Central Michigan student newspaper Central Michigan Life has reported that MAC Player of the Year Crystal Bradford injured her left knee during team practice Tuesday and is unable to play in the 2014 MAC Women's Basketball Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio this weekend. An MRI reportedly was inconclusive. Bradford's left knee is in a brace, and she will be on crutches while her team plays in the semi-final game on Friday.
Does Bradford's injury spell the end of CMU's reign as MAC Tournament champion? Not if you consider CMU's x-factors. One is senior Taylor Johnson, the MAC Sixth Man of the Year, and the others are freshmen Jewel Cotton and Da'Jourie Turner. Johnson's tenacity and senior leadership will be a force for the Chippewas in the MAC Tournament. Turner picked her team up and carried it on her back during CMU's overtime win against conference regular season champion Bowling Green. Cotton has become a force on the boards and in the paint. She will be able to pick up some of the scoring duties in the absence of Bradford.
There have been times during the regular season that CMU head coach Sue Guevara has not had enough minutes of playing time available for the talented freshmen duo of Cotton and Turner. It will be interesting to see how the young pair react to the pressure and intense spotlight that the MAC Tournament brings. Braford has been a great example for the two. Now, we will all get to see what lessons they have learned from it.
The Chippewas will not be willing to merely concede their status as MAC champions due to the loss of their star player. It is certain that no one is talking about an NIT appearance inside their locker room. They are still MAC champions, and it is going to take a great effort from another member of the MAC Tournament field to wrestle away their crown and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.