeling in danger of slipping.

And it wasn’t as if WMU didn’t apply pressure. The Broncos rained down threes in the final minutes with startling precision, but the Chippewas unrelenting free throw proficiency sealed the game. The pair of teams each notched 44-points in the half, which carried over the 7-point first half differential and gave the Chippewas a much needed 85-78 road win.

Women’s Big Ten Tournament Tickets on Sale

(PRESS RELEASE)
Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament Single-Session Tickets on Sale Saturday, February 1st.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Single-session tickets for the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament are on sale starting Saturday (Feb. 1) at 10 a.m. (ET)/9 a.m. (CT). The tournament, set for March 4-8 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, will mark the 23rd time the tournament has been held in Indianapolis in its 27-year history. Tickets can be purchased at www.TicketMaster.com or at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse ticket office.

In addition to single-session tickets, group sales experiences will be offered for the week of the tournament and require a minimum purchase of 10 tickets to qualify. The discounted ticket rate will include a daily giveaway item and an exclusive experience. Tickets for these experiences can be purchased through Indiana Sports Corp by contacting Sam Elmore at selmore@indianasportscorp.org. If your group has less than 10, the Big Ten Conference is also offering a five (5) for $25 deal to attend one session at the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament for Thursday or Friday.

Another discounted ticket opportunity is The Books for Buckets program, aimed at involving youth in the tournament. The program is in its second year and allows kids in the Indianapolis area to receive a free ticket to a Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament session of their choice after completing at least 300 minutes of reading. Every child will be required to fill out a Books for Buckets reading card that when completed, they will turn it in at the box office to receive their free ticket along with up to four (4) additional discounted tickets at $3 each. Books for Buckets reading cards can be downloaded at IndianaSportsCorp.org

Indiana Sports Corp, the Big Ten Conference, and Bankers Life Fieldhouse have partnered to provide exciting ancillary events and theme days surrounding the tournament for fans to enjoy.

The tournament kicks off on Wednesday, March 4 with $4 tickets on the 4th. In addition to discounted tickets for the first two opening games, fans will be able to take part in Big Ten Basketball Bingo for a chance to win prizes.

Day two of the tournament includes two new events. Thursday, March 5 is Pride Day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The LGBTQ+ community will be celebrated during all second-round games and fans in attendance will receive a gameday koozie. On Thursday during Session 2 and Friday during Session 4, the Big Ten Conference and Indiana Sports Corp invite the more than 155,000 Indianapolis downtown employees to take their lunch break at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for Lunch & Layups. Additionally, these hardworking employees and their organizations will be recognized for National Employee Day during the quarterfinal games on Friday night during Session 5.

Semifinal games on Saturday, March 7 are host to two big events including Super Hero Day and Think Pink Day. Fans will receive a pink cape as they enter Bankers Life Fieldhouse and have the option to create their own super hero mask at the Big Ten Fan Fun Zone. Cancer survivors, doctors, and everyday super heroes will be recognized by the Big Ten while cancer survivors will be celebrated during halftime of one of the semifinal games. The Big Ten Conference will hold collections as well as donate a portion of every ticket sold for the Saturday semifinal games to Pink Ribbon Connection to support free supplies and services for Indiana breast cancer patients.New for 2020, the Big Ten is partnering with Ascension St. Vincent to offer free mammograms on-site in the Big Ten Fan Fun Zone at Bankers Life Fieldhouse during Saturday’s semifinal games for all fans who pre-register. For more information and to register, click here.

In conjunction with Super Hero Day and Think Pink Day, the Big Ten Conference will also offer a $50 Family Fun Pack ticket package for families to attend the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament on either Saturday, March 7 (semifinals) or Sunday, March 8 (championship game). The package includes four reduced-price tickets and four food vouchers for a hot dog, chips, and a soda at the concession stand. For more information on these opportunities, contact Sam Elmore atselmore@indianasportscorp.org.

Championship Sunday is dedicated to first responders, active military, and military veterans with tickets offered at a discounted rate of $6 for them. The Big Ten Conference also invites local members of Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and their guests to the game. Members of DAV will be recognized during halftime of the championship game on the court as a sign of appreciation for their service and sacrifice.

More information on the 2020 Big Ten Women’s basketball tournament can be found atIndianaSportsCorp.org and BigTen.org/wbbt.

Central Michigan Men Hold On against Ball State

After the first game of the day in which Central Michigan women dazzled the home crowd against Toledo, the men kept things going strong into the evening in their conference matchup with visiting MAC West leader, Ball State.

Trailing the Cardinals by just a game in the division, both teams seemed to be riding different strategies to success in the first half.

Ball State got into the lane early and often on multiple floating layups or jumpers and a great post performance by senior forward Tahjai Teague that was more impressive than his stat line would indicate as several trips to the line came up mostly empty. Central struggled to stop the efficient tendencies of the Cardinals throughout much of the first half.

Central Michigan on the other hand struggled inside the arch for much of the first half, but traded every few buckets with a three point dart that kept things close. CMU ended the half with a 33-27 lead.

The second half opened up as both teams were able to establish the fast break on a few occasions that led to rim crushing dunks. CMU established a firm grip on things midway through the second half, but stalled as they began to allow things to run deep into the shot clock offensively. The strategy did not pay off and momentum began to shift rather quickly back in favor of the Cardinals who went on a 11-3 run that got them as close as two points after appearing to be without any answer for the Chippewas.

Perhaps the biggest difference maker was forcing Ball State to make uncharacteristic mistakes who tallied a shocking 28 turnovers in the game. The Chippewas improve to a tie in the MAC West with Ball State and a 10-1 record at home this season. Dallas Morgan led the Chippewas with 21 points. Tahjai Teague led the Cardinals with 17.

CMU travels on the road to face Miami Ohio for the second time this MAC season after defeating the Redhawks by 11 earlier this month at McGuirk.

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