This contest is featuring two teams at completely opposite ends of the spectrum going into the Mid-American Conference tournament in Cleveland. Central Michigan (17-13, 10-7 MAC West) is hoping to add on to their three game winning streak, and earn a top seed in the tournament. Western Michigan (12-18, 6-11 MAC West) is fighting to stay away from the lowest seed in the tournament.
There is no doubt the hype will be with the Chippewas, as they will be celebrating the five seniors on the team, including John Simons, Rayshawn Simmons, and Chris Fowler. However, the hype must be backed up with a strong showing in their last regular season game. A 92-85 February loss to this same Western Michigan squad serves as proof that despite the Broncos' losing record, they will always play Central Michigan tough. In fact, that loss to Western Michigan was the Chippewas' last loss. The leading scorer for the Chips, Chris Fowler, has managed to average 18.7 points per game since that loss, in an attempt to will his team to a favorable seeding arrangement in Cleveland.
Western Michigan has the opportunity to play the role that every losing team dreams of: spoiling the hopes of one of their most hated rivals. The Broncos already experienced that feeling once this season, but they should not be satisfied. They have won a mere three out of their last nine games, an upsetting ratio for the Kalamazoo faithful. However, an easy way of alleviating the frustration with the Western Michigan basketball program would be to spoil the dreams of Central Michigan becoming a two seed in the MAC tournament. You best believe this is at the front of Thomas Wilder & Co.'s mind going into Friday night. A likely All-MAC selection, Thomas Wilder has impressed many this season, including those in Kalamazoo to see him put up 26 points against the Chippewas in their last match-up. If he sees this type of production, an upset would not be out of the picture.
The Chips have the opportunity to seize the MAC West crown for the second season in a row, which would be a significant accomplishment based on the slow start experienced by Keno Davis' squad. A victory on senior night would solidify their seeding behind Akron in the tournament, possibly leading to an NCAA tournament bid. The night should provide many surprises, especially with significant games elsewhere in the MAC.
Additionally, the Michigan MAC Trophy is on the line tonight. Should Central Michigan win, the Eastern Michigan Eagles will win their first trophy ever. However, if the Broncos win, then it comes down to how the trophy's organizers interpret their own rule of retention, with either Western Michigan winning the trophy via having won it more recently than EMU or the Chippewas retaining the trophy despite an 0-4 record versus their rivals on the year.